The Silent Patient
Alex Michaelides

by

Karim Chandra

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Motifs
Motifs are devices or structures that are used by artists or authors to help in the development of a theme.
Self-Preservation

The plot of the novel is enhanced by the selfish acts of the characters in which they seek to protect their personal interests. This motif is first described by the author in relation to Alicia’s father, Vernon, when he wishes that Alicia had died in the car crash instead of her mother. He says this without considering the implications that his statement may have on his daughter. All he wanted was to be happy at the expense of Alicia. In addition, Theo is so focused on his own survival that he becomes inconsiderate of the other characters. His intention of helping Alicia is belittled by his own motivations (“Macmillan”). He justifies the arrest of Christian stating that, unlike him, he had failed to help Alicia and should pay for it. Theo also highlights how he only helped Alicia so that he could have access to any incriminating evidence revealing his involvement in Gabriel’s death. This motif is also highlighted in the Greek myth of “Alcestis” — Admetus chooses to preserve his life over his wife’s, just as Gabriel did.

Mental Disorders

“The Silent Patient” is a psychological thriller (“Crime By the Book”). The setting of the novel is in a psychiatric care facility, the Grove, and the themes of the novel are developed from the characters that suffer from mental illnesses. The author first highlights this motif when he describes the crazy homeless man that Alicia meets at Camden Market. Theo is also characterized by numerous therapy sessions with Ruth, which are aimed at improving his mental health. Alicia also describes how her mother had a mental illness that had made her develop a murderous instinct, and fears that the same illness will end up affecting her as well — which manifests itself in Alicia when she suffers a mental breakdown after her father dies. His death marks the beginning of her unstable psychosis with her husband. The author describes how Alicia receives therapy from Dr. (Christian) West but refuses to take her medication. Later, she kills her husband when she gets a psychotic episode.

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