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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

What is a diving bell? Why do you think it is an excellent metaphor for Bauby’s physical restrictions?

A diving bell is a special water-proof costume for diving under water. It is usually supplied with oxygen cylinder in order to make the diver able to stay under water for longer periods of time. Besides, the bell is equipped with different hoses and cables to provide connection to the boat or any other swimming vessel. Thus, this bell is rather heavy and makes it rather hard to move, that’s why Bauby compared his paralyzed condition with this appliance.

What is ‘locked-in-syndrome’, describe the symptoms.

Locked-in syndrome, also known as cerebromedullospinal disconnection, is a heavy medical condition when the patient is absolutely paralyzed physically, with only eyes moving in the majority of cases, but is still absolutely conscious and sober-minded, though not able to communicate.

What injury did Bauby sustain which landed him in the hospital? What region(s) of the brain were impacted?

Bauby experienced a massive stroke, in the result of which the lesion of brain stem took place. To be more specific, the ventral (anterior) part of the pons was damaged. Before returning back to consciousness Bauby had spent three weeks in coma.

How do you think that Bauby’s personality and outlook could have contributed to his approach/outlook on his situation?

Bauby was a rather enterprising and adventurous man, he had three children, but never married their mother, it means that he was always self-dependent and independent, but in the process of recovery he also showed himself as strong and persistent personality. Sense of humor didn’t leave him, and he had much time to speculate about his life and people around him, and thus he did not give up and even almost fell in love.

Although Bauby has experienced a catastrophic and irreversible physical disability there is no talk of suicide in the book, why do you think this is?

It is quite normal for a person with a similar diagnosis to think of death, as hardly any other way out is seen. But first of all, it is not typical for Bauby’s character. Besides, the goal of the film is to show how one can withstand such life tests and even think of the benefits. Though the main character never had such uneasy experience before, the example of such a strong personality is to inspire the audience.

How does the reality of ‘coming out’ of a coma differ from the Hollywood ‘awakenings’ we see? Explain.

In typical Hollywood movies the patients easily awake after coma, like after usual dreaming, and orient themselves with no problems, with all their senses working. Meanwhile in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” we see how heavy the process of ‘coming out’ is, with loss of orientation, with spoilt vision and fragmented perception of reality.

Why do you think that many people avoid Bauby?

Communicating with a disabled person is a severe test not only for themselves, but for the people around them as well. Those people who went on communicating with Bauby were very courageous. For others it was rather difficult to be tolerant enough to understand his needs and to stay cheerful like nothing serious happened.

Even though Bauby is physically inert, his mind is still clear and active, how do we know this is so? Provide examples.

The film is made up essentially of Bauby’s thoughts, comments on what is going on, reminiscences and fantasies. His inner speech is full of wise remarks, his approach to new life is philosophic and he also analyzes his past. Besides, he is still a male inside, because we see how he reacts at women, where his eyes are looking, for example, when his wife is speaking to him.

In what way is Bauby forced to grieve for his own life?

Before quasi-coma Bauby used to be a lucky cynic man with almost no principles, light-minded and full of energy, as if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. After the tragedy, as he admits himself, he learns to live with despair. He has lost all his charm, the doors to entertainment and simple joys are closed to him, and to explain something to anyone he has to blink ad infinitum.

What does Bauby’s experience tell us about life and our approach to those with disabilities?

Usually unwillingly, but we usually see the disabled people as disabled not only physically, but also mentally; we tend to think that with their physical restrictions they lose normal needs, wishes and sense of humor. But Bauby’s example shows that it is not so. Besides, his story shows that in some way we all are in such “diving bells”, only put on voluntarily.

How does the title aptly apply to Bauby’s experiences?

The title “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”reflects the two images of Bauby, which are compared and contrasted in the film. On the one hand, Bauby feels like he is put into such airless, rough diving bell, restricting all his movements and isolating him from the outer world. On the other hand, the surrounding people see him as a butterfly. And he also compares his new life with a life of a butterfly, associated with eternal reiteration.