Thursday, 18 November 2010

Mr. Bump: An Arraignment Of Undiagnosed Melancholy

Published on August 10th 1971, Mr. Bump is the sixth book in Roger Hargreaves' Mr. Men series. The series follows a selection of characters whose surnames define their characteristics. Mr. Bump is accident prone, causing himself continuous injury while undertaking everyday tasks.

When we first meet Mr. Bump he summarily walks into a lamp post. The tragic story continues as he endeavors to fix the chimney pot on his house, which has sustained damage in a storm. While retrieving a ladder, he smashes 2 windows on his house, worsening the situation. We are then given an employment history for Mr. Bump, in the past he has worked as a farmer, a bus conductor, a carpenter and as a postman. He has been dismissed from these roles for negligent behaviour, disregard of Health & Safety guidelines and an inability to perform tasks without accident.

Disenchanted with employment, he then takes a holiday to the beach. While there, he falls off a boat, gets his foot stuck in a bucket and falls in a hole. Finally, Mr. Bump finds a job that suits his talents - walking around and bumping into trees on Mr. Barley's orchard, making the apples fall off the trees.

Mr. Bump is the story of an individual's struggle to deal with an undiagnosed medical condition caused by a neurochemical or hormonal imbalance, a certain style of thought process or, in some cases, as a result of traumatic experiences: Clinical Depression.

Through close examination we can surmise Mr. Bump exhibits many of the symptoms of clinical depression from the inception of the biography. Although it is often classed as 'mental illness', clinical depression often has as many physical components as mental, and the feelings or emotions that are depression symptoms can actually begin to cause the physical effects.

For instance, Mr. Bump feels miserable and sad due to his continuous failure to sustain gainful employment. He is exhausted, with no energy (deciding to take a holiday to relax), he doesn't want to interact with people, yet he is scared to be left alone - falling in a hole or off a boat as soon as he is in isolation. Social activity is hard or even impossible to Mr. Bump. He is of the opinion that even the smallest tasks, such as maintenance of a chimney pot, are impossible. He is anxious and finds it difficult to think clearly, getting distracted by the narrative and walking into a lamp post.

Mr. Bump considers himself a failure and/or feels guilty a lot of the time, he thinks of himself as a burden to others, has no confidence and sees no future. There is a distinct loss of hope. He suspects all he has ever done is make mistakes and that's all he will ever will do, a belief partially fuelled by the Narrator who conveys Mr. Bump's inner monologue to us.

Mr. Bump spends a lot of his time thinking about what has gone wrong the "little accidents" that have befallen him. He worries about what will go wrong or what is wrong with him as a person/Mr. Man, assuming life is unfair and is passing him by. His career choices are desperately varied, he is trying to find something he can succeed in, but falters as his attention span is reduced and his mind can no longer function. Mr. Bump wishes to instigate major change in his life, be it as a Postman or a Farmer, but his own lack of self-belief and self-destructive tendencies subconsciously attack his desire for success, ultimately he consistently fails.

One of the symptoms of depression is feeling you have physical aches and pains which appear to have no physical cause, the bandages encasing Mr.Bump's torso and head suggest this to be the case. Worryingly, Mr. Bump is at a high risk of self harming. His bandage covered body could suggest that this is already the case, that Mr. Bump is crying out for help and attention by cutting or injuring himself, even subconsciously causing these "little accidents" to occur.

Mr. Bump is frustrated and lost, yet the Mr. Men around him do not see the problems he faces mentally. They do not know he is at risk. Mr. Bump wears a permanently forced smile, his attempt to cover his problems with bravado and good humour. He is ashamed of his condition, he hates himself. Ultimately he is making his own problems worse, by assuming a contented role, his friends will not suspect he is self harming, they will not offer him the help and support he needs and there is a serious risk he could attempt to end his life.

Post traumatic stress disorder can lead to depression due to the continuing emotionally arousing thoughts it creates. Quite apart from the results of having your life interrupted on an ongoing basis by horrific memories, the emotional arousal they create can cause depression. Mr. Bump is undoubtedly plagued by the memories of failure. He cannot overcome this, suggesting he has failed in a dramatic and traumatising event in the past. Perhaps an unrequited love, or a problem such as alcoholism tearing apart his family. He may have witnessed a crime and been unable to prevent it, or seen a loved one perish without being able to rescue them. Something has happened which subconsciously haunts him, and it is something he hasn't dealt with on a psychological level.

Through analysis and understanding of Mr. Bump's continued depressive thinking styles, we can see how he forms a pattern of thinking, a cycle of depression, that creates a downward spin and so continues to fuel the depression. Mr. Men all have basic emotional needs that must be met for them to thrive and enjoy life, although some would be considered as a obsessive compulsive (Mr. Fussy, Mr. Rush, Mr. Busy, Mr. Sneeze), unhealthily antisocial (Mr. Chatterbox, Mr. Noisy, Mr. Mean, Mr. Rude) or even suffering borderline mental retardation (Mr. Clever, Mr. Quiet, Mr. Forgetful, Mr. Muddle). After the primary human needs for food, water and shelter come commonly shared emotional and physical needs. Without exception we find depressed people are not getting these needs met.

However, medical research has proven traditional communities naturally meet many 'basic needs' for emotional support. In the traditional Amish society in the USA major depression is almost unknown, as it is in the equally traditional Kaluli tribe of New Guinea. In these societies individual concerns are group concerns and vise-versa. You know that if you have a problem other people will help you and you are expected to help out when others need support. We know we are meant to do these things but it's not a 'built in feature' of modern society in the same way. These days we are much more 'self-focused'. The idea of considering the wider community to be more important than the self is almost impossible to understand for most people and Mr. Men.

Mr. Bump's story ends with delusion. This 'holiday' from his life can be interpreted as a suicide. We understand that he falls from a boat - indicating this may be related to the trauma of the past, a drowning perhaps? We are then told he gets his foot "stuck in a bucket". 'Kicking the bucket' is commonly used vernacular slang for death, or to die. Mr. Bump has jumped from the boat, not by accident, but with intent of death. We are then told he falls into a hole which "he couldn't climb out on his own". He lies in the ground in eternal sleep.

Instantly, the story takes an upbeat turn where Mr.Bump finds happiness in the simplicity of an orchard, picking apples under the watchful eye of Mr. Barley. Mr. Bump has ascended our mortal plane to his vision of Heaven, the garden of Eden, under the guidance of an all seeing presence. He is finally happy, he has escaped the confines of his mind and found comfort in death.

According to medical journals major depression is 2nd most disabling condition in the developed world. In the world of the Mr. Men, it is the 1st.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in Mr. Bump, please contact The Samaritans.

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