Critical Analysis Of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat” By:Oliver Sacks

I. Background

Oliver Sacks

Text Box:                     Oliver SacksThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is the Neurology and Psychology book which is written by Oliver Sacks. Oliver Sacks is well known as a physician, a neurologist and the author of nine other books. He wrote the book of Awakenings which inspired the Oscar-nominated film. His most recent writing is Musicophilia:Tales of Music and the Brain which explores the power of music and its influences to the brain based on his patient experiences. Currently, he is living in New York City as a professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University.

The Book

Text Box:            The Book This book represents the stories of his patients who have neurological disorder. Sacks packed the case study of his patients with a fascinating and appealing language. The book is quite short and easy to read, and represents the feelings and emotions both of his patients and Sacks himself. Even though the topics are neurology and psychology, but it can be considered for readers who don’t have neurology and psychology background. It helps general readers, since it includes short postscripts which consist of the explanations of the study and specific terms in neurology. Sacks also uses the everyday language to engage general readers. Therefore this book not only can help the neurologists, psychologists, and other medical practitioners, but also general readers to enrich their understanding of wide range neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions

II. Summary

The book consists of 24 short stories that are divided into four parts which are Losses, Excesses, Transports, and The World of The Simple. Each part represents stories of people who have specific problems on brain functions which will be represented through each paragraph of this summary. The summary discusses some of the stories in detailed which represent the specific neurological disorder as the main idea of each part.

First Part: Losses. People who have loss or lack some of the functions of their brain can have several diseases or injury, such as Aphonia, Aphemia, Aphasia, Alexia, Apraxia, Agnosia, amnesia, and Ataxia (Sacks, 2007). On The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat, Dr. P is a musician who had problems with his visual images. He couldn’t recognize things around him, even his face, wife, foot, shoes, etc. Therefore, he grabbed his wife’s head to put on his head, because he thought that his wife was a hat. But, he has wonderful musical intelligence, he can do his activities if he’s singing, but he would forget everything and completely stop his activities when he’s interrupted from his singing. The Lost Mariner is the story of Jimmie G, 19 years old, good looking man who was a radio operator in submarine. He can’t remember anything, except his life experiences before mid 1940’s. Therefore, he always thinks that he is 19 years old young man. But, he has excellent ability in science and math. He can compare each chemical elements and is doing well on arithmetical and algebra calculations. The Disembodied Lady is the story of 27 years young woman, who has two young children who worked as computer programming. Her life has changed, since the attack of abdominal pain. She can’t feel her body and control them. Therefore, she has to learn how to walk, move and other functions of her body. The rest of the stories have similar type of neurological disorder. For example, The Man Who Fell out of Bed is the story of a man who can’t feel his leg. He wanted to throw his leg out of bed, because he thought that his leg is the fake leg, not his own. The Hands is the story of Madeleine, 60 years old, a blind woman. She can’t do anything by her hand, because she feels that her hands are useless, inactive as “lumps of dough”. Phantoms is about the feeling of having part of body, especially limb, after it’s lost such as because of amputation. On the Level is about 93 years old man with Parkinson disease, who is walking 20 degrees which way off to the left to maintaining his balance. But, he can’t feel it, he thinks that he’s walking straight. Eyes Right! is the story of Mrs S, around 60 years old. She got a massive stroke which caused damage on her right cerebral hemisphere, so that she can’t feel her left. The last story of The President Speech presents the patients who have global aphasia. They are incapable to understand the words, so that they found Presidents’ speeches are so funny which makes them laugh and anger.

Second Part: Excesses. This second part is unusual in neurological disorder. The disorder is commonly found because of dysfunctional or lack or loss, but not excesses of the system. Witty Ticcy Ray is the story of patient, Ray, 24 years old man who has Tourette’s syndrome which is characterized by the excess of energy, great productions, motions, and notions. He has remarkable ability on music such as hitting the drum, and in various games, such as ping-pong. He is excellent on doing all those things, because he has abnormal quickness of reflect and reactions. Then when Sacks gave him the drug Haldol to treat his disorder, Ray became slow down and lost himself, so that Ray decided not to use the medicine, and let himself to live with his Tourette. The Cupid’s Disease is the story of Natasha K., 90 years old woman who fell herself becomes more energetic, alive and young. She had syphilis seventy years ago which commonly is called cupid’s disease. She chooses to stay energetic, rather than to be treated. The other patient, Miguel O., who has neurosyphilis. He has excited imagination and energy. When Dr. Sacks gave him Haldol, he became slowly down and lost his excited imagination (see figure bellow).

