Cosi Shows Us That There Is as Much Madness in the Outside World as There Is Within a Mental Institution.’ Discuss.

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In Louise Nowra’s COSI, a semi-autobiographical drama, Nowra reveals that there is as much madness in the outside world as exists in an asylum. COSI reveals to the reader that madness does not discriminate; lunacy is no psychological construct and that madness is the perception of normality versus abnormality whereby no boundaries exist. Through the use of COSI Nowra is able to compare the delirium of the outside word to that of the mental institutes during the 1970’s, drawing upon the themes of the era and theatrical concepts in order to encapsulate his message of universal madness. The characters in COSI, those in the asylum condemned as mad by society, play a vital role in the comparison of madness in the outside world, the chaos of politics and Vietnamese war, free love and sex, the new age society and lifestyles, and outright foolishness of the way mentally ill were treated, one of many connections that Nowra has with the play. However in COSI, Nowra does not fail to show the outright mania of the patients, through the use of theatrical structures and conventions, the madness of the patients is juxtaposed with that of the external world and the similarities conveyed through symbolism and other dramatic techniques. The Vietnamese war and the policies of the government during the 1970’s were chaotic enough, yet against the protests of left wing radicalists, such as Nick and Lucy in COSI, protagonists of the Vietnamese war, society had descended into anarchy, the madness of society comparable to that of a mental institution. War is mad enough yet after the development of nuclear technologies and policies of Mutually Assured Destruction, war, the Vietnamese war was pure inconceivable madness. It was no wonder that protests for the war to cease began, seen in COSI as Nick leads the moratorium against the government” 1,2,3,4 we don’t want your fuckin’ war. Radicalise the nation”, his readiness to implore violence utter lunacy, “barricades and bombs, why not?” The actions of protestors fanatical and deplorable as they sought an end to the war “throwing rocks at cops, overturning cars, smashing barricades, burning houses”. However this madness of the outside world is further exacerbated as Nick and Lucy send aid to the Viet Cong, communist enemies of Australia and allies, this betrayal further evidence of the external madness “Australia is at war against the communists and you . . .you ssstab my father in the back”. Through COSI in the theatre, symbolic codes such as props are used to further demonstrate the insanity of the outside world, the “toy soldiers” that Henry plays with, symbolic of the conscription that existed in Australia “Henry takes several toy soldiers out of his pocket and points to them”. These winners of the “lottery”, Australia’s soldiers, equivalent of pawns to be played with, sent off to die in a futile endeavour, absolute and undeniable madness, “Australian soldiers die in a meaningless war . . .we’re losing”. The chaos of war had taken a hold of society, the madness of the war as mad as those whom reside in a mental institute, yet the insanity of the outside world does not end there, at the dawn of new age of social values. Throughout time love and sexuality had remained rather permanent, however during the 1970’s through the push of feminist groups and the events of the time such as the Vietnamese war, old concepts and ideals gave way to new ones, yet this only induced further madness in the outside world. During the 1970’s there was a push for new feminist rights and actions, as a result females became more independent, choices and decisions of the public on age old concepts that had held stead for centuries were challenged, the ideals of love and fidelity replaced by free love and “make love not war”. The structure of COSI as a play within a play allowing the identification of differences in social opinion of love, the value of love in Cosi Fan Tutte juxtaposed to that of the 1970’s, revealing “Love...
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