Sybil : the true story of a woman possessed by sixteen separate personalities
|Title:||Sybil : the true story of a woman possessed by sixteen separate personalities|
Reviews of this Book
Though most people today have a basic understanding of Multiple Personality Disorder not many can fathom the complexity of the disorder. “Sybil” is a true story about a woman that suffers from this agonizing problem. This book takes a deep look inside one of the first documented cases of MPD from a very personal point of view. While reading the book the reader is taken on a roller coaster of emotion experiencing all the pain, confusion, sorrow, and delight that all the characters feel during the course of the novel. “Sybil” is a genre defying book that can not be categorized because it has taken so much from so many styles of writing.
All of the characters in “Sybil” were developed so well that by the end of the book the reader feels as though they have known them. The author, Flora Rheta Schreiber, perfectly explains all the trials and tribulations that Sybil undergoes during the course of her extensive treatment and the emotional responses that she has. She shows Sybil going from a woman who is scared and in denial of her problem on through all the stages that come with her treatment. The reader is given a first hand look at all the emotional breakthroughs that she has and comes to sympathize with Sybil. The author does this fantastic job with developing all the characters in the book.
During Sybil’s childhood she was subjected to mental traumas and physical tortures that most people can only imagine. This abuse is so malicious and despicable it is hard to even read about it. Yet, Schreiber presents it in such a way that allows the reader to appreciate the amount of contempt that Sybil has for her mother without being so sickened that they stop reading.
Overall Sybil is a very readable novel. The organization of the plot is superb and provides for very little confusion. The style of writing is perfect for a high school reading level and was very understandable. There are no parts that should cause the reader puzzlement except all of the psychological terminology towards the end of the book. During this part there is a great deal of speculation as to what caused Sybil to disassociate and then become whole again. A lot of this is explained with psychoanalytic expressions that may be difficult for the reader to comprehend.
One of the major weaknesses of the novel was its pace. The beginning of the novel throws the reader right into the action as Sybil wakes up from one of her blackouts in the middle of a strange street in the middle of a snow storm. It keeps this steady pace for the first part of the novel, but then, after she explains Sybil’s childhood, the pace slows to a crawl. During this part Schreiber describes Sybil’s parents’ backgrounds. While this is necessary it is still very tedious and could cause the reader to become uninterested and stop reading the book. The pace accelerates once again during the third part of the book, but towards the end of the book everything starts to go by faster and faster. On some occasions years will go by on a single page. It seems as though the author wants to end the book as quickly as possible so she stops explaining how Sybil’s treatment is working and just tells the reader that it is working. Since this is the most exciting part of the book it seems like it is over too fast.
This book is very recommendable if the reader has an interest in psychology or is just looking for a good book in general. Sybil is not a book for everyone though. It takes great patience to read, but if the reader has the tenacity to stick with it till the end then it is very rewarding.
Review by Alex
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If one were to go to a bookstore to buy a copy of Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, what section would one look in? It could be under Psychology, since Sybil is the first well- documented case of multiple personality disorder. Or it could be under Biography, because it is a very human story of Sybil Dorsett’s life and her struggle toward wholeness. For a book this complex, it might work better just to create an entirely new section, called Books That Defy Any Standard Method of Classification.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this novel is the fact that it is a true story about a real person. This whole aspect could have been lost if it had been written, say, for publication in a medical journal. That version would have stuck to the facts, providing only the information necessary for an understanding of Sybil’s condition. Schreiber’s version, on the other hand is a compassionate view of a child who survived unimaginable abuse on the way to becoming an extraordinary adult. Sybil is a book that readers can understand, and it has an emotional impact that lasts long after the last page.
One possible criticism of the book is the lack of a straightforward plot. Sybil skips around from location to location, and several years may be covered in the space of a few pages. At the same time, one whole chapter might be devoted to a single day. In any other book, this would be confusing. In Sybil, this style of writing serves to highlight Sybil’s surreal version of reality. Time really is not continuous for her. Every day is a guessing game, and every hour as herself a small miracle. Her therapy might go for years without progress, and then in one short session she can achieve a breakthrough. Schreiber did an excellent job of depicting all of this without relying on technical language or psychology terms. She did use some unfamiliar phrases, but they were explained clearly through context. Altogether, this is a very readable novel.
One thing often looked for in a story is a well-developed character. Here, readers of Sybil are in luck, because Sybil Dorsett is quite possibly the best-developed character in novel history. Actually, she is sixteen of the best-developed characters in novel history. Due to the psychoanalysis that forms the basis of the story, readers get to find out almost everything there is to know about Sybil. They discover how she thinks, how she feels, and the motives behind her every action. Readers also learn about her fifteen alternate selves, including the one Sybil they eventually combine to form. In light of Sybil’s powerful presence, one would think other characters, such as Dr. Wilbur, would get lost in her shadow. However, this is definitely not the case. Dr. Wilbur is very well developed. As the novel progresses, readers gain insights into how she approaches Sybil’s case from a professional standpoint, and how she begins to care for Sybil on a personal level as well. Again, the fact that Sybil is a true story drives home the amazing reality that these are not just characters. These are people. Only by keeping that in mind can the true depth of this novel be grasped.
Sybil is indeed in a class of its own. This novel by Flora Rheta Schreiber is fascinating and thought- provoking. As a case study, it is perfect for anyone with an interest in psychology. Simply the concept of multiple personalities is enough to intrigue the casual reader. However, with all clinical questions aside, Sybil is a touching story of hope, written about an extraordinary woman.
One can hardly grasp the concept of sixteen dynamic personalities being contained in one person. However, Flora Rheta Schreiber’s novel Sybil makes it quite a believable notion. In this book we are introduced to Sybil Isabel Dorsett: a woman who has always known she was “different”. This woman cannot explain unaccounted for time, and cannot fathom actions that others claim she did. Her psychologist and friend, Dr. Wilbur, discovers that Sybil is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Dr. Wilbur taps into Sybil’s childhood by using the different personalities as a medium. Undisclosed childhood traumas are revealed to help explain and eventually cure Sybil’s disorder. This story is remarkable because it is a non-fiction work. It is a landmark case in the record of humankind, and proves to be an uplifting story to any reader.
Although Sybil contains multiple depressing instances, there is an uplifting message that can be taken away from this classic novel. When we are introduced to the character of Sybil, she is wandering aimlessly in a place she does not recognize. There is a clear setting of hopelessness and confusion. There are many flashbacks to help build exponential growth throughout the story. Even with these flashbacks, the plot progresses and Sybil begins to heal. When the reader finishes the book, she is left with a person who is no longer possessed by sixteen different personalities. Rather Sybil is a healthy, successful woman who has triumphed over great trauma and struggle. The theme of this book is to persevere. Even though Sybil had a number of setbacks during her journey to wellness, she kept trying and working with Dr. Wilbur. This eventually leads to the complete integration of Sybil’s personalities, and leaves the reader with an upbeat taste in her mouth; a reminder that no matter how bad one’s situation may be, there is always need to be hopeful.
Not only did Sybil teach perseverance, but also the novel had many other strong points. One strong point of Sybil is the element of psychoanalytical terminology. Although there were many instances referring to psychological analysis, Flora Rheta Schreiber kept things readable. This helps to make the book seem less of a documentary, and more of a personal story about a real human being. Another thing that positively affected the book was the background information provided in the book. By giving an in-depth look at Sybil’s parents and their history, the reader understands Sybil’s circumstances more clearly. Flora Rheta Schreiber also kept the reader’s attention by providing graphic detail of Sybil’s childhood. By making the descriptions of the torture Sybil went through so detailed, the author gets her point across. The reader feels sympathetic towards Sybil and is drawn in by her pain. Specific graphics also help to put more emotion in the novel, rather than maintaining it as a scientific breakthrough. Another plus to this book is the fact that the author had first-hand experiences with Sybil. She was a friend to Sybil, and had a deeper understanding of the patient than an outsider would. Once again, the book becomes an empathetic story that catches the reader’s eye.
Sybil had many strong points, but there are also weaknesses to go along with them. Fortunately, the author was a friend of Sybil and made the book more personable. However, author Flora Rheta Schreiber did not seem to have the most professional writing abilities. Sometimes her writing style was found to be casual — one that would not be found in a work of literary art. Also, the entertainment factor was not constant throughout the entire novel. The book seemed to “fizzle” throughout the third part. There was so much exponential background throughout part III that it tended to become boring to the average reader. Luckily, the novel gains momentum during part IV and helps to revive the “dry” stage in the middle. Every novel has its’ faults, yet that of Sybil’s did not counterbalance the story’s strong points.
This novel would appeal to a large percentile of readers. One group of people that would especially enjoy Sybil is people interested in Multiple Personality Disorder. The novel provides an in-depth view of the rare ailment. For people who are skeptic about the disorder, Sybil helps to explain the effects it has on the people who have it and the people around them. However, if a reader is severely disturbed by graphic scenes, this book is not recommended. Due to the book’s empathetic nature, some readers may become deeply affected by the vivid descriptions of Sybil’s childhood traumas. Sybil is a story that can touch a wide spectrum of readers in a positive way.
Sybil can be absorbed in one of two ways: a groundbreaking case of Multiple Personality Disorder, or a too-graphic, dry, unprofessional novel. Any way a person considers the strengths and weaknesses in Sybil, there is an undeniable trace that it reminds one to persevere through it all. There are both strengths and weaknesses to the novel, yet there are more strong points than flaws. Flora Rheta Schreiber created a novel that helps the average person delve into a world beyond comprehension — a world with a population of sixteen crammed into the space designated for one.
Review by Alysha VB
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The novel, Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber is a brilliant novel with new twists at the turn of every page. Sybil, is a novel about a woman who survived horrible child abuse and is the first recorded person with a case of multiple personality disorder to be psychoanalyzed.
Any person who is interested in or planning to go into the field of psychiatry should read Sybil. The reader is given an inside look into the intricate web of multiple personality disorder. This novel opens the reader’s eyes to the life style of “Sybil”, a person with this disorder. “Sybil” will sometimes blackout for days, months, even years at a time, this happens when her alter personalities take over. This novel also introduces and explains how a person is psychoanalyzed. Psychoanalytic treatment involves unconscious factors affect current relationships and or patterns of behavior. These factors are then traced back to their historical origins, shown how they have changed and developed over time, and help the individual to deal better with the realities of adult life. This treatment is used to help “Sybil” overcome her disorder and take back control of her life. Each personality must be traced back to the event that caused “Sybil” to create it; they are then aged and integrated back into one person, “Sybil”. This novel will give anyone interested in the field of psychiatry a first hand look at certain instances they might experience in their profession.
Even if the reader is completely skeptical of multiple personality disorder and the treatments that are used to cure it, this book will change their entire perspective. Through out the novel the reader meets sixteen different personalities. With each new meeting the reader is able to see why each new personality was created. Before beginning the novel it is wise to review the “cast of characters and dates of birth” list in the front of the novel. Reading over this and referring back to it as one reads helps to tell the difference between certain similar characters such as Peggy Ann and Peggy Lou.
Although this is an excellent book for anyone going into the field of psychiatry or medicine, the graphic content of the novel must be taken into consideration before reading it. “Sybil” went through horrific child abuse from her mother, who is the cause of her multiple personality disorder. In her attempt to regain her life from the personalities controlling it she must relive the traumatic memories they have lived for her. Many of these memories are exceptionally graphic; in fact, the abuse was so extreme that “Sybil” will have physical scares on her body for her entire life and will never be able to have children. Although these scenes are painful to read and go into great detail, they give the reader a closer look at why “Sybil” had to create these other personalities. It is important that before beginning part two of the novel the reader prepares them-self to read about both the mental and physical abuse. Knowing that this section is going to be very graphic helps the reader not be so taken aback by it. It helps them to keep reading instead of putting it down in disgust with no intentions of continuing the book.
Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is a fantastic novel for anyone with a fascination with multiple personality disorder or anyone interested in a medical field. It has many great aspects that can teach the reader about multiple personality disorder itself and its possible treatments. Yet, anyone who is interested in reading this novel should also take into account the graphic abuse before they begin reading. If the reader can prepare them-self for that portion of the book then they will have an exciting read, that will leave them sitting on the end of their chair with the turn of every page.
Review by Amanda Reiff
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Sybil, a piece by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is a fascinating, true story of a woman with multiple personalities. The book has its weak points, but also various strengths to combat these drawbacks. For one engrossed by psychology, human behavior, or anything in this nature, Sybil would be quite the treat. Yet seeing as how not everybody is fascinated by these subjects, this novel isn’t broadly recommended.
A tremendous strength of the book is the introduction of Sybil’s “selves.” The traits and behaviors of the characters are stated and made known throughout the book. An image of each of the selves can be envisioned due to the brilliant detail that is given. The meeting of each of the sixteen individuals, all part of Sybil, is vastly enjoyable. Each personality is considerably unique which makes it a real pleasure to become acquainted with him/her. Some of the characters are seen far more than the others. This is disappointing, but the prevalent selves are well depicted. Sybil’s selves are enormously prominent and the majority of her case (and this book) rested upon their recognized existences. These existences are quite entertaining.
Sybil is full of many baffling pieces, but amazingly enough, most of those confusions are cleared up within the next couple of paragraphs. These clarifications are grand to have. Whether it is due to technical terms or mere events of the book, perplexity is bound to happen while reading Sybil. However, Schreiber does a phenomenal job at elucidating the meaning of the psychological terms and bemusing occurrences.
A downfall of Sybil is the unsteadiness of intense events and bland scenes. Climatic portions—Hattie’s abuse, Ramon, the actions of Sybil’s selves—are very arousing and put one on the edge of his/her seat, wondering what could happen next, only to be let down by the dull nothingness that follows. Tedious parts of the book—such as Willard’s life and Hattie’s childhood—are not well blended with the excitement of the other parts.
The numerous time periods in Sybil would be easier to follow if they were arranged in a different fashion. A chapter in this book is about events during anywhere from one hour to a few years. This organization is often bewildering and a disadvantage. Though Sybil has its upsets, it is still a fine book. Anyone with a curiosity about disassociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) would adore this writing on one of the first cases known of MPD. Due to large, intellectual words and terms in Sybil, younger readers may not comprehend the book. Therefore it is not advised for people of juvenile ages. Even the more mature, in age or character, public with no interest in psychoanalysis and the related would strongly dislike this work of Schreiber. Sybil, a nice bit of knowledge, is just not for everyone.
Review by Amber Perfetti
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I am only 12 years old, seriously, and I am reading "Sybil". I am not done with the book yet, but so far I think that it is really good. This is the first book I have read that has to do with MPD, and I am looking foward to getting some of the other books about MPD mentioned on this site!
Review by Anonymous
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Firt of all sybil had multiple personalities and not Schizophrenia (this is for the on before mine). Although her mother was just need to make that correction I personally really loved this book it was a fast read for a novel.
Review by Anonymous
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I really enjoyed the book Sybil and I liked the ending when Sybil was able to be a normal, happy person.
Review by Anonymous
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I know this is one of the early books on MPD, and as such, important. However, it really ticked me off that the book ends with Sybil becoming "normal" by going out on a date. A lot of assumptions here, about whats good and normal. And, is this the best we can hope for as far as healing? That was scary to me when I read it. (I know now the answer is no.) Good, though, for describing the damage of early abuse.
Review by Anonymous
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Although most people know roughly what Multiple Personality Disorder, or MPD, is, they most likely do not know the specifics on the affliction. However, the Book Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber not only explains the disorder and its causes, it also tells the story of Sybil Isabel Dorsett, who was the first MPD patient to be psychologically analyzed.
This book is for the most part nonfiction, but it reads much like a novel. There are often times when the reader even forgets that he is reading a nonfiction book. The book is set mostly in New York City in the mid 20th century and chronicles the life of Sybil, along with her 15 other selves, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Wilbur.
The strengths of this book lie within the character development and the form that it was written, that is to say written as a novel, rather than as a nonfiction story. All of the main characters, including most of Sybil’s sixteen personalities, are very well developed within the narrative, and they all have their own little stories within the book. Also, contrary to what one might expect at first glance, reading this book does not require a great knowledge of medical terminology. It is not exactly what one might call an easy read, but at the same time it is not too difficult to follow.
This book also had many shortcomings. The writer had a definite tendency to ramble on and restate the same point over and over again. At times the reader may even feel as though he has read the same line over several times already. There was also very little symbolism or literary freedom in this book; that is most likely due in part to the fact that it is a nonfiction story. Overall, the book is very cut-and-dried. Another weakness of this book was its length. It could have easily been 150 pages shorter without diminishing the overall quality of the story.
After all is said and done it is a decent book that is highly recommended for anyone who likes stories that are very straightforward, without a lot of superfluous metaphors and literary decoration to think about. Anyone who finds himself with an abundance of spare time on his hands would do well to pick up a copy of this book.
The novel Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber is based on the remarkably true story of a woman possessed with sixteen personalities. Even considering the few weak points throughout the story, this book should definitely be read by anyone interested in the psychological workings of the mind.
One major strength of the novel is the depth in which Sybil’s psychological problems are discussed. This allows you to truly get inside Sybil’s mind - all sixteen of them - and have a better understanding of what she has been through. The extreme abuse which Hattie imposed upon Sybil was not underplayed at all, a fact which is crucial to the novel’s success in conveying what really happened.
However, this can also be considered as one of the weaknesses of the novel as well. The graphic detailing which is used to describe the horrendous torture and abuse is not something one who is overly compassionate or empathetic is going to want to read, but to anyone else, this story is a great work that should be read by everyone with an interest in the human mind.
Being as Sybil is a story about a young girl’s transformation from being a multiple personality to being a regular human being, there were many times in which the terms and explanations of the psychoanalytic treatment Sybil underwent could have been very confusing and at some points, even incomprehensible. What was excellent about Schreiber’s writing is that all these terms are laid out in a way that is easy for the average mind to understand.
Having a developing plot is not always something that can be found in a novel which is based on a true story, but Sybil is not one of those cases. Everything was well thought out, well planned, and well organized. Another thing that would not seem to be an easy task when dealing with a case of Multiple Personality Disorder would be being able to distinguish between each personality. In Sybil, the author does an excellent job in making each personality seem like their own person, because that’s what they were, they were each separate people living inside one body.
Every character was introduced, explained and talked about in depth so that the reader knew exactly what their role in Sybil’s life was. From explaining Hattie’s loving destruction, to her father’s distance and negligence, to her grandmother’s compassion and caring of Sybil, Schreiber tells how each person affected Sybil’s developing mind.
