Based on a series of case studies of patients suffering from neurological disorders, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is written by Dr. Oliver Sacks, the British neurologist and writer. The title of the book is inspired from the case study of a man with visual agnosia…
According to Dr. Sacks himself, "written in a lighter, more informal style than I had ever used before. To my intense surprise (my publisher's tool!) this book hit some nerve in the reading public, and became an instant best-seller." (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat 2007)
The blending of empathy with medicinal jargons to explore the existential worlds of people impaired with sensory and intellectual distortions is what one enjoys in the book. Written for non-medical readers, the book consists of four chapters: 'Losses', 'Excesses', 'Transports' and 'The World of the Simple'. The 1st chapter 'Losses' is about loss of memory, cognition and proprioceptive sense while the following chapter tells of patients affected with vehement tics and contorted facial expressions. The 3rd chapter 'Transports' is concerned with seizures and numerous dream sequences and the concluding chapter 'The World of the Simple' takes a humanistic approach in addressing the problems of the mentally retarded individuals with immense artistic bent of mind and mathematical acumen. In each chapter, Sacks concentrates on perceiving the interior world of the patients. Far from just a book for pleasure reading, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat gives a deeper insight into the therapeutic world of neurology and neuropsychiatry, and assists the medical practitioners to examine their patients. The case studies cited in the book arrays from the extreme of bizarreness to relatively moderate and more common aberrations, and thus the readers are introduced to the disembodied world of Christina as well as to Mr. Thompson who rediscovers his world every moment. Rebecca possesses a unique flair for creativity even though she is a cognitively hampered woman. (Book review: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat n. d.) 'Witty Ticcy Ray' suffers from Tourette's Syndrome whereas poor Jimmie is forever stuck to the past and last but not the least, Dr. P. who fails to find any difference between his hat and his wife. The vivid mental image of St. Hildegard provides an interesting expounding for religious myths and its relation with psychology.
Dr. Sacks hardly gets into the psychological reasons for his patients' impairments, and thereby constraining the scope and magnitude of the book. Due to this farsightedness of the author, the book does not turn out to be a monotonous account of various treatment methodologies or a handbook for brain dysfunctions. (Book review: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat n. d.) Instead of focusing heavily on the dark sides of neurological and cognitive imbalances, Sacks strives to see the brighter side of things with regards to what the patients can gain from their maladies. One of the greatest achievements of the author is his deliberate withdrawal from imposing his persona on his patients. Instead, he provides solutions but lets his patient decide whether he/she will follow his advice or not. This is elucidated brilliantly in the case study of Ray. As narrated in the book, 'Witty Ticcy Ray' was "a weekend jazz drummer of real virtuosity, famous for his sudden and wild extemporizations, which would arise from a tic or a compulsive hitting of a drum and would instantly be made the nucleus of a wild and wonderful improvisation." (Sacks 97) Eccentric as it may sound, Ray faced a lot of problem in continuing with a job ...
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