A Matter of Identity is the story of Mr. Thompson who can’t recognize anyone, but he can create fiction characters. In the Yes, Father-Sister, Mrs. B, a former research chemist, she is becoming funny, impulsive, and superficial. She called Dr. Sacks “father, sister, and sometimes doctor”. She knows the right and left, but she can’t differentiate it. The Possessed is the story of Sacks’s experiences on observing Touretters in the street of New York City.

Third Part: Transports. This part consists of the stories of Sacks’s patients who have imaginations, dreams, spiritualities, feelings, or other unconscious and preconscious activities which is called ‘transport or portal, or dreamy states, or reminiscence”. Reminiscence is the story of Mrs. O’C who had dream of her childhood in Ireland where she was dancing and singing. It is not simply a dream, because since then, she feels that she is living in her childhood memories. In Incontinent Nostalgia, a 63 year old woman who had Parkinson disease, since she was 18 years old. She used the drug L-Dopa to treat her Parkinson, but this drug caused the nostalgia and joyful memories of her youth life. A Passage to India is the story of Bhagawahndi P., a 19 years old Indian girl, who suffered form a malignant brain tumor. She had dreams and visions that she was in his country, India, return to her normal life as a young girl. She enjoyed her dreams and visions day to day, until the rest of her life. The Dog Beneath the Skin is the story of a 22 year medical student who had a dream that he was a dog. Since then, he can sniff like a dog. He has excellent smell ability like a dog. He could recognize every street, shop, food by smell. Murder is the story of a man who killed his girl under the influence of PCP (phenylcyclohexylpiperidine). Therefore, he didn’t remember it then. He had the irruption of psychotic fantasy. When he was conscious about it, he would regret and be angry. But, nothing he could do, because his girl was dead. The Visions of Hildegard is the story of woman who had illusion of her earliest childhood, mysticism, and spiritualism. She can imagine and create the picture of city of God and other illusive pictures.

Fourth Part: The World of The Simple. This part consists of stories of Sacks’s patients who have different forms of mind which is very simple, innocent, and transparent. Rebecca is the story of Rebecca, a 19 years old girl who loves stories, poetry, and others arts. She acted like a child in some ways, such as she couldn’t find the key of the door, couldn’t use her clothes, put the gloves into the foot and put the shoes into the hand. Her grandmother was the one who always taking care of her since her parents died. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away, and then she became unmotivated and was losing her soul. Until, she joins the special theater group, and shows the fantastic performances. A Walking Grove is the story of Martin A, a 61 years old man who had Parkinson and Meningitis. He has amazing musical memory, such as he can remember 2000 operas. He acts and uses language like a child, and his spirit of music makes him survive. The Twins is the story of the twins, John and Michael who were 26 years old. They were well known because of their remarkable memory of documentary, algorithm, and time. They knew the content of matches in a box which is felt from the table (11 matches), but they didn’t know where 111’s coming from. Even, they can’t calculate the simplest calculations. Their world is very simple, just remembering without understanding. In The Autist Artist, the 21 years old young man has autism. People think that he is an idiot and even he can’t talk, because he has autism. But, when Dr. Sacks asked him to draw the pictures, he can draw the same pictures as shown amazingly (see picture bellow).