Having to read about Hattie and Willard’s past, as well as the pasts of Sybil’s grandparents, was one part of the novel that could be considered to be weak. Hearing about their childhoods was nearing the borderline of boredom. This was one part of the story that did not make a person want to read nonstop and never put the book down. It seemed to drag on forever and only made minute points that could have been explained in much simpler terms without taking so much time at the same point in the novel to talk about their pasts.
Overall, this was a good book that should be recommended to anyone with an interest in Multiple Personality Disorder or psychoanalysis. It may not be the best choice for anyone who enjoys a lot of fiction with underlying messages, or something that the reader can read into and see what is written between the lines, because Sybil is not that book. While Sybil was not the greatest book ever written it would definitely not be considered a waste of a little time. Reading this novel provides an insight into just how much baggage some people must carry around with them, and if that type of story is an interest, this is definitely one to add to the reading list.
Sybil, to me, was a very powerful book/movie. Not only does it show the changes and ways of someone that has MPD, it also shows the very cause of her MPD. In the beginning, Sybil, the reader thinks, is normal, but as the reader progresses throughout the story, we find that different things set her many different personalities off. Sybil wants so hard to be normal, but she can’t be because of who she is and what she has. When the movie goes to the abuse scenes, it is very hard for someone with a weak stomach to take, but it was still wonderful and powerful because it sets the stage for what is to come. As a child, Sybil was very strong for what she endured and for how people treated her; her mother abusing her and her father not even noticing. The doctors didnt even think about what was happening to her, even though she was in their office alot when she was little. As if a fractured larynx and burns on the palms of her hands weren’t proof enough. No one thought of it. Why would they? Her mother was a patron of the town and of course no one like that would do anything bad or unusual.
When she grows up, Sybil’s MPD gets worse and worse until she can’t take it anymore. With the help of Dr. Wilbur, she faces and overcomes her fear of her MPD. Also when she’s grown up she doesn’t want to love because she has been hurt by the people that should have loved her the most; she doesn’t even know what it’s like to love and be loved. In this case, she gets close to a guy named Richard. They get very close and go out on a couple dates, but then there is a time when they are together and she turns into one of her personalities that is suicidal, Peggy. He gets freaked out and wants to help her, but in the end he leaves her, and there she is, hurt by another person. In the end, Sybil doesn’t get cured of her MPD but she learns how to deal with it and live with it. Overall it was a great story. There are many different parts where the reader is feeling what Sybil is feeling and thinking how Sybil is and wanting her to get better like she wants to. Sybil was a great book and a wonderful movie.
Review by Brittany
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i’ve read sybil because our professor in abnormal psychology gave it as our part of our requirements in school...at first i don’t like the idea of reading it because the first part of it was boring...but as i get along to read the book i find it interesting at the same time intriguing...sometimes i wonder what does it feel to have a multiple personality disorder...i recommend this book to all psychology major students out there to read this book because it really helps us to understand more those people who are experiencing the dissociative identity disorder...ciao...
Sybil, had to be one of the best books I’ve read about MPD’s/DID. The book is great! It is honestly Sad and doesn’t glamourize what this women went through. Think about it... Could you even Imagine what it must be like to be in continued conflict with your own personalities? In some cases it’s slowing taking your life away and you can save yourself.. Think about it.. If you have a conflict with someone in front of you... During some period of time you know it will end... But! when you’re fighting with your own mind and it knows you weakness,thoughts,feelings and reactions (and how to destroy you). How do you fight against that? When it’s stronger than you.. Sybil has 16 Personalities that she has to live with... She has the Good, bad and the Ugly. I do believe that people have more than one personality and it’s used at different times.. It’s what makes us human and we know how to use it. Example: You are a Housewife and Let’s say you get invited to a nice get together (party,bar,even internet and etc), you don’t go to a get together like a housewife, you go as someone fun and full of life (and maybe even sexy). Though we know we’re doing that... We are changing our personality for the evening and we can stop it at any moment. Sybil, doesn’t have that opportunity.. She couldn’t co-exist with her personalities. I was reading up on MPD’s and found people even enjoy having them (it gives them a break), they would come out when the kids got home or they would make dinner. Heck, if that was the case we would all want some.. Right? This book caught my interest so much that I had to research it.. The book had so much to offer to people during the time it was released about MPD’s.. I cried at the end of it (I must confess! and durning it..) She got her life back (she was normal). "What is Normal?", Normal is when you’re comfortible with yourself and you know who you are. I felt during this book she didn’t know who she was and/or what was happening to her. That’s not normal and at the end... She made peace with herself (Normal).
Sybil Book Review
At first glance, one might find the story of Sybil to be a dull, slow moving psychological analysis. This is yet another instance where looks can be deceiving. The moment you start, you are tossed into one of Sybil Dorsett’s spells in which she assumes one of sixteen different personalities. This story, the story of Sybil’s life, is about her past experiences, and what led her to become a patient suffering from multiple personality disorder.
In the first section, you learn about how Sybil met a psychologist, Dr. Wilbur. This period of the novel does fairly well at holding the reader’s attention. At times, it is slightly dragged out, but for the most part, this section does a decent job of introducing the novel, the characters, and their backgrounds.
Section two is where the action really starts. Sybil’s childhood begins to come into play, and the reader learns just how sick and twisted her early years were. This part will make the reader hate Sybil’s mother. It does a great job of getting across the various forms of abuse poor Sybil was put through, while not going into too much detail.
The third and fourth parts are where things start to fall apart. From here, the roller coaster ride that was Sybil’s life, becomes a slow, kiddy ride, in which the child sitting next to the reader constantly vomits on them. This is where the psychological terminology comes into play. The slow, tedious process of hypnosis is brought into the story as well, creating some points in which the reader will wish that the book just ended. Most of the traumatic events that occurred in section two are recapped here. Sybil faces these events triumphantly with the help of Dr. Wilbur, and ends up coming out on top. The novel still retains some of it’s entertaining qualities, but it could’ve been summed up much quicker.
As a whole, the novel was decent. It deserves a C+, in that it manages to keep the reader intrigued. The reader does indeed feel sorry for Sybil. This is the main thing that keeps the reader entertained though. The fact that people wish to see if Sybil faces her fears, fights down her childhood, and triumphs over her disorder is all that really holds the reader. The other characters play a decent role in keeping the readers attention. Vicky’s prim and proper attitude is always enjoyable, while seeing the twins bicker is quite a hoot.
The book is worth the read, from the standpoint that it is one of the first documented cases on a patient suffering from multiple personality disorder. Readers should be prepared to thoroughly enjoy the first two sections, and then be dropped off in the third section, only to begin the slow ascent to an enjoyable novel in the fourth.
The print is somewhat small, and may be hard on some readers’ eyes. The terminology may confuse others at times too, but aside from technical problems such as these, the book is decent. It’s definitely not a classic, but it is interesting at points. Just keep in mind the fact that the book is interesting…AT POINTS!
I often fall asleep reading Sybil at night. In my sleep, I dream that I am still reading the book and in my dream, I can clearly see the texts. My dream even weaves coherent stories picking up from were I dozed off. Waking from such dream, I would pick the book up and verify if I had indeed read the book while sleeping. I had not, realizing my thumb still holding the last page I read, while the story that my dream weaved gets washed away from my memory and the real texts becoming more familiar.
I, of course, can never be sure if I had. Not a fan of bookmarkers and an activist against earmarks, I often end up re-reading many pages relying merely on the texts I do remember in picking up from where I finished reading if my finger ever left the book.
Nonetheless, my dream fabricates “real“ stories. If I had not forgotten the dream stories and believe that I had finished the book, I may have read a different Sybil. (I certainly hope I had not.)
Sybil brought a different meaning to realness. Each of the characters she created-not intentionally, of course-has their own realities. Everyone has his or her own means of interpreting a situation, means of remembering, and means of projecting the future. With Sybil’s psychological condition, it is impossible to be really sure what reality for Sybil is in the same way that I may have weaved a different reality for Sybil in my dreams.
One of Sybil’s characters, Mary, even alluded to this. Mary said to Dr. Wilbur, “Things are not what they seem.” A more poetic anecdote from Mary is “There is no past. Past is present when you carry it with you.”
In the same way, belief is real if one carries it, or to state it more clearly, reality retains its realness as long it is believed to be real. Each of Sybil’s character, even Sybil herself, believed in each of their own realities. They even interact with one another. I myself could have been deceived by my dreams that I am reading the book even when I was sleeping.
(In the same way, it bother’s me how Mary could be contemplatively prolific, memorizing and reciting a poem. Had she came across the poem when she was “in control” of the body? Or the other selves read it while she was in the background? If so, what was she doing then? What was the level of her consciousness? Was she in a lucid dream as I was when I dreamt of reading the book? She was even able to throw to Dr. Wilbur important clues, in poetic form, as to what afflicts Sybil and how to help her. Was Sybil, through Mary, aware all along of how to solve her woes?)
To most of us, there is only one Sybil because there is only one physical Sybil. Dr. Wilbur searched for that real Sybil. However, for the other selves, they are as real as Sybil herself. They think, therefore they are.
(I would not debate Dr. Wilbur’s decision in bringing out the “true” Sybil, as I believe that all selves of Sybil are “true”, because of my disciplinary limitation; although Dr. Wilbur herself debated on bringing out the worldlier Vicky. In Dr. Wilbur’s opinion that I share, Vicky would be better equipped to handle the real world. She claims awareness of every persona of Sybil. Was Sybil, through Vicky, one all along? How could Vicky know even when and how one persona was created? Why was she aware that she was merely created by Sybil? Did she not question the realness of her existence when all along, she was aware that she was created based on a doll? While aware of Sybil’s condition, did she not have any doubt on her past in France?)
Regardless of the reality of matters deemed real, once believed real, its consequences will also be real. The paintings of the other selves are real; the amortization for the house the Mary bought is real for Sybil. I could have been reviewing a different book, or if I was able to document my dreams, I could have published a fiction.
One good example of how an assumption on reality provides real consequences is the reality believed in the teachings of the Dorsett’s Church. The consequence is a severely imprisoned Sybil and delusional parents. Sybil could have been psychoanalyzed earlier had not the pastor objected to it. There could have been fewer traumas for Sybil.
If a large group can create a social agreement on reality, more so can one mind.
Dr. Wilbur herself could have created another reality in her search for the real Sybil. As far as I am concerned, the traumatic past of Sybil came only from Sybil herself or her other selves who nonetheless witnessed the events from the same pair of eyes and interpreted using the same brain, and from Dr. Wilbur herself, analyzed using the same moral system. Sybil’s father’s verification of the stories told by Sybil did not really verify the events. Sybil’s father only confirmed remembering Sybil being irrationally afraid of her shoes but never confirmed to ever seeing the shoes in Sybil’s vagina.
Nonetheless, Sybil’s accounts were taken as truth with such truth made stronger by her father’s pseudo-verification and Dr. Wilbur patting herself at the back. I would not censure Dr. Wilbur for such assumption on the truth of Sybil’s account because it is her method to accept Sybil’s accounts as truth. As a matter of fact, it worked for Sybil. By confronting such “truth” she was “cured”.
Ms. Schreiber, the author, however, should have been expected to conduct deeper investigation in passing the book as non-fiction. Sybil’s comment that the book is emotionally true and psychiatrically factual for Dr. Wilbur should not be construed as verification of the non-fictional character of the book. At the most, Sybil is a story truthfully told by Sybil based on Dr. Wilbur’s files and Sybil’s interviews but not necessarily a true story.
Such assumption on truth, while it worked well for Sybil, may have produced real consequences, negative consequences, for other people. Had Sybil’s mother been alive at such “revelation”, she would be facing severe legal actions. The Dorsett’s Church would be facing severe criticisms. Sybil’s father may himself need psychiatric treatment over the horrors of such “revelations”.
While noble, the novel’s objectives are petty. Regardless of Sybil, we all are aware of the “uncanny power of the mind”. The stories of horror of Sybil are overexertion to inform us that we should not pump cold water into a child’s urethra.
I would however, would not argue against the publication of Sybil. Sybil’s internal adventure is a worthy experience.
I thought the book was well written. It made me sad to think that such a thing can happen to little kids. I am 17 and have a 4 1/2 month old daughter and could never imagine to those horrible things to her. Over all Im glad she is now better.
This is a very easy read and will keep your attention. Like others have noted, it isn’t highly factual (regarding therapy) and the relationship with the doctor is unrealistic (her coming to your house late at night). When many read this book back in 1973, they thought it was some of the worst child abuse ever experienced. This, of course, is not true. But it is a good book and I do recommend it.
This was the first book I had ever read on MPD. I used to have friends in school who would joke that is what I was. Then I found this book and I read it till the cover came off. It has been many years and finding help seems impossible for one reason or other but this story helps us becuase it shows hope. Diana is almost the age Sybil was when she started getting help so we know it is not too late. There are many issues that Sybil and her gropu dealt with that we deal with and so for us it is a guide on how to survive in a large group. We highly recommend this book not only to those who are MPD but to those who know someone who is. We often give the book to someone who is close so they can read it. It helps them better understand us as well. We find this book to be a comfort.
Flora Rheta Schrieiber’s Sybil is a nonfiction account of a woman living with Multiple Personality Disorder. Throughout the novel, Sybil Isabel Dorsett finds out she has the disorder and then tries to become healthy. She has the help of a psychoanalyst named Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur. Sybil, Dr. Wilbur, and Sybil’s many other selves work to uncover the trauma which caused the personalities to surface in the first place. Their goal is to merge all of the personalities into the waking self. The task is not easy, especially since Sybil does not want to admit to being ill. Also, the personalities want to remain independent, distinct people instead of being under the control of Sybil.
The incredibly complex character of Sybil is developed quite well. The detail of Sybil’s history gives insight into the reason she developed so many different personalities. The trauma she experiences throughout her life is appalling. The descriptions of abuse are illustrated so that they get the point across but are not overly graphic. It is amazing that all of the emotions of the characters feel so real considering that the novel is written from a third person account.
It was definitely important that the book be written by an author rather than by Dr. Wilbur herself. Dr. Wilbur decided to seek out a real author for the work because she felt that the life of Sybil would be better presented as a novel rather than an article in a medical journal. Although Dr. Wilbur would know all the facts first hand, she would not have been able the capture the emotion the way that an author like Flora Rheta Schreiber could. Schreiber turned the facts into something that people could sympathize with while at the same time being completely medically accurate.
This book is a must read, especially for people who are not very familiar with Multiple Personality Disorder. The book is so captivating that it almost seems to be fiction. That the book is a true account is all the more entrancing. The curiosity of what is going to happen next makes it difficult to put the book aside. The book is unquestionably a very engaging read. It is just so enjoyable, but at the same time informative and stimulating. It should absolutely be read by anyone who enjoys exceptional literature.
Review by Elizabeth
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Flora Rheta Schreiber’s Sybil is probably one of the most recognized non-fiction novels about M.P.D. Sybil struggled through most of her life not knowing what was wrong with her. She had to endure horrible beatings from her mother and had to live with the embarrassment of being different. Sybil introduces the challenges that this unfortunate girl had to go through in order to be able to live a normal life. Sybil shows a girl who must undergo accepting herself for who she is.
Sybil was a new breakthrough in science of psychology and mental disorders. At that time in history no one had been able to properly study an individual with M.P.D. Sybil was the first patient with M.P. D. to be psychoanalyzed. None of the other studies before Sybil’s time were as unique and no other person recorded in history had so many personalities. Sybil was sharing her body with sixteen other selves.
Schreiber knew Sybil in person and as a friend. She does a wonderful job telling the story in a more close and personal view rather than just using the doctor notes. Sybil is not like other boring, sticking to the facts non-fiction. Sybil is written to please and keep the reader interested. It is also very detailed in certain situations of Sybil’s life when it needs to be. This lets the reader get to undergo the horrors of Sybil’s life.
Just like any other book Sybil is not flawless. At certain parts in the novel, readers will find themselves very interested in what is going on in the story. It is as if he or she is on a joy ride and all of a sudden they get a flat tire. The readers very rarely get to finish the climax of the moment before Schreiber either switches back to the past or moves to the next event in Sybil’s life.
Schreiber did a decent job with all of the character development in the novel. The first two parts of the novel the character development was great. The readers knew a lot about each of the personalities of Sybil. In Part three of the novel and on, it seemed as if Schreiber was just throwing the rest of the personalities out there to get them out of the way. Schreiber should have taken more time with the last few personalities and gotten rid of pages that were not necessarily essential. The readers find themselves rereading many of the same lines that Schreiber could have easily gotten rid of.
Sybil is a great book, even though there are some flaws. It does a spectacular job giving the readers a chance to experience what it would be like to live with M.P.D. This novel is a necessary read; everyone can benefit from learning about this extraordinary woman.
When any person hears the name Sybil, he is most likely to think of an out of the ordinary person that is so crazy that she has to have more than one self. But after reading Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, one is guaranteed to have a new perspective on her and others that do have problems with living everyday life. It is an inspiring, non-fiction novel that is extremely hard to put down.
The main character of the story is Sybil Isabel Dorsett who does not actually live her own life until she is in her forties. She has Multiple Personality Disorder, but she is not the typical case where the person has two different selves. She has sixteen different personalities, and each one of them take over her body whenever she feels a certain emotion. Sybil can not even enjoy a walk in the park or eating dinner because anytime she feels the least bit happy, sad, angry, or excited, one of her personalities take over and live for her. Fortunately, she starts meeting with Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur many times a week to cure her disorder.
Schreiber begins the novel by introducing the reader to Sybil’s confusion when she wakes up from one of her other personalities. This incident takes place many times in the novel, and these incidents are what cause Dr. Wilbur to start psychological analysis with Sybil. The doctor starts researching Sybil’s past, along with that of her parents and other family members. She becomes very interested in Sybil’s case, and they even become close friends throughout the treatment. Schreiber introduces each personality throughout the story, without the reader even realizing there were more personalities to come. As Dr. Wilbur is introduced to more and more personalities, she gets to know each of them and she begins understanding when and why each was created. She discovers Sybil was abused sexually, mentally, and physically throughout her life, starting when she was just a baby. Sybil recalls that she stopped trying to fight back at only three years of age. Dr. Wilbur convinces Sybil to remember the abuse and relive those terrible times. Eventually, Sybil starts to gain strength and her multiple personalities do not take over as often. After eleven years of treatment, Sybil is cured and begins life as one human being, not sixteen.
Schreiber did an incredible job explaining each character Sybil comes into contact with throughout the novel. Without boring the reader, she explains their personalities and how Sybil knows them. She goes into detail about each individual through conversations between characters and by explaining something they have done; which lets the reader get an idea of what is happening and what type of traits each character has.
This novel really makes a reader realize how blessed he should be and how much of every day life, such as making memories, is taken for granted. Sybil did not have the advantage of living life and being able to set goals for her own self that every other person has. Many people just go through life not caring or wanting to exceed. Sybil did not get the chance to remember her every move and do the fun things any other person does. The main theme of this story is to be grateful and feel blessed for being not only alive, but being able to remember life’s lessons and every celebration that occurs.
Sybil is an excellent novel, filled with exhilaration and enthusiasm. However, like any novel, it does have a few weak points. The beginning of the story is exciting, but towards the middle of the novel, the excitement starts to slow down. One paragraph is thrilling, while the next is boring and drags on. Also, some of the story is explained in complete detail, though at the end when Sybil is finally treated, the wording is vague and unclear. It jumps right into Sybil finally being only one person and this makes the reader wonder what took place and how. Nevertheless, this novel has many more strengths than weaknesses. This book is easy to read, and Schreiber keeps the enthusiasm up for the most part. When the story gets going, the book is very hard to put down. It keeps the reader on the edge of his seat, and it is never known what would happen from one page to the next.
Those interested in Multiple Personality Disorder and any other mental diseases should definitely read this extraordinary novel by Flora Rheta Schreiber. This story is filled with situations many can not even imagine. Therefore, this is an excellent novel for he who can read how horrible some are treated. It is also wonderful for anyone who enjoys adventures and values life’s little miracles.
Review by Emily Pierson
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The novel Sybil written by Flora Rheta Shreiber is an intriguing, very true story, that entices readers with dynamic characters and a very inspiring story line. The story expresses the pain, hardships, and then accomplishments that Sybil Dorsett had to go through in her life. Using a combination of mystery in the beginning of the story and very descriptive passages throughout the book, Shreiber draws her readers in and makes them feel as though they are actually watching Sybil’s life as it happens.
Sybil is the story of an abuse-ridden woman who has developed sixteen unique personalities over her lifetime, all of which help her deal with different emotions that she herself cannot express. She finds help from Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur, who for over a decade, performs the first documented psychoanalysis over Sybil. Throughout the story, Schreiber brings to life each one of Sybil’s personalities and showcases each of their purposes, while also providing excerpts that focus on the Dorsett household during Sybil’s childhood and the reasons why she developed Multiple Personality Disorder.
Schreiber makes numerous strong points in her novel, which help to bring a positive outlook on the book. She does an excellent job making Sybil’s story a readable one, and not one only people interested in the medical feature of it. Even though Schreiber uses medical terminology, she blends those terms effectively enough to where anyone who was reading the story would know what was being discussed. The novel also does an amazing job of showcasing the hardships that Sybil had to go through in her life and why she may have been put in those situations. The description of Mr. and Mrs. Dorsett’s childhoods allows the reader to take a deeper look into why Sybil was treated the way she was and it also helps in the understanding of her parents’ characters. Even though some of the passages may be graphic, the way that Schreiber describes Sybil’s past makes one really think about how horrible her life was, which in turn brings the reader closer to the character.
While the strengths of the novel were what brought it to life, the story still had it’s weaknesses. The first two parts of the story brought twists and turns as well as the background of the characters, but as the third part was introduced, the liveliness of the story was lost. The third section was somewhat boring because it contained hefty amounts of medical information, which may cause the reader to become uninterested in the story as a whole. The fact that Schreiber throws in moments where Sybil disassociates also hurts the story in a sense. Those periods can throw the reader off and doesn’t allow for a smooth flow of the novel.
Sybil is a not a story for the faint of heart. It should be read by a mature reader and by one not easily disturbed by graphic descriptions of abuse and neglect. Anyone who would be interested in learning more about Multiple Personality Disorder or who is intrigued by the workings of a physiologist may want to pick up this novel. This would be an excellent piece of literature to read in an Honors English class, as well as any college psychology class.
Flora Rheta Schreiber’s Sybil is a captivating true story of a woman who overcomes all odds and becomes one with herself. It is a wonderful story of hope and triumph, and will surely give it’s readers a new and grateful sense of their own lives.
Review by Emily Romanowski
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Sybil is the true story of a woman that suffers from disassociate identity disorder. Flora Rheta Schrieber, who wrote the novel, does a wonderful job portraying the joy and pain Sybil faces on her journey to recovery. The novel has strengths and weaknesses, but overall it is wonderful and heart wrenching.
Dr. Cornelia Wilbur is Sybil’s psychologist in the book. She helps Sybil to understand that her “blackouts” are actually periods of time when another personality takes over the body. Dr. Wilbur discovers that Sybil actually has sixteen personalities, which is many more than the average multiple personality case. During the novel, each character is introduced and they each have their own personality, speech pattern and appearance. While the focus of the book is on Sybil, each character is fully developed and they help the reader learn more about why Sybil dissociated in the first place. There are also other characters that play a part in Sybil’s suffering. Her parents, especially her mother, are the roots of the evil Sybil faces.
The book has a lot of strengths. One of them is readability. Schreiber does a great job explaining all the terms of psychological analysis so that even someone who is not familiar with psychology can understand. The book is very personable, and it is very easy to get engulfed in Sybil’s emotions. This makes the book more enjoyable because sympathy can be felt for her character. The book is organized into four large parts with many short chapters in each of the parts. This makes it easy for the reader to sit down and read a couple chapters and not have to be tied down to one chapter for a couple hours.
The novel also had a few weaknesses. Once the suspense is over about what made Sybil dissociate and all the characters are met, the book seems to drag on and makes the reader wonder if there is any hope for Sybil. With all of Sybil’s blackouts and her personalities taking over her body, there really isn’t a plot to the story. It goes back and forth from the past to the present as Sybil tries to accept the past.
Overall the strengths of this novel outweigh the weaknesses. It is an enjoyable read and because it is entirely true, it touches people where other books cannot. This book is not fit for everyone, it is very graphic and disturbing at times. Adults and high school students in advanced classes are most likely to comprehend the meaning behind the story. For all those people who are interested in the story, it is a must read.
Review by Emily Wece
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Sybil is a good book to read if the reader has discipline and a dictionary handy! Sybil is about a young woman with sixteen personalities who with help of her psychoanalyst and friend, Dr. Wilbur, uncovers her atrocious past and faces it in order to make Sybil whole again.
There are many weaknesses in the book, Sybil, that cause the reader to be displeased. Some parts in the book are so dry compared to other events, which would startle even the most masculine man alive. The events that keep the reader’s attention and make himher want to read occur all at once, which leaves the rest of the book somewhat boring. Another aspect that can bore a reader is if the reader can not follow the terminology used. Obviously psychology terms are going to appear in this book because it is about a woman with dissociate disorder and her eleven years of psychoanalysis. However, the author needs to take into account that every reader is not a psychology major. Sometimes the text becomes so thick with these incomprehensible terms to the point that the context can not reveal the definition of the terms. At this point the author needs to elaborate as to what these terms mean. Otherwise, the reader is left behind. By far, the biggest disappointment in the book Sybil is the ending. The beginning of the book and the end are polar opposites. It is as if there were two authors writing the book. The end is similar to that of a case study which contrasts with the non-fiction feeling of the rest of the book. The resolution of the book seems too easy. The complications faced in the book make it seem as though Sybil will never get better, but in the ending her problems go away so leisurely. After reading the first four-hundred pages of Sybil it is peculiar that such a simple solution is met. The end of the book was unsatisfactory, but the reader desires to finish because he/she must know the outcome of Sybil’s dilemma.
Although there are many weaknesses in the book Sybil, it has some interesting aspects. The fact that there are sixteen personalities in one person makes this book rather intriguing. Each personality provides a different feeling for the reader. One can find humor, sympathy, empathy, or even dislike in each of the different personalities. This allows the reader to connect with some or all the different personalities. Also, this allows the reader more interest in the book because the reader will follow the personality he/she likes with more attention. It is hard for one to say that the horrifying punishments that Sybil’s mother performed on Sybil were fun to read. However, that part of the book is a strength because it keeps the reader’s attention. The events have a train wreck effect on the reader. Although the punishments were horrible, one must keep on reading to find out what else happens. The different personalities, although there were many, were quite developed. Each one had specific attributes to the whole Sybil. It was helpful that most of them were delivered in pairs. After reading Sybil, the reader can recall the emotion each personality represented. For example, Peggy Lou represented anger and Peggy Ann represented fear. The strengths of this book allow the reader the desire to finish the book.
With exceptions for the end of the book the literary technique used by Flora Rheta Schreiber was well thought out. The reader is intrigued by the beginning because it starts out with Sybil coming-to in a snow storm in Philadelphia. She doesn’t quite know how she got there and the reader has not yet learned of the other selves and their different styles. The story picks up where it left off much later in the book. There are many flash backs that are key to uncovering Sybil’s past and figuring out how she comes to be.
Sybil is a must for any psychology student, but as far as everyone else goes it is up to the reader. There are many weaknesses in this book that outweigh the strengths. The reader is sometimes left behind due to incomprehensible terms and tedious material. Overall, the book Sybil is readable, but has many flaws.
Review by Erica Seely
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The average person has only one personality. With this single personality they can express all of their emotions. Sybil was different. It is not for certain whether Sybil became a multiple personality because of her upraising or her genetics or maybe both but one thing was for certain: it’s a wonderful book.
Sybil, written by Flora Rheta Schreiber is the story of a woman who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and had a total of sixteen different personalities. It is a story of how a woman is lost and finds herself, literally locked away in her own mind with the troubling memories that were to harsh for the waking self to bare. The novels depth in identifying the different types of procedures and psychological terms make this a difficult book to read, but you would not be able to have the complete story without it. The novel gives readers the feel that they are right there with Sybil and can feel her pain with her. Sybil’s mind created the personalities to help he cope with the pain and readers begin to be able to relate to them. The creation of the ‘Family Tree’ also helps the reader understand how Sybil’s personalities were created. Each personality has a single emotion attached to it sometimes readers forget that they are all apart of Sybil.
This novel also shows readers that even if they are only a certain personality, they are still just pieces of separate emotions that are put together to form one person. The complexities of the character(s) help create the mood for the situation. The personalities were thoroughly developed and each one had a sense of their own style, uniqueness, sex, and physical features. The novel also went into detail about why each personality was the way they were and what event or person in Sybil’s life had caused her mind to create them
It also goes into the much-needed depth of emotional and physical damage that Sybil went through as a young child. Although gruesome, the complexities of the acts have a shocking effect on readers who can only imagine how Sybil even survived. Readers cringe at the details of adult sized enemas being attached to the young child while she is being hung upside-down or being tied to the piano for hours while her mother played it as she suffered. They also feel the lurking terror that Sybil has for her schizophrenic mother.
Although this novel had many strong points, the ending was a blur. It seemed as if the author had a set number of pages the book had to be and in order to reach it she just crammed years into a few pages. The novel would have had a better ending if it wasn’t rushed and could have been as in-depth as the beginning. Towards the end it seemed like it was lacking something. Also, the psychological analysis wasn’t always clearly defined or explained and readers may have tended to be confused with what was really happening during Sybil’s Treatment. Although she did provide some terms a clearer definition readers would have had a better understanding if she had gone into a greater depth so the readers could relate better.
Overall this book was good and readable although you might want to keep a dictionary handy just in case there are some words that you don’t know. Sybil had a wonderful plot and it is a recommended book that can only begin to explain the complexities of the human brain. The novel is inspiring and helps readers to understand how lucky they are and how hypocrisy can ruin years of someone’s life.
Review by Erika Miller
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Sybil is a revolutionary book about multiple personality disorder, a disorder that many believe is nonexistent. The book, written by Dr. Schreiber, places the reader right next to Sybil as she goes through life. The novel immediately draws the reader in with curiosity. The plot of the novel tends to jump around occasionally, especially when Sybil changes personalities. The vocabulary, although stumping at times, is very easily understandable considering all the medical terminology that could have been used. Fortunately the reader meets the many personalities of Sybil. Due to the length of the novel, which was rather long and seemed to drag on at points, some of the personalities were just mentioned. Vicky one of the main personalities of Sybil was introduced very well and the reader is able to get to know Vicky almost better than Sybil herself. One of the main weaknesses of Sybil was its length. The novel seems to occasionally drag on at certain points, which can often leave the reader falling asleep.
Sybil’s main strong point is that it is a true story. It can be very inspiring to certain audiences. To know that a woman can overcome such great odds, over a disorder that simply did not exist to most people. Dr. Schreiber did a phenomenal job with explaining exactly how Sybil was thinking and feeling at all times. At several points the book is able to drag the reader almost inside Sybil. The reader seemingly experiences Sybil’s pain along side her. Sybil’s plot, though not very chronological or traditional, puts a very exciting and interesting twist on the book. There are a few times when the reader might be confused for a short time.
The second part of Sybil deals with her childhood. This part of the novel can be very graphic and violent. The book goes into much detail of Sybil’s childhood abuse. The book describes how Sybil was tortured in her home by her own mother. This is the part of the book that makes it unreadable for many people. The reader should probably be at an age where they are able to handle such graphic descriptions of Sybil’s abuse. Also another part that some readers might find offensive is the lesbian activity of Sybil’s mother. The book just briefly describes a scene in which Sybil’s mother takes part in lesbian activities.
This book is best suited for juniors and seniors in high school and above. However, due to the graphic nature of Sybil’s abuse as a child some adults might not even want to read it. The reading level is very reasonable and easily understandable, despite a few medical terms found in the part describing Sybil’s treatment. The book describes very well the effects multiple personality disorder can have on a life. It gives courage and hope for those who do have it. It should sadden, but more importantly inspire all who read it.
Review by Gavin McDaniel
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Dr. Flora Rheta Schreiber’s novel documenting the diagnosis and treatment of Sybil Isabel Dorsett is in some ways a major triumph, but in other ways the book is a disappointment. Schreiber bridges the gap from fiction to nonfiction seamlessly, turning what could have been a strict medical journal into a vivid account of the life and treatment of an extreme multiple personality. However she lets the story drag, often times to the point of losing the reader’s interest. Her concentration on telling the story, sometimes to unnecessary detail, turned what could have been a masterpiece into dragging read.
Dr. Schreiber truly makes the characters of Sybil and all of her 15 other selves come alive. The dry, bare-fact ridden desert between fiction and nonfiction has been eliminated so that both genres seem to weave seamlessly together. The reader does not feel as though he is trudging through a history or biography, but is instead enjoying a colorful novel. Her precise, descriptive language takes the reader on the rough and often times terrifying journey to recovery with Sybil and leaves out no detail. That, too though, is the biggest downfall of the book.
For every intriguing page in Sybil, there are 20 others that drag on with stories and descriptions of Sybil or of her many selves that could be condensed and still have retained the same meaning. Schreiber loses the reader consistently throughout the book by building his or her interest towards the end of a chapter only to shift gears entirely and go in a totally different direction. Chapters four, five and six are prime examples of just how the story can build and suddenly drop off. Each chapter begins with the introduction of a new character in Sybil’s therapy session. As the character is introduced and dissected, and the reader becomes truly invested, suddenly the hour ends. The book shifts focus from the inner workings of a new personality to their jaunt in the city, a jaunt that seem endless. Such accounts go on for countless pages more than they should. The stories are important, granted, to the development of either character, but could have been skillfully edited down to keep the pace of the book up. Such occurrences are not limited, sadly, to just those chapters. The book is peppered with run on stories that are given in grave detail and are never revisited or explained, but seem to just become yet another excessive character development. Dr. Schreiber’s novel, Sybil, is worth the read. Yet, no one should feel badly for skimming sections due to the sagging the book has in places. Schreiber should be commended, though, for taking the amazing story of Sybil Dorsett from Dr. Wilbur’s notes and charts, and miraculously transforming it into an easy to understand, accessible read. The real criticism should not be given to the author, but should be aimed at the editing team as they should have fixed many of these problems.
Review by Isaac
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Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD is by far one of the most misunderstood disorders of the mind in the world today. The novel Sybil by Rheta Schreiber helps shed light on this mysterious disorder. Although meant as a documentation of the first psychoanalyzed case of MPD, Sybil goes beyond that into an excellent novel that surpassed its era.
For readers that enjoy books that make them think, Sybil is definitely a must read. The book’s vocabulary is slightly above that of an average person and a reader may want to read up on some psychological terms before diving into Sybil. Despite the unusual vocabulary it is almost certain that a reader will find himself pondering about a part of Miss. Dorsett’s past or enjoying the success that is found in her treatment. One can almost feel as if he is a part of Sybil and living in her world with her, but then again, isn’t that was a great book should cause a reader to feel?
In Sybil there are only a few characters that are actually fairly developed. Sybil Dorsett, the novel’s protagonist is probably the best developed character. Readers come to know her so well that they feel her pain and enjoy her successes. Rheta did an excellent job describing the feelings of Sybil and all of the other personalities. Like Sybil, Hattie Dorsett is a character that the reader comes to know very well. One could almost say that the reader comes to know Hattie too well. The way that Hattie treated her daughter is so disturbing and just overly wrong that readers can’t help but be fascinated by her. Dr. Wilbur while also a main protagonist in the story was not very developed. It is true that she plays a huge role in the treatment of Sybil, but readers do not get the same feeling of empathy that they have with Sybil. While many of the personalities of Sybil are developed to a great extent, such as Vicky and Peggy Lou, some of the others are rarely mentioned except at the time of integration. These personalities are barely known and leave the reader wondering at what they might have been like.
Overall Rheta did an outstanding job writing Sybil. Her writing techniques were superb and she told a non-fiction story in a way that leaves a reader wondering “I can’t believe that actually happened. From start to finish the book grabs the reader and although it starts to shake slightly towards the end, it firmly holds the reader in its grasp. This book is very well organized and unlike many novels that leaving the reader questioning certain parts, it explains everything to the point that there can be no question about any subject. Those who read Sybil can expect to be pulled on an emotional rollercoaster throughout the “life” of Sybil and all of her selves. One thing a reader can be sure of is that this novel will be like anything he has ever read before.
