Changes in Mental Illness Patterns and Their Meaning in Adapted Novels - Focusing on Jo Joong-hwan’s “Bibongdam” and Neural Fever
Jo Joong-hwan’s “Bibongdam” is an adapted novel serialized in Maeilshinbo, followed by “Ssang-ok-ru” and “Janghanmong”. This novel, based on Ruiko Kuroiwa’s Warawatsunomi, like the two previous novels, focuses on the story of a mentally ill female. It is neural fever, or ‘Shingyungryulbyung’ that appears in “Bibongdam” like the hysteria of “Ssang-ok-ru” and the melancholia of “Janghanmong”. The main character, Park Hwa-soon, suffers from neural fever and as a result is faced with murder charges. The main thrust of this novel is that she avoids the charges through trials and heals from neural fever and restores her relationship with her lover, Im Dal-sung.
However, the neural fever in “Bibongdam” is different from other mental illnesses in previous novels. While other novels’ mental illnesses were linked to the guilt of the female character, neural fever has its own identity as a disease separate from the guilt of Park Hwa-soon. So, unlike other mental illnesses that are healed through atonement or forgiveness, neural fever is healed by a doctor and is not associated with the atonement of the main character. Im Dal-sung, who treats the Park Hwa-soon’s neural fever, is also a doctor, focusing only on medical practice, and does not forgive her.
Also, the subjects that enable the atonement and forgiveness of the characters are transferred from the characters to external institutions.
The medical institution treats her neural fever, and the judicial institution finds her innocent. In the previous novels, forgiveness and reconciliation is made by male characters representing moral values, but in “Bibongdam”, it is realized by institutionalized power. In this process, the character, or ‘individual’, is reduced and is revealed as being embraced by the system. The appearance of the first person narrator, regarded as a characteristic of “Bibongdam”, is also related to this reduction of these individuals.