The right side is produced by the autist artist

III. Interpretation and Analysis

In term of content, Sacks provides interesting stories of neurological disorders of his patients which can be rich information for neurologist, psychologist, and general readers as well. He organizes the case study of his patients into four parts: Losses, Excesses, Transports, and The World of The Simple. The Losses and Excesses focus on neurological functions, the Transports relates to the hallucinations and visions, then The World of The Simple provides the stories of different forms of mind which is simple and innocent. The stories on the Losses provide the general neurological disorders which happened on Dr. Sacks’s patients. The similar patterns of patients’ behaviors and psychology help the readers to understand the concept of the dysfunction of brain. Moreover, the importance of music for human brain is also well described. Excesses is really unusual neurological disorder in which patients have excess functions of brain. It seems to be impossible, but it happened to Dr. Sacks’s patients. Some of the patients consider this disorder as the treat and the others consider as the fortune and let it with them without any treatments. On the Transports, it is really amazing that how can the dream and hallucinations change people both psychologically and physically. For example, the story of A Passage to India, Bhagawahndi P. became cheerful and joyful within her brain tumor, because she had hallucinations coming back to India in her childhood. On The World of The Simple is really amazing as well as adults can act like a child. Then they really have the amazing ability as well, such as Rebecca who could perform amazingly in theater or the twins, John and Michael, who could predict the date of the day on history. Overall, all the stories are really interesting, especially for general readers who want to broaden their knowledge.

In terms of structure and language of the book, Sacks guides the readers to understand the main idea of the different concepts of neurological disorders by organizing the stories into four main parts. He describes the incidental moment of each patients in each story, which is really engaging and empowering. As a reader, I am realizing how it is wonderful to have a normal function of brain and how’s amazing to know the brain’s working. Moreover, the book can be considered for the general readers who don’t have neurology and psychology background, because Sacks uses general and engaging language which can help the general readers to understand the stories. He also helps the readers with the postscripts which describe the background of history or further studies as well as special terms in neurology. Moreover, each of stories engages the readers to involve on the patients’ worlds as well. However, for the first part, especially the introduction of Losses could be confusing for the general readers, because he mentions Aphonia, Aphemia, and other words of neurology for the first time. But, the stories on this part make those terms clear. Moreover, different from other stories which are started by introducing the patients, the story of The Vision of Hildegard is started by the explanations of its neurological disorder with the complex language which could be confusing for general readers. But, overall, the book is amazing, not only provides interesting cases of human brain, but also encourage the readers to understand and be empathy of patient’s feelings.

IV. Implementation for Teaching and Learning

The book is definitely can be used as teaching resources on psychology, neurology, and biology subject. In chemistry, it may be related with the medicines which are used to treat the patients. For the other subjects, it can provide the readers different perspectives and contemporary knowledge of neurological disorders. For the readers who study in psychology and neurology or medical background, this book provides readers with rich information about different types of neurological disorder, its characteristics and the treatment. Some of the case studies of Sacks patients are hardly ever found in neurological field. Therefore, it will help them to deal with different problems of neurological disorder. For the teacher, it can help them to deal with students with special needs who have unique behaviour and psychology. This book will help them to understand the unusual type of students’ learning.

Moreover, the high school and university students could use this book as a reference. High school and university students could relate it with their subject in the school and university. On this level of education, students already have the prior knowledge of the human body, especially the brain’s functions. The prior knowledge is needed since it implies some of neurology and psychology terms, especially students who use English as the second language. However, it may be applied for year 7-9 students who using English as the first language, since it used everyday language to engage the readers. Overall, the book can be used as a teaching resource for teachers as well as learning resources for the students within wide ranges of subject.

29 thoughts on “Critical Analysis Of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat” By:Oliver Sacks”
  1. […] subject to deficiencies and injury. Some of you might have read neurologist Oliver Sack’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, which described case histories of patients who had altered brain functions, many of which resulted […]

  2. I was just seeking this information for some time. After 6 hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your site. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this kind of informative sites in top of the list. Usually the top sites are full of garbage.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I just finished reading this book for my AP English class, and it was good to read this. I’m trying to find an overall Thesis in this book, and a quote that states exactly that. I like how you structured this. Well done.

  4. wow brilliant i really appreciate you putting this up well done keep up the good work and please know that youve hlped not just me by putting this up but the other 88,000 people on the blog. KEEP IT UP!

  5. I just finished reading this book and I also thought it was fascinating. It’s sort of scary to think of what could happen when you read these stories. Anyways, this was a really nice analysis of the book.

  6. Would you mind if I quote a several of your blog posts as long
    as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage: http://pendidikansains.
    I’m going to aslo be sure to give you the proper anchor-text link using your webpage title: CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF “THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT” By:Oliver Sacks | Yuli Rahmawati’s Weblog.

    Please make sure to let me know if this is okay with you.
    Thanks alot 🙂

  7. First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do
    not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts
    in getting my ideas out there. I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any suggestions or tips? Appreciate it!

%d bloggers like this: