Magazine article The New Yorker

The Madness of Reason

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Madness of Reason

Article excerpt

The wonders of modern medicine and the comforts of middle-class consumerism provide fuel for the hectic furies of Nicholas Ray's 1956 melodrama "Bigger Than Life" (Criterion). Based on an article by Berton Roueche that appeared in this magazine, it depicts a family man and schoolteacher, Ed Avery (James Mason), who, afflicted with a normally fatal vascular inflammation, is saved by the new "miracle drug," cortisone, but suffers from serious side effects: mental disturbances that grow from depression to full-blown psychosis.

Under the medicine's influence, the warm and witty teacher becomes what his best friend (Walter Matthau) calls a "big shot." Convinced of his intellectual superiority and moral vision, he turns harsh and judgmental at school and becomes contemptuous of his wife (Barbara Rush) and an oppressive disciplinarian to his young son (Christopher Olsen), whom he confronts with a righteous yet deadly rage. From a domesticated teacher who moonlights as a taxi dispatcher, Avery is transformed, in his own mind, into a swaggering aristocrat of means, taste, vision, and power--a Nietzschean superman whose refinement is matched by his cruelty. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.