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Suffering a breakdown in 1941, thirty-five-year-old novelist Mary Jane Ward was diagnosed, or perhaps misdiagnosed, with schizophrenia and committed to a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York. From that horrific experience came this gripping story. Inspiration for the 1948 film starring Olivia de Havilland, The Snake Pit sparked important investigative journalism and state legislation to reform the care and treatment of people with mental illness. It belongs in the company of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—two books it influenced.
This authoritative Library of America edition includes an afterword by Ward’s cousin, Larry Lockridge, and a Reading Group Guide featuring additional material about Ward and the real-life roots of the novel.
Mary Jane Ward (1905–1981) was the author of eight novels, including three autobiographical works that concern mental illness and its treatment: The Snake Pit (1946), Counterclockwise (1969), and The Other Caroline (1970).