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There are innumerable viewpoints that the countless cultures around the world take in regards to mental illness. The Mennonite community, like any other religion, takes an approach that varies through colonies and sects. The book Women Talking by Miriam Toews describes an approach that an orthodox sect in Bolivia stands by, in which mental illness is referred to as a curse or spiritual weakness. One such character, a young woman named Ona, is afflicted with what the book refers to as “Narfa,” which can be plainly seen as anxiety. Ona is often regarded as insane or irrational, unfit to be among society: “She is perceived by most of the colonists to have a gentle disposition and an inability to function in the real world (although in Molotschna that argument is a red herring),” (Toews 28). The negative stigma in regards to Ona’s anxiety is paired with the humiliation and general disgust towards the depression suffered by the narrator, August. Women Talking not only examines the challenges that mental illness itself places on these characters, especially in regards to Ona’s discreditation of her testimony against her rapists, but additionally reveals the shame and guilt that is cast upon the sufferer’s of the illness by the Molotschna colony, and ultimately by religion itself. This research paper will dissect the stance on mental illness that is taken by the Mennonite community as seen through the lens of Women Talking, and thusly investigate the treatment of mental illness by religion as a whole.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Subject
    • English

  • Institution
    • Oconee

  • Event location
  • Event date
    • 26 March 2021

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Derek Thiess