“Sybil” can best be described as a non-fictional literary epic. It is the grim insight into the life of the young Ms. Sybil Dorsett. Whose grave and, for lack of a better word, warped childhood has led her to split her personality into sixteen different selves. Although this concept may be hard for some to grasp, especially for those with no previous knowledge of Multiple Personality Disorder, or MPD, the disease itself is portrayed and depicted simply, without room for confusion, throughout the novel. Major problems does exist, however, with the sequencing of the story, as well as some other factors. Sybil has a tendency to “black out” and “lose time,” as she herself labels it, for she will wake up in an unfamiliar time in an unfamiliar place in unfamiliar clothes with unfamiliar people. These periods are a result of Sybil’s alternate personalities taking over in order to cope with emotions that Sybil herself had learned to block out during her childhood. Moreover, this theme of awakening completely lost, and the fact that the book is told through the perspective of Sybil, your reading experience, like her life, would be challenging to follow, but the rigid-ness and randomness of the time transitions make it very frustrating, as well as the style which is reminiscent of a medical report, placing emphasis on large, normally misunderstood words. The novel centers on Sybil herself and the internal conflict she is experiencing but the plot follows the path of her road to recovery with a compassionate psychoanalyst, Dr. Wilbur. This story starts in the city of Omaha, takes you through her childhood home of Willow Corners, climaxes in New York, and concludes in the peaceful mind of Sybil Dorsett.
The novel immediately thrusts you into the theme of confusion, being lost, and fears in Part I by placing you in Sybil’s position after she “wakes up” in a place unfamiliar to her. The state she finds herself in is quite an eerie one as she is in a snow covered street while just moments before she had been in her college chemistry lab. The novel states, “Sybil clutched for her zipper folder. It wasn’t there. The elevator wasn’t there, either, or the long, dusky hall. She was standing on a long, narrow street covered with snow. The elevator hadn’t come for her, but instead of waiting, she was walking” (23-24). These bouts with waking up in a completely different place are very common and recurrent theme throughout the course of the novel. This helps give the story an overall feeling of a lack of direction, and a lack of linear time, and although linear time is not a requirement for an enjoyable novel, this novel’s transitions tend to be more rigid and to reflect negatively on the story. However, once one is able to work past the rigid transitions, it is found that the story contained at the core is truly thought provoking and is sure to compel the average, every-day reader as the intricacies of Multiple Personality Disorders are considered anything but common knowledge. Which is in turn compelling in itself that such an interesting disorder can remain so widely unstudied and unknown to the masses. After this episode in what turns out to be Philadelphia, the novel seems to flash back in time to the point in which Dr. Wilbur was personally trying to recruit Sybil into entering a clinic and creating some separation between her, Sybil, and her parents. Sybil, like her parents, is at first resistant to this treatment, largely because of her parents objections and her religion, but decides that it is what would be best for her mentally, thus she chooses to participate. Her mother, however, interferes after just two sessions and thus there is a period of inactivity on the therapeutical front which is however ended by a reconciliation of Dr. Wilbur and Sybil who then decide to resume treatment. Through this treatment we are introduced to two very key, very prevalent alternate personalities. The first, Peggy Lou, is the side of Sybil who has learned to deal with extreme emotions and in general she enjoys being wild and spontaneous. She tends, however, to have a fascination with breaking glass, which, as the reader would find later, results from a childhood trauma involving the mother Hattie Dorsett. It is not known at this point exactly how old Peggy Lou is, it is only known that she is an emotionally radiant personality whose main purpose is to deal with the anger Sybil herself has kept constrained in the shackles of religious guilt for to “be angry” is to sin, according to some. Another character that is also introduced is Victoria Antoinette Scharleau, a stunning, charismatic, and intelligent figure who can be summed up by the word “glowing.” Victoria is by far the largest contributor in the recuperation of Sybil as Victoria is omniscient, or all knowing. Whereas the other personalities, even Sybil herself, are not. This provides Victoria the access required to determine and convey the most harmful experiences of the others and to logically deal with them on her own accord while being able to help Dr. Wilbur, help Sybil. This Part in itself is a crucial section of the novel as key ideas and factors such as the actual disorder, the other personalities, and the overall writing style, although poor, is introduced.
The Second Part is arguably the best in the novel, yet also the most disturbing. This Part details graphically the events that most likely led to the splitting of her personality. All of the abuse centers on the Willow Corners home of Sybil with her two parents, Hattie and Willard Dorsett. The abuse ranges from a multitude of things from both parents, although Hattie is quickly established as the closest thing to Lucifer walking the Earth. Her constant beatings, adult sized enema’s on the child, carnal acts of sex in front of Sybil, acts of degradation such as defecating on a neighbors lawn, and, most of all, sexual abuse, are understandably too much for any child to handle. The magnitude of Hattie Dorsett’s deviance is exemplified throughout the novel in passages such as the following, “We’re going to play horsey,’ she would tell them as she got down on all fours and encouraged them to do so likewise.
’Now lean over and run like a horse.’ As the children squealed with delight at the prospect, Hattie would motion them to begin. Then, while the little girls, simulating the gait of the horses, leaned over as they had been instructed, Hattie, from her perch on the floor, revealed the real purpose of the ’game.’ Into their vaginas went her fingers as she intoned, ’Giddyap, giddyap.’ Watching, Sybil and the other selves responded with the same intense shame they had experienced during the pilgrimages of defecation” (204-205). Notice that later in the text the word “we” is used. This is because the story is told through the eyes of Sybil, and one must take into account that there are sixteen different selves using those eyes. Thus leading to a community of characters within the novels main character. Also notice that these personalities had already arisen even at such an early stage in life such as childhood. Moreover, if one were to read the book, it would be discovered that some of these alternate personalities were created even as early as infancy. This passage also displays the level of mental illness that Hattie Dorsett herself is suffering from. Obviously, any grown person, let alone woman, who is doing this to a group of children whom she is supposedly baby-sitting has, frankly, “more than a few screws loose.” This part of the novel also has chapters dedicated to the roots of Willard and Hattie Dorsett and how they came to be the people they matured into. So far, it may look as if Hattie is the lone contributor to Sybil’s dissociation, when in fact Willard Dorsett is, although not nearly to the magnitude as Hattie, responsible to some extent. Also, the majority of the personalities are introduced in Part II, however, a major flaw is established because some of these personalities, although large enough and important enough to dissociate form the original personality of Sybil, are hardly developed in the reading. Moreover, after reading the novel it is very likely that the reader could look in the front of the book at the character hierarchy tree and find names that look completely unfamiliar. This factor in correlation with the fact that it is in some ways reminiscent of a medical report lead to the underdevelopment of certain, more important facets of the story (such as all of the personalities) and the over development of other factors, such as the over emphasis placed on words and labels that even people of an excellent intelligence level will be unable to recognize, let alone understand. In general it seems as if the Second Part is the most interesting portion of the novel and may single handedly carry a sub-par second half into the “classics” section.
While the Second Part of the novel allows the reader to observe the actual incidents that happened in the time that each occurred, the Third tends to focus on Sybil’s progression of therapy and instead of reliving the experiences with the child Sybil, the reader is allowed to observe the adult Sybil confront the demons from her past in order to reach integration, or the complete combination of all selves. The first chapter of Part III is very fitting as it is entitled “Confrontation and Verification.” This Part is all about Sybil confronting her past, confronting the other selves, confronting her fears, and, most of all, confronting herself. This is the first time in the novel that she begins to display the strong desire to get well. She wishes that she would improve throughout the novel but it is not until the third part that she realizes that actions must be taken. She must learn to handle the emotions that had been pushed on to “someone else” for her entire lifetime. Dr. Wilbur enlists the help of the other selves, who, without their assistance, integration would have been impossible. Such enlistment is exemplified in a passage containing a conversation between herself (Dr. Wilbur) and Clara, an alternate personality. Dr. Wilbur begins by stating, “‘We can tear the wall down, Clara,’ the doctor replied firmly, ‘if you and the others will work with me.’ Clara looked even more perplexed. ’Tomorrow,’ the doctor continued, ’when you tell Sybil about the analysis, also begin telling her the various things you know.’
‘Things? What things?’ Clara asked uncertainly.
‘What you have learned, feel, remember….’ the doctor coaxed” (307). The doctor goes through this process of enlistment with every personality she can. The wall she refers to early in the quote is an allusion to the metaphysical wall that exists between Sybil and the other selves. That wall of malice, resentment, and Sybil’s ignorance was halting integration. Through the help of the other selves Sybil begins to confront several key factors from her childhood, starting with her father. Willard Dorsett’s biggest crime was looking the other way while something was obviously aloof in the Dorsett home. He was also responsible for distancing himself from the situation in order to do, what he thought, was protecting her. For he was having feelings towards the young Sybil that were neither healthy nor excusable, thus he distanced himself in order to remove temptation. He was, however, not always able to contain his desire as innuendos are directed at Sybil by him at certain parts of the story. Sybil also begins to confront her other selves and their desires. It is the first time and the first instances in which Sybil shows assertiveness and a willingness to take control, which turn out to be momentous steps indeed. Other personalities are also introduced in this Part as two males, Mike and Sid, are both infant boys representing respectively her father and grandfather. One is a tad more of an intellectual who is the type to open his mouth when he has something important to say while the other tends to where his heart on his sleeve. These two characters could represent many things, such as atypical penis envy of females, a desire to identify with her father due to the example of females set forth by Hattie Dorsett, or even Sybil’s subconscious way of acting out the assertiveness she lacked for so long in her daily life. Confronting a part of her grandfather also meant confronting religion as her grandfather was a fanatic. The confrontation, however, was more about what Sybil actually thought about the church. She herself was afraid that if she were to confront the rationale of her religion that she would discover that she did not, in fact, believe in it. Which would be scary for anyone who has dedicated a lifestyle for over thirty years to fit the mold of a set of specific ideals to find out later that you don’t necessarily believe in them, and that you were simply taught to believe what your parents and grandparents believe regardless of what your opinion might be. All of these confrontations and more lead to a frightening scene at the end of Part III as Sybil is very close to killing herself when, once again, the charismatic and strong-willed Vicky is able to take control and prevent such an act from actually happening. In regards to the writing style of Part III, it is a bit drawn out, a bit dry, and considering how the next part was handled, it can be easily concluded that it should have been substantially shorter. In general Part III, like I and II, is very important to the story. It is however, like Parts I and II, poorly translated into text, thus it could be easy to guess what major flaw shall exist in Part IV.
It would seem, that after all of the monotonous emphasis that had been placed on describing the early parts of integration in Part III that just as much would be placed on what would seem equally if not more important, the final steps of integration. This, however, does not hold true. Part IV, in its entirety, is the shortest Part in the book, which is a disappointment on a near biblical scale. Part IV spends the majority of its text rapidly advancing through years and explaining what would be considered as major events in a sentence or less. For example, “Meantime, between July 1960, and early January, 1962, analysis proceeded, traumas were resolved, and the massive residue from the past began to chip away” (400). Understandably, for a novel that had progressed so slow through the early stages of therapy, this is quite an acceleration in rate of story progression. Yet while major accomplishments are summed up in a few words, an entire chapter is devoted to what can be interpreted as an “emotional fling” involving a male character entitled “Ramon.” Ramon does propose, but it is obvious that his main concern is having an American wife so that he may bring the children he had raised to America. This is made blatantly clear by the amount of pressure he puts on Sybil to quickly make a decision as well as his refusal to talk to her after she declines his offer. Part IV is riddled with sentences reminiscent of “So-and-so came closer to Sybil as therapy progressed.” It does, however, end in the complete integration of Sybil and her utter and complete joy of being able to have an entire day to herself without having to worry about blacking out or losing time. Not only does she accept the other personalities are parts of her, she coincides with them. This may be confusing, the personalities no longer exist, but Sybil is able to accommodate certain aspects of her personality that were suppressed previously and thus were the spawn of dissociation. A perfect display of this is as follows, “In the dress department Sybil decided on a brown dress with red and gold paisley print cuffs and belt. Leaving the store, she commented to Flora, ’I got the brown dress for Sybil, but the Paisley print for the Peggy side of me’” (439). In the end, Sybil is one, and she has learned to indulge in all aspects of her personality to her liking, instead of others, which is a complete transformation from the Sybil meet in the First Part.
In conclusion, it can be said that this is an example of a great, wonderful, absolutely enthralling story. However, it could be one of the worst non-fiction representations done by an author. It seems as if the only thing that falls on its face harder than Part IV is Flora Rheta Schreiber herself. It is somewhat comparable to an extremely talented athlete who lacks a drop of discipline. A hard to follow chapter format, a plot line that would have been challenging enough with all of the personality shifts was made even more difficult by her random and rigid transitions of time, underdeveloped personalities, and a hurried ending do not do the actual story justice. It seems as is Flora Rheta Schreiber burnt herself out on Part III and just got sick of writing. Simply because there is no understandable explanation for the hurrying of Part IV, which could have been an epic climax, but instead was transformed into a hurried botchery by Flora Rheta Schreiber. In the end, one must be able to take the bad with the good, and one must be able to strain through Ms. Schreiber to get to one of the most beautiful stories of all time, a definite must read.
Multiple personality disorder is a psychiatric disorder described as having at least one alter personality. Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote the novel Sybil about a woman possessed with sixteen different personalities. Each of Sybil’s personalities is different in his or her own way. Through years of therapy and hard work, Sybil overcomes this illness of multiple personality disorder.
Throughout the novel, the author clearly describes each of the personalities to an extent that they become recognizable to the reader. The differences between Peggy Lou, Vicky, Mary, and the others are all very discernable. Schreiber was able to capture every emotion and feeling that the characters felt not only in the beginning but also throughout the novel.
This is a great novel to read, especially for those interested in psychology and related fields. At times it becomes slightly difficult to read for those who are uninformed in psychological terms and procedures, but by the end it all becomes clear. There is so much to learn from this novel about multiple personality disorder and psychoanalysis. Treatments for the illness are clearly discussed and are easily comprehensible. Flora Rheta Schreiber does a wonderful job explaining and describing this fascinating subject that the reader just wants to learn more.
Anyone even somewhat interested in psychology should certainly read this novel. From a personal view, it is also perfect for someone who just wants to read something different. The abuses that Sybil went through are so hard to imagine, but the author is able to explain it in detail, but without too much detail to where the reader wants to stop reading. This book is not for a reader that is extremely sensitive to abusive situations, but most other people can handle it. The first two parts are so exciting to read that the book is hard to put down. There is so much going on that every chapter brings new thrill and excitement to the person reading it. The third and fourth parts are not near as exciting as the first two; they even become rather boring and hard to read. The excitement that was in the first half is just not in the second. The second half just seems to go on and on with no real climax. When the author is writing about Sybil’s reentry, she just goes on and on and it seems that a lot of parts could have been omitted. In the end, the reader already knows what is going to happen by the dragging on and on of the previous chapters. The epilogue was not very well written. It does not tell what happened to Sybil after she was cured. It leaves the reader wondering if she married, tried to have children, and what she did later on. Overall, it was a wonderful book full of information and enjoyable to read.
Sybil is a woman possessed by sixteen different personalities, which is known as multiple personality disorder. Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote the novel Sybil about this woman. It was a great book and very interesting to read. Schreiber did a great job on this novel.
Sybil, a novel by Flora Rheta Schreiber is remarkable. The information and style of writing allows the reader to empathize with Sybil’s character. This incredible novel is about a young woman, who through a course of years develops sixteen different personalities. Sybil grows up in a home full of terrible abuse. Physically, mentally, and sexually, Sybil is scarred for life. She travels an amazing journey and recovers completely with the help of Dr. Wilbur. The Doctor provides psychological analysis and a friendship that is priceless. As in many novels, Sybil has much strength and some weaknesses. By reading this novel there is an assurance that the consumer will believe in Multiple Personality Disorder.
Strengths in the novel start in the very beginning. It captures the reader’s attention and maintains an even balance of interest. The message is informative but not too verbose. Part II still maintains an interest while becoming extremely disturbing. Dr. Wilbur begins to get at the root of Sybil’s problems. The reader soon learns that she was mentally, physically, and sexually abused by her mother. Her father knew that something was happening but ignored the occurrences for over eighteen years. Schreiber clearly develops the events in Sybil’s life and the graphic details make the reader feel as though they are there. This section is haunting and very hard to deal with.
Part III becomes a little boring. The Author somewhat looses the readers attention with the rambling of psychological terms. Dr. Wilbur is still trying to get the other personalities to help Sybil and it becomes confusing. A dictionary would be very helpful at this point in the novel. The psychological analysis is not clearly developed at first, but as the section lengthens it becomes easier to understand. Part IV, seems to be too long. Schreiber explained how Sybil is cured for several pages, which becomes redundant. Sybil is a captivating novel that is overall very comprehensible. Schreiber was able to develop the personalities enough that the reader could be on a personal level with each one. She used clear diction but the style was a confusing at times. When the personalities would go back and forth the order of events also became unclear. Whoever reads this novel should develop a clearer understanding of multiple personalities. With this skill it should also allow them to believe in this disorder. Sybil is not for young children or those with an abusive background. But if the consumer is curious and not disturbed too easily, this classic true story is perfect.
Review by Jessica
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I started reading this book, got to about the middle and stopped, but not for a bad reason. the reason was: i had a hard reading something so sad, depressing, and explicity gruesome. that means that it was remarkably written (In other words, it was a good book). it was so good that i decided to do a science project on multiple personalities using Sybil as my example and reference.
Review by Jewel Kipapa
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Sybil, written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is a novel of many characters; however, sixteen of these characters are still one person. Throughout the novel Sybil Dorsett is going through these “blank times” and Dr. Wilbur is set on finding out what is going on in Ms. Dorsett’s head. The purpose of this work of non-fiction is to tell the accounts from when Sybil is treated awful by her parents to the very last time with Dr. Wilbur. However, this narrative has a more storyline appeal instead of just full of medical records and doctor’s notes everywhere. Like most books people read they will find some things they like and some they do not care for; this book is no different. It has its strengths and its weaknesses, but it comes together to form a nice work of literature for the public to be exposed to.
First, Sybil has a lot of strengths throughout the novel, that Ms. Schreiber has done a great job of incorporating. Some of the strengths that are apparent to the reader deal with its authenticity of the subject and how a book can confuse the audience into thinking they are reading an actual doctor’s file. One point of strength it has is the incorporation of real medical terms. With this precise language the reader gets a sense of being there and is taught something new at the same time. Also, the organization by the way of dates makes the novel feel like the doctor is not untruthful because the dates are right there and also the reader, if needed, may go back and make sure that when a certain event occurred in succession with another main event. Also the book clearly illustrates the thoughts of all the characters and selves in Sybil, so the reader can get inside the mind of a multiple personality. With the ability to tell the thoughts of the characters the reader is able to read the development of the characters as they grow and change. The thoughts are in abundance when Ramon leaves and the selves express all the feelings for him one after another. Also, Flora Schreiber makes the wording so much like they are entirely different people that one might be able to grow attach to one of the selves and hate another. Finally, another apparent strength this book has is the ability to incorporate religion in the book and make it understandable to everyone’s background. This point is illustrated when Sybil talks about Armageddon and she mentions that there “is an angel with sword and fire, who, having driven Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden because they were “bad” (292.) The main point in the page is about the angel with the sword of fire, but explaining about Adam and Even made it clear to everyone what she is referring to.
The weaknesses are what make a reader absolutely hate a book, but when they are few in number, one can not hold a grudge. This is true in Sybil, there are some weaknesses and they are throughout the novel. One weakness a reader will find after reading this book is that there is not a definite plot to it. There is no set climax and the exposition is throughout the book. This can get irritating but is needed in a book like this, where knowing the background might give away too much too soon. Also, just like these are strengths the terms and the dates are too many in number or require a medical book just to understand some things that are going on and said. All the medical terms are real so the reader gets the feel for a real treatment plan, but once it gets too complicated the names should be common names and words that a normal reader should understand. Also, all the dates get too confusing and very annoying once the reader gets into the history of Sybil. The reader is required to remember too many years and exact dates to get a feel for what is really going on and the time involved. The readability does get shaky at times and the words just get bigger and bigger. After a while, the reader needs a dictionary to understand what they are reading; or a medical textbook. Also with the great literary techniques Flora Schreiber has put into this novel, the reader gets very confuse on what is going on and, if not told at the beginning, the reader would easily believe that these sixteen people are just that, different people, not one person. Once it comes out that Sybil is a multiple, this might be quite confusing for readers and put the whole story into another point of view.
Overall, this book is an entertaining read and it makes some people wonder what the human mind is capable of doing. It hopefully creates an open mind when people now hear about multiple personalities and that they will not shrug it off like it is all false. This book would be highly recommended, but only with a few guidelines. The reader should be predisposed that Sybil Dorsett is a multiple personality and that her mother is a crazy person, this would make most confusion go away. Also, the reader should be researching multiple personality just so they understand a little better on what Sybil is going through and they can connect a lot better with that character.
I just wanted to point out that often, society is too quick to want to "fix" someone with a disorder, particularly MPD/DID. Those "helpful" individuals are forgetting the important idea that, to a person with multiple personalities/ dissociative identites, the consolidation of those personalities or identities is perceived as a death of those "people" by the host personality. I simply believed that that was an interesting thought to point out...a thought that is too often disregarded in societies quest for "normality"... whatever that is...
Review by J.L.H.
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"Sybil" is a very informative read about Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), and how contemporary psychiatric treatments, such as psychoanalysis and hypnosis, can successfully treat mental illnesses. The book offers a personal account of the MPD patient, Sybil Dorsett, and her relationship with both her psychoanalyst and the author. Even though the book has a psychological index and is as accurate as any scholarly journal, the author manages not to squelch the human emotion out of the case as many journals do. Be warned that the main cause of MPD is abuse, and this book depicts a lot of it.
The book is divided into four parts that link the progress of the case with a loose plot. The first part, titled "Being", vividly portrays the randomness and chaos that accompanies the life of a multiple. It is an introduction to Sybil’s character and the chaos that accompanies MPD. It portrays the patient on a much more human level, making the reader much more likely to empathize with and relate to the patient. The patient is introduced to her future psychoanalyst, Dr. Wilbur, who suspects Sybil may be more than meets the eye.
The second part, "Becoming", delves into Sybil’s past through a generous use of flashbacks. It turns out Sybil’s mother had severe schizophrenic tendencies, complete with telltale catatonic states one day and perverse abuse the next. Her father was a deeply religious man who believed the wife should raise the children, and neglected being a part of his daughter’s upbringing. This section skips around a lot, covering many different ages of Sybil and many different stages of abuse. It defines the origins of each of the many personalities, and nearly all are related to actions of abuse or neglect. The writing carries the same analytical tones throughout the chapter, and even though abuse like this screams for a sympathetic view from the writer, Shreiber manages to report the pain just as she reports the facts: curt, brief, and to the point. This does not make the abuse seem any less deplorable; there is plenty for the reader to sympathize over.
The third section, titled "Unbecoming", showcases psychiatric treatment, especially hypnosis and psychoanalysis. The book was published in 1973, when such treatments were relatively new and somewhat controversial. The writing starts to focus on the casework and the patient instead of the personality of the individual. The sessions and procedures are written as though the reader was in the room when it happened. Otherwise the writing becomes slower and more scholar-like.
Finally comes the last part of the four, "Reentry". This section is definitely the driest and most uneventful writing of the book. Sybil’s recovery takes well over a decade, and this section skips over a great deal of time. The writing style takes on a feel of resolution- it feels like the author is tying up all the loose ends and shaking hands with her publisher. The ending fits into the book well enough, and both the plot and the case resolve beautifully. But this writing is terribly boring.
In the end, "Sybil" remains a fascinating book. It is stated in the preface that when the book was presented to the patient, she stated that "Every emotion is true"; and Dr. Wilbur commented, "Every psychiatric fact is accurately represented." The relationship of the author with the case definitely helped make the book so intimate. The best part of the book is that the story is true. In fact, the book was considered textbook material on the subject of MPD in the late 70’s. It’s the most interesting and personal psychiatric journal ever written!
Review by Jordan
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Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is the thrilling tale of Sybil Dorset, a woman with 16 different selves in one body. Although it may be difficult to grasp the understanding of what it would be like to have 16 different selves, this book gives a great insight into what it would entail. Thus the story of Sybil Isabel Dorset is brought to life on the pages of this novel. Sybil, takes the reader into the real life account of blank spells and lost time; to really experience what it might be like to be a person with multiple personality disorder.
Although, this book is a complete work of non-fiction Schreiber was able to write it in more of a story form. Writing the book more like a work of fiction helps maintain the reader’s interest throughout the length of the book. There is a lot of psychiatric terminology used, but it does not slow the novel down nor does it drag the material out. The medical terminology is not used in an everyday vocabulary but it is not unreasonable to look up or to understand.
Another, strength of this novel is the extensive background information. The suspense leading up to her “breakthrough”? in the analysis really makes the first half of the book fly by. The information gathered in Sybil’s flashbacks give the reader a very clear picture of the tragic events in her life. The extensive detail of Sybil’s abusive childhood may be in-depth but they allow the reader to actually get right in there with Sybil as she is experiencing these awful things. The introduction of the “other”? selves is very crucial to the story. The selves are introduced one by one and the reader really gets a chance to know and experience the trials and tribulations of each self. Overall the background information is extremely useful in understanding the story as a whole.
The second half of the book is where the story takes a turn for the worst. Once all of the characters have been properly introduced it seems that all hope is lost of Sybil. She is very hesitant to interrogate all of her selves into one whole complete person. It almost seems that Sybil has given up on herself ever getting well. This is where the novel begins to drag on and on to the point where interest is beginning to be lost. As the pace of the book continues to get slower several unusual events take place. A 17th self is introduced and nothing is known about her other than she is blonde and then she is integrated. Although this may have happened to the actual Sybil, it is very confusing for the reader to grasp and understand what is happening. The introduction of Schreiber herself to the story is also very confusing. It seemed almost like an image boost to the author regardless to the fact it may have happened in the actual story.
Sybil is overall a very impressive read give or take a few dry and confusing parts. It is a very impressive story to watch unfold and it really makes one value a good up bringing. Picturing the waking, broken, lifeless, abused and tortured, Sybil become one, whole, complete, loving, full of life, person is really heart warming. It renews faith in the ability to restore love, life, and wholeness to broken and fragile people like Sybil. Overall this book should be read by anyone who enjoys studying people or for that matter anyone who enjoys a thrilling read. The graphic nature of the abuse should be taken into consideration. However that can be remedied by skimming over the highly graphic depictions of Sybil’s abuse. Other than that this book is readable enough for anyone who would wish to take on the read it presents.
Review by Kailey Walker
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The thought of a person containing sixteen personalities within one body is a terrifying, yet magnificent picture to imagine. In the non-fiction novel, Sybil, the author Flora Rheta Schreiber lets readers see this image through the remarkable life story of one fascinating human being.
This captivating novel takes readers on an adventure through the life of Sybil Isabel Dorsett, the first person ever documented and psychoanalyzed with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). In this novel, the author reveals the hardships Sybil went through in her life, and deeply explains how all sixteen personalities came about into one body.
With this novel based on a true story, Schreiber did a wonderful job with keeping the reader in step with Sybil most of the time. One of the numerous strengths was that the reader was able to get an accurate glimpse of her life. Not beating around the bush, the author shows the mental, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that her mother, Hattie Dorsett, was inflicting upon Sybil. Although it was very intense and rather horrific, this was necessary to show because this was a main factor in her Multiple Personality Disorder.
Now to describe a woman with sixteen personalities in just one book is an intriguing task, but Schreiber took on this challenge, and successfully mastered the main points when it came to the personalities. She brings out each personality, focusing on the dominant ones more so, but defines each one as the individual they are. With each personality awakening, it is quite enjoyable for the reader. It keeps the story amusing, and edges the reader to continue. Introducing the more assertive selves first, she branches the other personalities from them and displays their emotions strongly to the reader. The emotions are an essential part in the story, because they help portray the feelings Sybil is not able to feel, and the author clearly indicates this.
Having an innumerable amount of medical terms present in a novel can baffle the reader throughout the story, but Schreiber does an incredible job of sharply describing the meanings in the next few sentences. She eases the reader through the formidable terminology, which makes the novel easier to comprehend.
With the story presenting several strong points, certain portions left the desire to read declining. While reading the novel, Parts I and II leave the reader anticipating more, anxious to continue, but with the turn of the page, and the start of Part III the zealousness comes to a halt. While reading, it seems that the author changes her style of writing, and focuses more on the doctoral aspect of the situation. Although this is necessary for readers to know, the placing of the information could be much better. In addition to this weakness, the ending of the novel was also insufficient. The finishing treatment Sybil undergoes abruptly enters into the story, and the pace quickens, which leaves the reader with multiple questions. While it is crucial to know the recovery system Sybil must go through, a more thorough ending would have made an improvement.
Although the novel is not perfect in all areas, the strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses. It is a necessary read for college students, upperclassmen in high school, and anybody going into the field of psychology. Sybil is an extraordinary novel, written to attract an audience to the unique story of a woman who endures indescribable pain, and within herself builds a community of people to help her survive.
Review by Karla Burke
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Based on the true story of a woman with sixteen dynamic personalities, Sybil, an epic novel by Flora Rheta Schreiber, not only catches the reader’s interest, but also enlightens those who read it. Thanks to this fascinating account of one woman’s journey to become whole, a bit of light has been shed on the complexity of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), as well as how one with this disorder could be treated.
Schreiber’s decision to take on a matter as complex as an MPD psychoanalysis and transform it into a novel is quite bold, however, it was a brilliant decision. The book begins with a scenario that the adult Sybil actually finds herself in later on in the novel. After introducing Sybil as an adult in the first few pages, Schreiber backtracks to Sybil Dorsett’s childhood. She explains trauma after trauma, and how Sybil eventually finds help for her condition. The unordinary and heartrending story of how Sybil came to have sixteen personalities is attention-grabbing and keeps the reader asking questions as the book progresses.
Every novel has it’s weaknesses, and Sybil is no exception. The book jumps around constantly from personality to personality, from childhood to adulthood, and from Willow Corners to Dr. Wilbur’s psychoanalysis. This time jolt, despite adding a bit of spice to the novel, could cause mass confusion to the reader. The book is also divided into four sections. Parts I and II grab the interest of the reader, but parts III and IV seem to drag on and on, leaving the reader entirely uninterested and disappointed. One could find his or herself skipping a page, or two, or possibly even ten, especially during parts in which religion is brought up, and also when psychological terminology seems to never end.
Despite the few weaknesses, Sybil still remains an outstanding book. Reading this book is perhaps the best way to get a grip on what MPD is really like. The novel not only introduces the readers to the psychological aspect of Multiple Personality Disorder, but it also reveals it from a very personal point of view. The traumatic and gruesome childhood of Sybil Dorsett is explained explicitly, giving the readers an understanding of how MPD actually develops.
Sybil could be recommended to anyone above a high school reading level that is also interested in developing a greater knowledge of MPD. One might want to have a dictionary handy while reading this novel as well. Schreiber uses many uncommon or advanced words, as well as psychological terms. Anyone interested in psychology would find this book to be intriguing and fresh.
Whether the interest lies in the psychological aspect of the novel or the personal journey of a woman struggling with MPD, Flora Rheta Schreiber’s Sybil is definitely a satisfactory read overall. Sybil’s story of becoming one is a remarkable journey like no other and a pleasure to observe.
Review by Karla Jensen
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Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber is a true story about a woman dealing with sixteen different personalities sharing her body. Sybil Isabel Dorsett was abused as a child and her only defense mechanism was to create other personalities to take over when she could not handle a situation. The only real help she received came when she was twenty-two years old and was given an appointment to see Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur, a psychiatrist who was able to successfully combine all sixteen personalities into one.
Schreiber did an exceptional job developing the characters in this novel. She showed the different attitudes of each personality by informing readers of their habits, such as the way they like to paint. She also describes the characters by their looks. She completely described how each character saw themselves when they looked in the mirror. By describing the characters in such a way, it was easy for readers to know which personality was in control.
The novel had many strengths that made it very interesting to read. The author did a remarkable job by clearly explaining the changes in personalities. She even described things such as voice changes, distinct traits, and different appearances for each personality. The abuse Sybil endured as a child was so well explained that it could easily be pictured in the reader’s head. Instead of telling Sybil’s background all at once, Schreiber spread it throughout the entire first half in order to keep readers interested and guessing.
Scenes detailing her mother’s abuse clearly showed how such cruelty lead to Sybil’s fear of harmless objects such as button hooks or the touch of a hand. Sybil’s knowledge of the “others” and abuse by her mother really brought out her insecurity, which enabled the reader to understand why Sybil could not love and get close to people.
Along with its many strengths, the novel had its share of weaknesses. It started off exciting and hard to put down, but became less interesting toward the end. In fact, the second half of the novel seemed endless. The story became confusing and even a little boring in part three. There was some important information in the second half, but a lot of useless information as well. It also seemed that the resolution came too quickly and with very little explanation. More details about Sybil’s recovery would help tie the loose ends. Throughout most of the novel the author did not omit a single aspect of Sybil’s treatment, but the process of her becoming whole was vaguely described. Since Sybil becoming whole seems to be the most important part of the novel, it seems as if the reader is left hanging.
Even with its weaknesses, this novel is still an excellent read which is appropriate for those in advanced high school classes and above. It is also recommended for those interested in learning about Multiple Personality Disorder. It is not recommended for those who cannot handle the descriptiveness of the abuse Sybil endured as a child. Since it is slow to develop it may not be the best choice for an impatient person. However, for those with an open mind and an interest in the human mind, this novel overcomes its flaws and is well worth a read.
Review by Karli Keener
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Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is one of the most unique and classic stories ever written. And the fact that it is a true story only makes it better. Unlike other true stories, Sybil mesmerizes and captures the reader’s mind from the very first page.
Some of the greatest novels ever written are those about peoples’ lives, and Sybil is a perfect example of this. Readers enjoy seeing the world through another person’s eyes; and in this story, readers get to view the world from not only one other person’s point of view, but from sixteen very different perspectives.
The opportunity to relate to Sybil, Vicky, Peggy Lou, Peggy Ann, Sid, Mike, Marcia, Vanessa, Mary, Helen, Clara, Sybil Ann, The Blonde, Nancy Lou Ann, Marjorie, and Ruthie throughout this book keeps the story moving and makes it very easy to read. The change of characters throughout the novel gives it an up-beat and almost fast-paced flow. One would think that such a continuous change in the story line would become confusing, however, the transitions from personality to personality are done very well and the reader will find it easy to keep up with the text.
Schreiber does an excellent job with the diction in this novel. The terms and concepts she uses make even the parts of the story that would usually become brain-wrenching, easy to read and understand. For example, her explanation of psychological analysis is very well organized, which makes it simple enough to comprehend the events that go on in Sybil’s treatment.
Just like every other story ever written, Sybil has some weaknesses. One weakness is that few people can relate to this novel. Sometimes readers want to read about a character or plot that relates to him or her, or something in his or her life. Not many people can say they relate to Sybil or the troubles she encounters throughout her life. This “weakness”?, however, does not really have to be considered a weakness as long as the reader keeps an open mind while reading.
I would absolutely recommend this novel. Anyone just longing for a good, intense, make-you-think kind of read would adore this story. Sybil is a book that cannot be just half-heartedly read; the reader must really focus on the text and be able to comprehend each and every little piece of the novel’s puzzle. In the end everything will make sense, fitting all the pieces of Sybil’s childhood, heredity, and each personality’s significance together to form the big puzzle picture of Sybil’s life.
Sybil’s life makes such an interesting and unique story that it would be an absolute shame if this novel had not been written. Taken from medical notes and turned into a novel, this story is such a classic that almost anyone could enjoy it. Although it has some weaknesses just like any novel, the diction and organization make this story an excellent read. The opportunity to see the world through so many perspectives is an exceptional strength of this book, and readers do not get that chance in many other stories. And overall, just the fact that this story is true practically doubles the readability and strengths in this novel. Sybil is an excellent story, surely many readers would agree.
Review by Katie S.
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Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote the novel titled Sybil, the story is about a real live person. This novel tells in great detail what happened in the corrupt life of Sybil Dorsett, and goes through the many years of work Sybil and her psychiatrist, Dr. Wilbur, went through. The novel Sybil was written portraying many strengths in mind, but some weaknesses were noticeable.
The author showed many strengths in her writing. Someone who reads this novel could get a good understanding of how different all sixteen of the personalities of Sybil Dorsett were. The author made it clear how unusual this kind of case was back in that day and time. The reader can sense the confusion and fear from Sybil’s denials throughout the novel.
A reader gets to witness how Dr. Wilbur takes Sybil back in time with hypnosis to face her black-outs, to face her fears and tragedies her mother, Hattie, committed. The terrible and cruel way Hattie treated Sybil was written very clearly throughout the novel. Sybil was abused and tortured by her own mother when she was a very young girl. Hattie was the primary reason for Sybil’s disorder. Sybil was forced to cope with tremendous stress at a very early age, therefore, she split herself into personalities to cope with the stress.
One of the major weaknesses in the novel was the way Flora Schreiber would bring one of the main ideas of Sybil’s life to a building climax and then abruptly bring it to a stop, and move on to a different aspect of Sybil’s life. All the intensity that the reader felt would be lowered with the repetitive conversations between Dr. Wilbur and Sybil. Another weak attribute to this novel would have to be some of Sybil’s personalities. The Author went into great detail with Vicky, and Peggy, but not so much with some of the other personalities, such as, Helen, Clara, Nancy Lou Ann, Marjorie, and Ruthie. These personalities of Sybil were not brought into full perspective and would maybe confuse the reader at times.
This novel is an interesting read and should be recommended to many people, anybody can read the story. It should be required reading for someone that is thinking about or is going into the psychiatry as Dr. Wilbur was in. People that read this book should use an open mind and will have a better understanding of what happened in Sybil’s life. A reader can begin to understand why Sybil made up all the different personalities, and for what emotion and event they were made for.
The novel Sybil was written very well. It proved to have many strengths and weaknesses in the way it was written. Even though the writing style would abruptly change the mood from a climax to a boring next couple of pages, it was worth reading. Even with that style of writing a reader would still trudge through the repetitive parts and be excited to know what was about to happen next in the life of Sybil Dorsett.
Review by Katy Davenport
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I was really touched by this book. Flora Rheta Screiber did an amazing job. It moved me in more than one way, I was brought to tears.
The mere thought of sixteen different personalities in a single being can be overwhelming and to an extent, frightening. Flora R. Schreiber’s Sybil, which can be considered both a non-fiction and a case study, is the depiction of how an individual’s mind through incomprehensible trauma has the ability to divide into different selves to cope. This book also gives insight to the world of psychoanalysts and how arduous the road to recovery can become.
From the very beginning of this book the reader is thrown into Sybil’s world, which is one of confusion and wonder. This is a compelling technique used to hold the reader’s attention while Sybil is trying to figure out where she is, what she has done, and the most important question that the reader will soon wonder, which personality has brought her to this point. This theme is used throughout the novel in such a manner as to hold the reader’s interest.
There is a part of human nature that strives to hear and see, gory and unthinkable things inflicted on a human being. Schreiber succeeds in bringing to life the horrors inflicted on Sybil by her mother, a person who should be the epitome of love and trust. These almost unbelievable traumas give way to an emotional connection between Sybil and the reader. An understanding of how and why Sybil’s multiple personalities came about is understood. Being that the sexual, physical, and psychological torture were actual events gives the reader a feeling of gratitude toward their own lives and relationships.
At first glance Sybil could be considered a challenge to a reader. Having to understand and remember sixteen personalities as well as, Dr. Wilbur, Sybil’s family and her friends can be looked upon as overwhelming. But these thoughts would soon pass the readers’ mind as they find that each character is fully developed. Every character has background information along with a physical and personality profile. The reader will recognize and relate to traits in the variety of characters and will also develop a loving bond with each and every one. The reader will become moved, afraid, happy, and sad at the decisions and happenings of all the personalities.
Sybil is a book of strengths and weaknesses. The plot is successfully developed to the point of almost being slow and drawn out through three-fourths of the book. Then in the fourth and final part, being that there is no happy medium, the plot quickens its pace to that at which the reader finds themselves within a few sentences skipping five years. Sybil’s ending treatment and her merge to be one are insufficiently covered and leave questions in the reader’s minds. The literary category of this book is also somewhat a mystery. Again three-fourths of the book was non-fiction and the last one fourth was a case study. The writing style almost seems to come from two different authors. The vocabulary could be a strength for some and a weakness for others. There are many psychological terms used along with the usage of French. Altogether the vocabulary makes the style of a higher level and is a must in portraying this real life depiction. The writing style can also be of either dislike or of liking to the reader. It is fast paced and in the end when answers are given is considered clearly organized.
This book can be recommended to many. Sybil is a must for anyone considering the field of psychology. If there is a multiple personality in the family or just an interest in this disorder, this book is full of useful information for a better understanding. To a younger audience a warning is issued. The graphic display of torture techniques and abuse can be very disturbing if not taken in the right light. These accounts of abuse are used to display why Sybil is a multiple personality. But all can gain from this classic book a sense of gratitude for being able to function properly in everyday society. Sybil is a remarkable book in the sense that it is an individual and unique story of a woman who has survived unthinkable traumas by creating her own society of family and friends inside herself.
Review by Kelsey Vaughn
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Multiple Personality Disorder, MPD, is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, complex and puzzling disorder ever studied. It is frequently confused with the disease schizophrenia; however, they are two entirely different illnesses. In this classic novel, Sybil, written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, the characteristics typical of a person afflicted with MPD are pretty clearly explained. This novel should unquestionably be read by anyone who desires to study any field of psychology, and also anyone who enjoys a timeless classic that will surely challenge the mind.
As is true with most novels, Sybil exhibits both strengths and weaknesses. Often, however, one tends to outweigh the other. In this particular novel the pros definitely override the cons. That Sybil is based entirely on a true story is a strength in itself. After exploring the life of Sybil Isabel Dorsett, one might find it rather hard to accept because of the unbelievable episodes she went through. However, Sybil herself approved the content of the novel, as was stated in the preface. A general problem that some avid readers face when reading a novel is that it may take an eternity for it to grab their attention, and keep it. Such a problem is not a factor in this novel. The author immediately seizes the reader’s attention by clearly describing symptoms of Sybil’s illness, and their attention is easily kept throughout. One might also imagine that keeping track of sixteen fully diverse personalities within one self would be a difficult challenge. Each and every self of Sybil in this novel is given their own personal traits which help the reader to bring and keep each one into clear vision. Those selves that were significant in the understanding of Sybil’s complexity were without doubt comprehendible. This being such a psychologically based novel, there are naturally some confusing terms. The author does and impressive job in explaining psychoanalysis along with the terms that apply, therefore, allowing the reader to acquire more knowledge in an area where, most likely, not much is known.
It is said in this novel,”…for every step forward there is at least one step backward” (p. 395). Such is the case when it comes to the novel’s organization. Along with every strength there comes a weakness. After diving directly into the unimaginable life of Sybil Dorsett within the first few pages, the excitement drastically dies towards the end. It is not the inconceivable life that Sybil leads that is weak, but, instead, the way in which the author presents it. Showing the progression of Sybil’s ailment is only worthwhile if her journey to recovery is also defined. Her recovery was so quickly explained that one may begin to question how complex her ailment truly was. Every so often, between paragraphs it seemed, three to five years would pass. The reader will never know what took place throughout those, perhaps crucial, years. Although using an extensive vocabulary certainly keeps a reader focused on the text he or she is reading, authors must be careful when it comes to their choice of words. When too many difficult words are thrown into a sentence or paragraph they become meaningless, and also have the potential to frustrate the readers.
Sybil is a novel that is not only educational with its factual content, but simply a forthright must read. Requiring a sense of maturity from its readers, Sybil will open one’s eyes to a way of life not comprehendible by most. It will take the reader on a trip that will never be forgotten.
Review by Kelsey Wallace
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I really enjoyed the book from page one to the very last. I have also read "The Shoemaker" and found that very good too. Flora Rheta Schreiber has become one of my absolute favourite authors but I would like to know if she has written more books than those two mentioned here.
I wish that every body who thinks schizophrenia and MPD is the same thing would read Sybil. Maybe Sybil isn’t the greatest, most up to date book about MPD, but there’s a lot to learn anyway, at least for ppl who doesn’t know at all what’s it alla bout.
Review by Kimmi
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sybil is a wonderful story everyone should read about it when i was in college i read this book and forget the title when i saw a tamil movie it reminded me of sybil and after 32 years it reminded me about this book the author has written it so wondeful that after so many years a person can remember it n it can help others when they face with persons like them keep up your work
Flora Rheta Schreiber is the author of the novel Sybil. This is a true story of a woman possessed by sixteen personalities. These complex personalities all came about from the horrible past that Sybil endured as a child. Schreiber has written a well documented true story that is completely fascinating and jaw dropping.
The overall theme of this novel is that there is a woman suffering with multiple personality disorder. The novel is about her past and her treatment for mending her personalities into one complete person. The book discusses Sybil’s successes and as well as downfalls.
In the first half of this novel, Sybil was confronted with many obstacles. Sybil’s mother is schizophrenic and successfully tortures Sybil in a variety of ways, while her father is more of the reclusive kind. Sybil’s father is constantly pushing Sybil away so as not to become attached to her. Sybil deals with this rejection the only way possible at the time, by letting a new person take over her body to deal with the specific emotions. This is what really captures the reader’s attention. Sybil’s life is constantly changing with the many confrontations she is faced with. After about midway into the book the intensity starts to disintegrate. There were not as many captivating issues as there were in the beginning. The author gave details that were not needed and that seemed to drag on. The author was so quick to end the book, it seemed, when the beginning was so slow and intense. It seemed as if the author just wanted to end the book and be acknowledged for the psychoanalysis of a multiple personality being. If the ending was shortened quite a bit to only provide the information needed and more detail was added about Sybil’s life on her own, the book would have been a lot better off.
There was quite a bit of vocabulary that was difficult to decode using only context clues. For the most part, Schreiber did an effective job of explaining psychological terms and terms related to Sybil’s treatment.
This novel is one that must not be taken lightly. It can be hard for some people to understand and appreciate. The only people that would be worthy of recommending this novel to would be people with a wide vocabulary who can handle disturbing memories and that are interested in behavioral disorders. Those who do not fall into these listed categories should not read this novel.
The book was developed in a very nice manner. The book was well organized and easy to recall certain topics that had previously been discussed. What was nice was how the book jumped from past to present. This kept the reader’s attention at a high. If the reader did not pay attention they would soon get lost in detail. Overall, Sybil was a good novel in how in was put together and the plot of events in which everything seemed to revolve around. Sybil gives its readers a new outlook on life and how everyone suffers a little from multiple personalities. Everyone’s personality changes with mood, but does not become a completely different person.
Review by Kristi DeWulf
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Reading the book Sybil was an enjoyment from start to finish. I was really touched by her struggle to find out what was wrong with her and every effort to hang in there until she was "cured". Her mother was one of the worst people presented in this earth and I hope and pray that no parent treats their child like that. Being a psychology student, I understand how conflicting perosonalities can haunt and taunt you until you think you are going crazy. But at the same time they reach out to you to tell you that there is unresolved conflict within that need to be dealt with. All in all...Sybil is an enchanting real life story of DID.
Review by Laura
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Sybil by Flora Rheta Shreiber is a true story of a wonderful young woman who overcomes having what is called Multiple Personality Disorder. In this story, Sybil, a young woman who seeks psychological help from Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, realizes that she is not just Sybil herself but there are sixteen other people living inside her, trying to live their lives as Sybil is trying to live hers. There were many strengths and weaknesses to the story. This book has many ups and downs but if you appreciate stories about real people, living with real problems, this is the book for you.
One of the strengths of this book is definantly the fact that even with all of the psychology terms in the novel, the author did a great job in explaining what things meant so the reader did not get confused. Many times throughout the novel they talk about different mental illnesses and different methods for treatment that an average person would have no idea what they were saying but Shreiber makes it perfectly clear.
Another strength would be how well detailed the horrors of Sybil’s past were. If Shreiber would not have made the images so clear in the readers mind of the disgusting things Hattie Dorset (Sybil’s mother) did to her then it would have been impossible to understand how it would have been possible for her to have this serious of a problem. She does a great job showing how Sybil is forced into her “black-outs” which is what Sybil calls when she dissociates into another of her personalities.
This leads me into one of the weaknesses of the novel. Shreiber does such a good job in Parts I and II of the novel but then as she hit Parts III and IV its like an entirely different person wrote it. She describes details so well in Parts I and II to where it almost feels like the reader is right there with Sybil sympathizing for her. But the minute the reader reaches Part III she starts losing the personal feeling and its just like reading a doctors note about a patient getting better, not how Sybil actually feels and the things happening in her life besides the doctors appointments.
So all in all the strengths did out weigh the weaknesses. The story about this remarkable woman is put down for us all to understand and better learn about other people. It is hard to believe that all of this could truly happen to a real life person but you come to cope with it just as Sybil did. She works on her problems for eleven years and finally through many struggles and several suicide attempts, Sybil finally reunites all of her selves to become one person who can finally live a normal day without having to worry about changing into someone else. Sybil definantly left a mark in me and I would bet it would do the same for any book lover out there.
Review by Laura Falat
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Today, most people know basic information on multiple personalities. Although, at one time it was an illness not many doctors knew about, nor chose to believe existed. Flora Rheta Schreiber illustrates the journey that one woman went through in order to overcome sixteen multiple personalities and bring herself to be one whole person again. Dr. Wilbur led Sybil, the patient, on this groundbreaking adventure to being the first person with multiple personalities ever to be psychoanalyzed. At a very young age, Sybil Isabel Dorsett began to allow herself to have a different personality than the waking Sybil, when she was put in a situation she wished to avoid. This enabled her to deal with various circumstances without having to be Sybil. If need be she would turn into sophisticated Victoria Antoinette Scharleau from Europe or if that was not appropriate, she could become Mike Dorsett a young boy skilled in carpentry. If neither one of these were right she could always turn into one of her other fourteen personalities. In Schreiber’s novel Sybil, Dr. Wilbur discovered many traumatic events that she believed caused Sybil’s illness. At a very young age Sybil began to be physically and mentally tortured by her mother. The torture Sybil was put through caused her to realize that she could pretend to be someone stronger and less fearful when she was being hurt so that the waking Sybil would not have to remember it or go through the pain. During Sybil’s analysis, Dr. Wilbur had to struggle with Sybil’s inability to remember events that other personalities had lived through. Schreiber tells the story of the recovery of this woman and the journey she has to go through in order to fully heal and become the one person she has always wanted to be.
This particular narrative had a great number of strengths. In Part I the author immediately threw the reader into the middle of a difficult situation that Sybil was facing. Because of this sudden mysterious event, the first part becomes easy to read because of the questions that the reader wants answered. Writing like this continues throughout the book and helps keep the reading interesting and at a fast pace. Flashbacks really helped with understanding the origins of Sybil’s disorder. This leads to the next main point, the development of characters. Schreiber does a great job in letting the reader know what most of Sybil’s personalities look, talk, and act like. Many times this occurs through flashbacks. The reader is allowed to know large amounts of information about most of Sybil’s personalities. The descriptions are so vivid the reader feels as if they really have met the characters and have known them since their beginnings. Sybil tells the true story of this woman with a horrible disorder, and Schreiber’s retelling of it really helps one get a greater understanding of what causes multiple personality disorder, what must be done to heal, and what it is like for someone to live with.
Every book has its weaknesses, and this one is no exception. Even though at times the order of the book added strength, it could also be somewhat confusing to the reader. At a few sections, flashbacks to different parts of Sybil’s life were illustrated and it could become complicated as to when they were taking place. Most of the book was very interesting, and the author did a great job of portraying the characters and what Sybil was facing with her illness. Even though Schreiber did a good job of telling Sybil’s story, there were times when her vocabulary became too extensive for most readers to understand. Occasionally she became a little too scientific with her choice of words. Another downside to the book is the amount of information the author chose to write about in Part III. There were some important elements, but for the most part it was information the reader had already been given earlier in the novel. This section causes the reader to loose interest in the story and does not even come close when comparing it to the fascination at the beginning of the novel. By the time Part IV begins the reader is ready to learn how Sybil is fully healed. In this section the process is revealed, but does not necessarily come to the reader’s satisfaction. It is possible that many questions may be left with the reader wondering exactly how recovery proceeded.
Overall, Flora Rheta Schreiber did a noble job of writing the book Sybil. It is definitely a very captivating work that explores an issue that many people are not necessarily knowledgeable about. This book would most likely be best for adults, and at the youngest, mid-teenagers. The novel is very descriptive when it comes to the emotional and physical trauma that Sybil faces. The book is definitely not meant as a light read, which can be seen as early as the first few pages. Also, if one is interested in learning more about multiple personality disorder, this would be the perfect book to read in order to become more familiar with the illness. This narrative can and should be read by many, because of the message it sends, and the amount that can be learned from it.
Review by Lauren Smith
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While this book was detailed in the onset of the disorder, it was writen from an authors point of veiw, instead of the doctors. The third person veiw also came in to play in the details and believability of all accounts left me sceptical. Also the treatment part left me hanging, it only scratched the surface. It seemed to me, she was filling in the unknown details with sceptisisim. The book was very detailed in the begining, and the end needed to be continued, with the end of the story. It deffinitly had holes, but was a decient book.
Review by L.Hyde
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A truly "OK" book. You might like it if you like to listen to people blab about their life problems times 16.
Review by Lisa
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After reading this book and following the story into a further depth i realised that this woman was in need of help that noone could give to her beacuse no one really knew what was going on.
Sybil is the true story of a woman who has Multiple Personality Disorder and possesses sixteen different personalities. The book is written by Flora Rheta Schreiber. Flora was an author and dear friend of Dr. Wilbur; the doctor who analyzed Sybil. The novel was very well written in every aspect possible. It should be a required read for most high school and definitely all college students.
Flora is able to accurately capture all of Sybil’s emotions throughout the novel. She knows how to develop the personalities in a way that the reader is able to relate to each one of them. The reader receives a complete history on all important personalities, so that questions of their existence may be answered. Situations that Sybil experiences are described in detail so that the reader feels as if they are present too. Sybil’s sorrow and confusion are felt and well understood by the reader.
The language of the novel is also very appropriate and appealing to all non-medical students and adults. There are no words, terms, or phrases used that would require knowledge of medial terminology. The author, Flora Schreiber, does an amazing job of describing disturbing intimate scenes without being too graphic. She is tasteful in the way that she chooses her words and does not write too much. The book is an easy and fast read because of its entertainment value and simplistic diction.
Along with its entertainment, Sybil provides a very accurate and informative account of Multiple Personality Disorder. This novel would be very useful to anyone who wants to learn about MPD. Sybil’s story is so detailed, which makes it easier to understand the illness. The reader is thoroughly taken through the recovery process from beginning to end. The illness and its treatment are not glamorized, but realistic and harsh at times. Whether or not a person is interested in medicine or this specific illness, they will most likely enjoy this book.
Sybil should definitely be a required read in most high school English courses. However, if not read in high school then it should be required in a college psychology course. The book is written so well that it would not even require much class discussion of any sort. It would be helpful to discuss the novel after every part, so about four times. Otherwise, not many people would have any problem understanding the situations or storyline. The novel does a wonderful job of explaining the illness and also shows something about mankind. All people are not perfect. Sybil was not perfect, but was part of our society none-the-less. People might react differently toward a disabled person if they are more knowledgeable of the illness themselves.
Sybil is a true and entertaining story that will easily be enjoyed by millions of readers throughout the country. It is useful for those studying the disease or informative for those who are just slightly curious. The novel is written very well and uses wonderful writing techniques to completely capture its audience. Surely no one will ever regret reading this literary work.
Review by Liz Shelton
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The novel Sybil, written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, depicts the remarkable true story of a woman with multiple personalities. The novel describes the origin of the trauma that caused the personalities, the recovery of Sybil, and the merging of all the personalities into one. With its step-by-step description of this woman’s condition, Sybil is definitely one of the rare books that keep the reader intrigued.
The novel provides strong background to the story. Almost half of the novel describes Sybil’s childhood, which allows the reader to further understand her condition. Schreiber even included entire chapters about Sybil’s parents and their childhood as to explain their disposition. The author did not hold back when describing some of the disturbing events that took place in Sybil’s life. Everything that had a negative influence on Sybil’s life and instances that could have created a multiple personality was included in the novel. The novel also gives examples of the sessions that went on between Dr. Wilbur and Sybil. This helped the reader follow along with the progress of Sybil and how she became well. The novel also included sections dedicated to the explanation of the multiple personality’s character traits, which helped support the concept that one personality is different from the other. It also included letters that where sent by Sybil to Dr. Wilbur and pictures Sybil or one of her personalities drew. The end of the novel includes a chapter that describes the rest of Sybil’s life and what kind of person she became after she was treated.
The novel incorporates a significant amount of psychological terms. This can be a good thing if this novel is taught in a psychology class or a related course. If one is just picking up the novel for entertainment, then some of the terminology may be confusing. Since the author went to so much trouble to incorporate things such as pictures and letters by Sybil, she should have also included a glossary in the back of the novel to help the casual reader understand the terminology. Another thing is that the first half of the book is quite interesting and goes into much detail about Sybil’s history. The other half, however, moves at a much slower pace, and this is also where most of the psychological terminology appears.
Besides the difficult terms in the second half, the novel was pretty much an easy read. The novel was organized in an effective manner as to keep the readers’ interest and was not confusing. The author did a great job of describing the characters, the settings, and the moods and emotions of the characters as well as sending the inspirational message to the reader at the same time.
This novel should be read in any advanced English class or basic psychology class. Some of the phrases may cause the average reader some trouble and the novel significantly slows down in the second part as she starts to recover. A course with a lot of class discussion time is ideal for the readers to understand the full effect and meaning behind this novel.
Flora Rheta Schreiber did an excellent job of putting a real life story on paper. She described Sybil’s condition with such detail and such organization that one could feel like he or she was there watching these events take place. This woman’s life experiences are truly remarkable and her recovery is exceptionally inspiring. Sybil is a mesmerizing book that continues to fascinate readers of all ages.
Review by Lorien Lemmon
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I really love the book it gave me a deeper understanding on why some people behave that way.
The one word that best describes Flora Rheta Schreiber’s book Sybil is the word “captivating.” It pulls the reader in by presenting a storyline and theme so dramatic and unbelievable that it seems hard to think of it as true. It is a story of a women who endures great trauma in her childhood and, as a mechanism of defense, splits into numerous distinct personalities. After four hundred and forty one pages of psychoanalysis, vivid portrayals of childhood events, and the development of delicately intertwined characters, this book leaves its reader pondering: “Is this real?”
Sybil is the dramatic story of a woman who, unbeknownst to herself, is simultaneously living sixteen different lives. Sybil Isabel Dorsett’s predicament stems from the many traumas she suffered as a small child. These caused her to split into different “people” to help her cope with the pain. This book takes place, not only in Sybil’s complicated present but in the dark recesses of her hidden past. It gives sporadic accounts of her childhood and early adulthood while chronicling her travel on the long, hard road to recovery. Throughout the book she fights a battle against sixteen different antagonists, all of whom live within her. This book tells the story of her eleven year journey, through various stages of therapy, psychoanalysis, relapse and progress.
Perhaps the most amazing part about this book is the fact that it is completely true. This book is not a work of fiction, and that is perhaps the main reason Ms. Schreiber deserves so much acclaim for it. This book deserves more than just the credit due to a good story, but the accolades belonging to an accurately portrayed biography. This book constantly straddles the line between story and case study, sometimes it seemed, falling well into the grounds of the latter. As time passes in the book, the book becomes more condensed. Major events seem to become tied together so much that they lose their impact and the story ceases to be meaningful to the reader. This is one of the few criticisms given for this work.
The style in which this book is written is, overall, quite strong. It manages to keep the reader’s attention, focus, and interest. It is full of twists and turns as Sybil straddles the imaginary line between progress and relapse. It portrays the different personalities on the same level as ordinary people. They are all given the same character development as any character would have. They are portrayed as living, breathing beings with different interests, personalities, hopes, dreams and fears. It draws the reader into feeling empathy for each and every personality of Sybil, as well as providing tangibility to Sybil’s family and friends. Also, this book avoids coming across as sounding dry and dictated, which it easily could have. It portray’s Sybil as a person rather than an psychological experiment and avoids the pitfalls associated with using too much technical language. Ms. Schreiber knew her audience in writing this book, and knew to write it as a story and not as a report.
Overall, this book is a must read for anyone who enjoys learning about the human mind, or, for that matter, anyone who just enjoys a good story. One of the great things about this book is that it offers something for just about every reader. It delves deep into the realms of religion, philosophy, psychology, and love, discussing all of Sybil’s deep seeded troubles until finally, it merges all of these themes into one complete Sybil. This true story captivates the mind in a way that most fiction novels could not even begin to.
Sybil is a name that nearly every person in the world of psychology has heard at one time. Her true story is a powerful, emotional one that made for a landmark case in that particular field. Knowledge of this remarkable woman’s trials is shared in the novel Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber. Schreiber takes the reader on a journey through time from Sybil’s childhood and the abuse she endured, to the beginning of the painstakingly long treatment with Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur, to the moment of the integration of Sybil’s sixteen diverse personalities.
At the beginning of the novel, Schreiber does an effective job of catching the reader’s attention. The novel actually begins with a scenario Sybil finds herself in toward the middle of the book. After introducing the adult Sybil through this excerpt, Schreiber returns to Sybil’s adolescence and explains her childhood traumas. This little jumble of time keeps the reader asking questions.
Upon presenting Sybil’s past, there are several crucial details the author needs to include to provide the reader with a full understanding of the cause of her multiple personalities. Schreiber does a fantastic job of presenting Sybil’s past in a detailed manner without boring the reader. She explains every detail including Sybil’s parents’ pasts, the abuse Sybil endured, and Sybil’s relationship with each family member and any other person that was a part of Sybil’s life at the time. This makes the reasons for Sybil’s dissociations apparent to the reader.
During Sybil’s adolescence she encounters graphic sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Reading about abuse to that degree is extremely disturbing to a person. Therefore, it is imperative that Schreiber presents the details of the abuse in a tasteful yet powerful manner. She effectively presents the various situations in a powerful way that connects to the reader’s emotions without making them unnecessarily graphic.
The emotional connection that the reader first makes upon learning of Sybil’s childhood is only strengthened as the novel continues to unfold. In fact, this connection forces the reader to feel pain for Sybil. Sybil’s tears become the reader’s, and her triumphs leave a smile on the reader’s face. Not only does the reader identify with Sybil herself but also becomes quite fond of her sixteen personalities. At times the reader forgets that these personalities are a part of Sybil instead of a separate person. This emotional connection is essential in creating a truly powerful novel.
This novel is a very readable one. Schreiber does an excellent job of developing the plot and the characters in a fluent manner. She also presents a non-fiction psychoanalysis as more of a dramatic fiction. Schreiber presents the technicalities of the psychoanalysis in an interesting, understandable manner that any reader can fathom. At the close of the novel, the reader has no unanswered questions concerning Sybil’s childhood, adult life, or treatment.
This novel as a whole is strong in nearly every aspect. However, there are a few minor weaknesses. For instance, the novel is presented in four major parts. Part one and two are riveting in the way they are presented. They include some of Sybil’s adult dissociations, but also include the details of her adolescence. Schreiber plays with time and switches from Sybil’s childhood to adulthood frequently. This unconventional writing style and quick pace keeps the reader’s attention. However, at the beginning of part three the pace gradually slows down. Part three is simply a continuation of Sybil’s treatment in which nothing remarkable occurs. This section could have been shortened quite a bit for the sake of keeping the novel interesting. Part four is the section of Sybil’s final healing and the integration of the personalities. This is the point the reader awaits throughout the entire novel, but the details of the integration are very vague. Schreiber spends too much time explaining the treatment in part three but not enough giving the details of the sessions in which Sybil finally heals.
Although the novel contains a couple of minor weaknesses, the strengths outweigh them by far. This novel is highly recommended. However, the book does contain some disturbing images of sexual and physical abuse. If the reader is one that may have difficulty handling such details, then this novel is not a wise choice. Sybil gives a reader a new appreciation for every day life and the little things humans take for granted such as having a fully functional memory, being able to connect with another human being without fear, functioning in society, or even planning out a full day knowing that it will be carried out normally. The lessons that can be taken from this remarkable story will remain with a person indefinitely.
The novel Sybil, by Flora Rhela Schreiber is a well-written piece of literature. The tale of Sybil and her fifteen other selves was an interesting piece in itself. This book had many strengths and weaknesses. The character development was a problem as well as the dragging medical journals. However, the ability to stay on topic and incorporating the events in Sybil’s life was very impressive and enjoyably to read. Sybil’s journey to fulfillment was difficult and was interpreted well by Rhela. This writer portrayed Sybil well, and showed her in many perspectives.
One of the downfalls of this novel, was the development of all characters. Is this novel “people”? were skimmed over when it seemed they needed to be addressed more thoroughly. The Blond, for example, was a mere chapter, along with Sid and Mike, and a number of other selves. It is obvious that these characters were not as flamboyant, but seemed like they were unknown because of menial mention.
The Psychological analysis was incorporated well, but in some chapters, it seemed too profound. In certain sections of the book, the medical diction was well distributed, but in others it was like reading a lab report. These parts in the book were difficult to get through. Even though the extensive medical terminology was to keep the reader well informed, it seemed as if she no longer wanted to re-word things so the oblivious could understand. This was a minor problem, but without rereading some parts, the diction would not have been further explained.
The main plot, which was Sybil’s life as a split personality, was well maintained in the novel Sybil. Flora is an impressive writer because of her extensive research. Flora backed her novel with truth, and incorporated Sybil’s true-life story into her writings. The plot and facts were well maintained throughout the story. Flora did not veer off topic, or away from the truth. This was a very impressive feat for a writer to accomplish. She was a pioneer, and a brilliant one at that.
Sybil was a phenomenal novel. Like all books, it had downfalls, but they were minimal. When Rhela put Sybil’s story into such illuminating wording, this small-town girl’s story was changed from a drab un-exciting story into a magnificent masterpiece. Even though there were flaws in the writings, the positive aspects out numbered them. The characters’ un-development and strong medical articulation, were just insignificant flaws in this work and did not compare to the greatness that was portrayed in Sybil
A brilliant novel written by Flora Rheta Schreiber about the true story of a woman, Sybil, who is haunted by 16 different personalities. Schreiber does an exceptional job explaining Sybil and her “selves”. It would be recommend reading only to those who are practiced readers. This novel contains psychological analysis that is difficult to understand and would be too advanced for a younger reader. Also contained in the novel are tortures that Sybil was subjected to as a child that would not be appropriate for younger readers.
Schreiber gave the reader a great deal of information pertaining to the psychological analysis. Every medical term that was used was either explained or used in a context where the reader could decipher the definition. It was explained why both pentothal and hypnosis were used in Sybil’s treatment, what their purpose was, and that the desired result was to ultimately integrate Sybil and her multiples
The novel had multiple strengths. It gave the reader background information on both Sybil’s mother and father. This background information made it easier to understand how it was possible for a family to look completely normal on the outside and be so disturbing on the inside. The author does not leave the readers in the dark, she gives them details. Details of everything from, how each personality pictured themselves, down to what color their hair was and even what their body language, to how Sybil’s apartment with Teddy Reeves was decorated. The ending was ideal; Sybil was “cured” and was able to lead a relatively normal life for the first time. The author not only tells the reader this, she also gives examples of what Sybil experiences living her life normally and not relying on the other selves to help complete everyday tasks. The ending was also great because while it was a “happy” ending it was not a fairytale one. Sybil didn’t get the guy in the end. Ramon loved her but not so much that he came back and got her after a couple of months. If he would have somehow been incorporated into the ending it would have made the story somewhat unbelievable.
The characters were successfully developed throughout the book. Sybil’s mother was denied her dreams as a child, she kept her anger inside and it came out in the form of her becoming schizophrenic. Her sickness disturbed her daughter and that continues to develop throughout the story. Sybil’s father had an unusual childhood and that led him to ignore what was going on in his own home. Near the end of Sybil’s treatment he is confronted with his shortcomings and realizes what part he had in Sybil’s illness.
Sybil had some weaknesses, especially at the beginning. It took about a quarter of the way into the book for some of the ideas to make sense. At the beginning, the scene on the train, where Sybil was confused didn’t make sense until the reader progresses further into the book. Most of the time there is something happening in the book that makes the reader excited and interested in the book, but like any novel there are slow parts that make it slightly difficult for the reader to stay interested in the story.
Sybil is a well written book. It has the right amount of explanation and details for every scene. The organization is of the timeline can be somewhat confusing, but if the reader pays close attention to what is in the past and what is current the book will be much easier to follow. The diction of it is challenging but suitable for anyone of high school age and above. Overall Flora Rheta Schreiber is am ingenious writer and the novel is an entertaining book with substance.
Sybil Isabel Dorsett is a name acknowledged throughout the field of psychology as the first case of Multiple Personality Disorder ever to be psychoanalyzed. In the novel Sybil, written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, this extraordinary woman’s journey back to wholeness is brilliantly documented.
Far from the typical medical journal, Schreiber does a phenomenal job captivating the reader’s interest in the first chapter. By discussing an event which actually occurs later in the novel, the seemingly endless struggles generated by the sixteen selves are immediately brought to the surface. The reader is mesmerized from the beginning.
One of the strengths of the novel is the way Sybil and the others are remarkably developed throughout the book. They all seem to be individual people, not just different personalities in the same body. Some are portrayed more dominantly than others, but overall each is unique and easy to distinguish. The selves are the emotions Sybil cannot feel because of her horrendous past, and sympathy for her is undeniable. Her struggles show how human she really is, and to the reader, each breakthrough is inspiring.
The origin of Sybil’s condition is thoroughly explained by Schreiber in an effective way that, although disturbing to some readers, is necessary to grasp the terror she suffered. Each inhumane act Sybil endured at the hands of her mother is described in detail. However, the acts are not glorified like a horror movie of today, but simply stated to explain why Sybil developed Multiple Personality Disorder. The accounts are presented in a way the reader will truly comprehend.
In the first half of the book the author does a fantastic job keeping the reader’s interest. Schreiber puts the information out there in a clear, understandable way that the reader can appreciate, which can be difficult to do with some of the terms used in psychology. The personalities are discovered and the answers to why Sybil has the disorder begin to surface. It is extremely challenging to put the book down even for a second.
Unfortunately, the second half of the book is not quite as impressive. In Part III the book becomes somewhat repetitive in analyzing Sybil’s case, and some of the excitement is lost. Her childhood and the lives of her parents are discussed meticulously and without much enthusiasm. The answers to important questions are found, but it takes a lot of time reading background information to get to them. After all, it is a documented medical case, and the average reader may not enjoy all the extra analysis included.
This novel is well written, but it is not for everyone. It can be too graphic for some, and the sudden loss of action in the second half can be a let down. Therefore, it is probably more appropriate for high school students and above. However, anyone interested in psychology, and especially Multiple Personality Disorder, should put this on their must read list.
Overall, Flora Rheta Schreiber’s novel Sybil is a monumental success. This book is not only a breakthrough in the field of psychology, but an amazing true story of how Sybil Isabel Dorsett finally rid herself of the sixteen selves occupying her body to become whole again.
Review by Megan B.
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The novel Sybil is a truly fascinating look into the life of someone afflicted with Multiple Personality Disorder. Author Flora Rheta Schreiber does an admirable job of making what could be an immensely boring textbook into an immersive and interesting story. Even though for the most part the story is captivating, the book drags horribly at points. Passages seem to repeat themselves, and the reader will often wonder if they’ve read a certain part before. Skimming will be employed numerous times, as sections not crucial to the overall story are uninteresting and oft occurring. An exemption to this principle is the opening of the book. Although important to the primary storyline, this introduction seems confusing and never-ending. It is not until many pages into the book that the reader is given any hint as to what exactly is going on. While it can be assumed that this technique was used in an attempt to hook the reader immediately into Sybil’s life, it may also turn many readers off because of its disconcerting nature. One area where the book excels, though, is in character development. The novel is, essentially, a book ABOUT characters, sixteen to be exact, and this is definitely where its strength lies. Although every character is just a fragment of the fractured Sybil’s psyche, each one feels like a living, breathing, multi-dimensional human being. Not once in reading Sybil will the reader regard the different personalities as only personalities. The character of Dr. Wilbur is also fleshed out, and the reader can clearly see her motivations and desires for helping Sybil. Although the reader may have some qualms about the readability of a book written by an author schooled in psychoanalytical terms, rest assured that the readability does not suffer. Much. Granted, there is quite a lot of medical lingo and psychiatry jargon, but most of it is pretty easy to understand and only impedes the book when not used in relation to the principal story. Thinking in this same vein, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a medical notebook. It has a cohesive plot, which, although unfolds at a relatively slow pace, is light years beyond anything expected from a novel written about the psychoanalysis of Multiple Personality Disorder.
One feature of the novel that is especially handy is the “family”? tree and brief descriptions for Sybil’s personalities in the front of the book. It is difficult to keep the numerous personas straight, and the readers will find themselves constantly flipping to the front to discern the difference between Mary and Marcia. Having a glossary of characters and their origins on hand at all times is extremely helpful whilst reading. While not for the inexperienced reader, Sybil is a truly unbelievable look at a women’s journey to become whole. Fans of character pieces and medical dramas will especially enjoy the novel. Or, if one is just in the mood for a gripping tale with major elements of reality, Sybil is always an excellent choice.
In the novel Sybil, author Flora Rheta Schreiber is telling a true story about a women who is possessed by sixteen personalities. Sybil is a young women who finally seeks help from a physiatrist named Dr. Wilbur whom learns of the cruel and harmful mental and physical abuse that Sybil suffers from her mother growing up as a very young child. As Dr . Wilbur hears Sybil recount the awful incidents she endured she learns that Sybil doesn’t suffer from one or two personalities, but sixteen different personalities in all. To understand Sybil you have to understand each one of the personalities to know how Sybil dealt with each moment in her life.
Sybil’s relationship with her mother was harmful and confusing from the beginning. Sybil. Sybil realized instinctively before the age of one the treatment she received from her mother was not love and trust. Sybil own mother suffered from schizophrenia and felt discontent after several miscarriages before finally a successful pregnancy of Sybil. The author describes in great detail the mental and physical abuse Sybil endures from her mother, thus leading to a new personality with each incident. Sybil feeling worthless, was very much loves by her grandmother, which developed the personality “Mary”? (where she would mimic her grandmother). A different personality would try and live Sybil’s life for her when Sybil couldn’t trust herself. When Sybil couldn’t trust herself, she would allow a personality to take over.
The novel was intriguing to read. There were many moods to consider while reading. The moods would swing from happiness to sadness to anger in a matter of time. The book does an excellent performance of explaining Sybil’s life and the process of what she endured to get cured. When reading the book you could feel a connection with Sybil and sympathize what she was going through. No one knew of the horrible abuse that happened to Sybil, for it was kept a secret from friends and family. For Sybil, simply a certain smell or color would bring back such horrible memories. The haunting treatments from her mother.
The theme of the novel, is to open one’s eyes to how such physical and mental abuse can affect one person. That for Sybil, the creation of each personality would help her to “live or to survive”?. A person can trick the mind, in such a way to block things out or to make a person pretend that such things are not happening. It makes a person wonder how often this kind of abuse goes on today and why a person may act the way they do. This novel is a excellent book for young adults to read to try to understand people like Sybil or to know that you don’t have to have a terrible childhood to develop multiple personalities. That the mind is a powerful thing and how people can adapt to their situations.
Review by Morgan Peterman
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Sybil is a woman who has sixteen personalities. Well, at least she did. Through eleven years of psychoanalysis Sybil was able to become one full functioning person. Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote Sybil’s tale of battling with sixteen other people inside one frail body. While the book was one of the most enthralling and enlightening books ever read, it had some failings.
Sybil was very detailed. Even though it was not a novel of fiction, it read like one. Readers will feel as though they come to know Sybil and start to feel almost empathetic. They will enter her world and see things through her eyes or one of the other sixteen selves’. One would think that it would be hard to confuse sixteen characters, but they would be surprised to find otherwise. Each of the selves was clearly developed. Every one of them was defined by their own characteristics, fears, and beliefs. They even had names and physical traits that made them distinct. The only personality that did not follow suit was The Blonde. She was just thrown in at the end. She had no name and no other physical persona other than that she was blonde. The reader did not get to know her very well because as soon as she appeared she was integrated back into Sybil and was heard from no more.
In fact most of the ending seemed rushed. It seemed as though Sybil was slowly becoming well and then all of a sudden she just was. More detail, feelings, thoughts, and information should have been provided. The very end read like a case study where as the rest of the book did not. It was disappointing because there was a sense of something missing. The author should have let us know what building Sybil’s new life was like. What happened through her eyes in buying her house and making it a home and holding down a steady job would have been a better ending.
The story did have a plot and a pretty good one at that. It began in the middle with a blank out and lost time where Sybil ended up somewhere that she did not know. It was a confusing way for the book to begin for the reader who did not have any background knowledge about it. The story then goes back in time and further back still so that it can explain how Sybil came to be where the tale opened. While sometimes confusing and needing a double-take to follow the jumps in time, the information was dealt out in a satisfactory way. The only qualm that readers may experience is the fact that the author left Sybil in a limbo for a while. The story built up and up to how she had acquired all of her personalities, then just left her there for what seemed the majority of the book. Sybil would take a couple steps forward, but would repeatedly relapse. Her healing process finally started with a revelation by being able to express anger in a traffic jam under hypnosis. After that the storyline picked up incredible steam. All of a sudden personalities were beginning to come together and Sybil was starting to become one. Three years took place in only thirty pages. There was not any detail or closure, there was just here is the New Sybil and she is happy. While the ending could have been enhanced, this book should be recommended to anyone mature enough to read it. It is intellectual and captivating. There are times when it is almost impossible to put down. If nothing else it gives a greater sense of appreciation for nurturing parents and a complete life.
Review by Mykel
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The book Sybil written by Flora Rheta Schreiber is a story about a woman with sixteen different personalities. Sybil had Split Personality Syndrome. Flora Rheta Schreiber was a friend of Sybil’s psychiatrist and was asked to help document the case very early on. Sybil is the first case of multiple personality to be psychoanalyzed. Although many psychiatrists use the book as a medical guide it does not read like one.
The novel Sybil has many strengths. The characters were very highly developed. Even though Sybil in a sense was seventeen different people all of them had their own mannerisms and one could always tell who was who. The different personalities were all developed in a way that they seemed like different people. Some were even more lovable than others. The way the characters were built was really enjoyable. Another great quality of the book was it was not overwhelming with vocabulary. It was not necessarily reader easy but the vocabulary part was good. Multiple personalities could have been a little hard to understand but it was very well portrayed in this novel.
Sybil also had many weaknesses. The reader did not really have anything to look for in the sense of symbols. It was all very straightforward and cut to the chase. There was not really underlying meanings behind much in the book. The only things that were symbolic was the cat and the box. Things connected to make it more interesting but there still was not enough symbolism. It only held attention so well. It was not a book that was found hard to put down.
The recommendation of the book would be towards someone who is first of all interested in multiple personalities. The reader may also be one who likes straightforward books. They would not want to have a lot of symbolism. The book Sybil was only an alright book. It would not kill anyone if they did not read this book but its worth the spare time as well.
Review by Nancy Ellis
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To most people in society, the phrase "time flies by" is a simple explanation that describes when one’s attention is engaged. For Sybil Dorsett, the phrase has a completely different meaning. The novel, Sybil, by Flora Schreiber takes the reader into the abusive childhood and persistent “treatments”? of Sybil Dorsett. The author turns this non-fiction story into a dramatic and intense revelation of how childhood abuse can damage a person’s life. She also illustrates the recovery of this abuse through the constant theme of not giving up. Overall, Flora Schreiber allows the reader to experience the drastic life of Sybil Dorsett where time does more that just “fly by.”?
The novel has many strengths that keep the reader questioning and turning pages. As if having one main character is hard enough, Flora Schreiber develops sixteen different personalities for Sybil. She does an outstanding job at demonstrating the different personalities’ goals, flaws and obsessions. She also develops the plot of a child being abused by her own mother, dissociating into different personalities, and the journey to become one, into an easy read. Though the plot is not written in the standard structure, it allows the reader to stay focused and understand all the actions the characters undertake. There are very few moments in the novel that the reader is unable to comprehend the situation. The dialogue in the book is very clear and explanatory. Flora Schreiber does an excellent job at keeping the reader focused and curious as to what lies ahead in the novel.
The strengths of the novel also become its weaknesses at times. Although most of the personalities are well developed, a few lack in details. One of the personalities is not even discovered until right before the end of the story. It also has to be taken into consideration, however, that the novel is nonfiction and if a personality is not developed in real life, it would be difficult to develop in a novel. The most noticeable weakness of this novel is the use of medical terms without explanation. Several times in the novel a medical term is used that is uncommon in society. This weakens that part of the story and can cause the reader confusion and aggravation. If a glossary was included in the back of the book, the medical terms may have strengthened the novel as opposed to weakening it. These few errors, though minor, reduce the overall effect of the novel.
Although there are weaknesses, the strengths outnumber them and keep the novel going. Flora Schreiber did a brilliant job at creating the true occurrences of childhood abuse and its effects into novel that would the reader would not want to put down. This book is recommended to honors classes and upper classmen because of the intense and graphic situations that Sybil encounters. Through her many strengths, Flora Schreiber takes the reader into the world unknown to most of society; the world where sixteen different people make up one being.
I thought the book was very good. I’m not one who likes to read but when i heard about this book from my grand mother I had to get it. The details in the book the way she discribes her felling its increbible. when shes dicribing were shes at its like your there its amazing. I read the whole book and know im doin a report on it so everyone in my class can see how good it is. How much it can touch very one. Its a good book and i recamend it to anyone and it realy touched me and helped my through alot.
Review by Nicole
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The common motto ‘Just be yourself’ may seem like an easy rule for anyone to follow. However, that was not the case for Sybil Isabel Dorsett. The only thing she truly desired was to be one person within herself, which was something most human beings took for granted. The novel Sybil follows this young woman’s struggle through life and ‘being herself’. It shows how Sybil yearned for freedom to be her own person and make her own decisions. The novel also shows how Sybil’s disorder was the result of the environment she grew up in, and her family’s history with mental illness. Sybil faced many conflicts within herself and also with others ‘outside’ herself. This book puts into prospective the horrors Sybil underwent and the obstacles she had to defeat to become whole. Sybil was only able to live a fraction of her life because it was divided among sixteen other persons.
This novel was a very powerful work of art. It challenged the reader to consider the complexities of the human mind. It was strong in the sense that it captured the reader’s attention from the start. It was very dramatic, intense, and horrifying at times. However, the novel did have some weaknesses that made it a slower read. The story was told from several points of view, and this made it hard to follow. Some of the characters, or Sybil’s selves, were not as developed as others, and it was hard to remember everything about each one. The ending of the novel, though satisfying, was not as strong as the rest of the book. The plot was built up and seemingly dissected throughout the story. It seemed like it was preparing the reader for a very dramatic and descriptive ending. However, it ended very neatly with everything just falling into place, without enough justification as to why that was so. It is comprehended that it was all due to the hypnosis, but it could have been explained in a more reader-friendly way. Overall, the novel was a very charismatic and fascinating book which forced the reader to momentarily engage in a completely different state of mind.
An aspect of the novel that was very thought-provoking was Sybil’s reaction to the alternating selves within her. The alternating selves bothered and tormented Sybil tremendously by simply existing. She ‘came to consider herself more and more of the hostage of the selves she hadn’t been able to deny’ (Schreiber 376). This was because when the other selves took over the body, Sybil lost complete control and had no idea what was being done in her absence. However, the alternating selves were a necessary happening in order for Sybil to survive her mother’s many tortures. Without them, Sybil would have become a completely shutdown, lifeless being that perhaps even Dr. Wilbur could not help. Before Sybil knew about the ‘others’, she hated almost everything about herself. After she was able to accept their existence, get to know and like them, and become one with them, she actually grew to love herself. Sybil even admitted that ‘having learned to love these parts of herself, she had in effect replaced self-derogation with self-love’ (Schreiber 436). Without them, Sybil never would have become the lively person that she did in the end.
There has been debate over whether Sybil’s disorder was due mainly to genetics or the environment in which she was raised. It is evident, however, that both play a crucial role in the make-up of Sybil’s problem. Hattie Dorsett, her mother, is the main root for all the pain Sybil suffered as a child. Hattie was schizophrenic, which enabled her to do the horrible things she did to Sybil without remorse. Many of Sybil’s relatives had mental problems, which justifies her illness being directly linked to genetics. On the other hand, Sybil may not have been ‘infected’ with the illness if it had never been triggered by all the emotional trauma and tragedies of her childhood. If she had had a loving, caring family, she would not have any reason to want to be someone else or dissociate in any way. Sybil wanted rescue from her torture chamber, especially by her father, Willard Dorsett, but received none. Therefore, Sybil’s condition only worsened as she grew older. Both genetics and the environment were important in why Sybil became ill as she did.
There was also a lot of controversy on whether or not Sybil was used by the people who supposedly truly cared for her. The main people that could have been guilty of this are Dr. Wilbur and Ramon. Since Sybil was the first analyzed case of a multiple personality, she was a ‘prize’ for anyone who treated her. That individual would receive all sorts of credit and rewards for being the first doctor to come in full contact with that type of illness. However, Dr. Wilbur expressed genuine feelings towards Sybil not only as a patient, but as a friend as well. She helped Sybil both inside and out of her office. She worked with Sybil for around ten years and never gave up on her. She has the qualities and kindness of a true friend. Ramon, on the other hand, did use Sybil in a way. He may have thought he loved her, but it would be easy to feel false feelings when they are so rushed. He needed an American wife in order to gain custody over his nieces and nephews. Sybil was one of the first women he met, and he convinced himself that he really loved her. Her break-up with Ramon proved that he couldn’t have cared about her as much as he claimed to have. However, Dr. Wilbur still remained true to her. Although Sybil was used by some, she still had at least one honest friend.
The author of this novel obviously put a lot of effort and dedication into this work, and it paid off. This book is a riveting piece of art that truly enthralls the mind. It may have some slow or agonizing parts, but in the end it was important to have gathered all of the information. Sybil was a very unique and complex person, and the novel reflected that aspect beautifully. Overall, this text is a captivating mind-full that took the reader to a place that they have never been before, or shall ever wish to visit again.
Review by Nicole S
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I read this book as part of my literature class. This author will drag you from your comfy chair and into the life of this disturbed woman. My warning is, if you are considering reading this book, make yourself ready for a graphic and very personal reliving of the torture and breaking of a young girl by her mother. Yes it has a happy ending, but she goes through a lot of horror before she gets there. Yes, this is a true story.
Review by Pacha
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I find the book Sybil interesting and it’s attempt to explain the multiple personality disorder in a more precise and detailed manner has been a an outstanding success! I admire Sybil for being tough and for a remarkably break through in DID...And of course the credit should have been given to Dr. Wilbur too for her patience and exemplary psychoanalysis...And of course to the writer Ms. Flora for a tremendous story telling abilities... Sybil is really an inspiring book. Nothing is impossible with God... I never put it down unless I’m done reading it. Dramatically outstanding!
Sybil is a story about a woman who was abused as a child and now has multiple personalities. Throughout the book she must relive these experiences and try to come to terms with them in hopes of reuniting her fragmented soul. Unfortunately the novel Sybil was overall a disappointing book. There were long parts of the novel that were very dry and as a whole very boring. The interest of the reader was not always kept and one would almost always find their mind wandering while reading this book. The chapters were almost always about the same thing or had the same basic concept. The author also did not do a great job clearing up all the psychological terms for the reader. After all this has been said there are still some good things about this book. The topic was interesting which could have made it an interesting story. The author also wrote in such a way that nothing was left to the reader’s imagination and the reader knew exactly how bad Sybil’s life was. Even for these strengths Sybil was still a lackluster book.
The weaknesses in Sybil were what kept this book from being a good read that one could not put down. Many parts of the book were so completely boring that it made reading this book more like a chore rather then something fun to do. Part III was the worst, this whole section was about Sybil’s treatment in hopes of getting her life back together. This lead to almost all the chapters in that part having the same general concept. Most of these chapters where about Dr. Wilbur talking to one of Sybil’s other selves and then when Sybil awoke telling her what the self said or did. This caused the readers mind’s to wander because the story was just dragging along. The author also did not do a very good job clearing up the meaning of certain psychological terms. Sometimes it seemed liked the reader had to actually be a physiatrist in order to understand what was happening in the story. Readers would often have to guess the meanings of certain things like schizophrenia which was never clearly described.
There are however some strengths to this book. The overall topic of multiple personalities in its self is interesting. It is amazing to see what the mind can and will do in order to survive. Another good thing about this story was that the author left nothing to the reader’s imagination. The reader knew exactly how horrible Sybil’s life was. She clearly described Hattie’s torture of Sybil and made the reader realize why Sybil needed multiple selves. She also accurately depicted how no one was there for Sybil, how her Father pushed her away, how Danny and her Grandmother had left her alone. All this was very well illustrated by the author.
The story of Sybil and her life even though based on an interesting topic has many problems that make it a less enjoyable read. This book should be read if the reader does not need lots of excitement and has at least some interest in multiple personality syndrome. If not this book is not a good choice.
Review by Rob
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Not as informative as When Rabbit Howls but it has been a book that has haunted me ever since I read it. I have only been able to read this book three times, unusual for me, because the abuser is a women. More important for it’s ground-breaking nature than for it’s description of the therapy involved - which I found rather rigid.
Review by Shadow
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This was the first book we read about multiple personalities, when the body was 14. It was a sudden flash of "That’s exactly what we are!" There were fewer than 16 of us then, so it seems a very long time ago to us. A lot of issues were presented in the book, like the issue of having male personalities in a female body that are a little leery of the whole concept, that apply to us. Not the best, but definitely worth reading. And the descriptions of abuse are rather gruesome.
Review by Silicon
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The revolutionary novel Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber depicts the true story of Sybil Isabel Dorsett: a young woman with sixteen different personalities, all encompassed in one body. This prodigious novel accurately limns the life of Miss Dorsett. She grows up in a home full of disturbing abuse, and is forced in retaliation to disassociate. With the help of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, she progresses toward the final goal: One self.
The novel opens in a warehouse district obviously not familiar to Sybil. The reader can sense such emotions as desperation and consternation through Sybil’s actions. The author reproduces very clearly details like emotions through vocabulary, and imagery. It is easy to commiserate with Sybil through the author’s depiction of her life. One example of this is when Sybil’s abuse is described. The reader is forced to empathize with her, if not truly feel as though they were there with her, living the brutality. The author’s ability to demonstrate the sixteen personality’s feelings is a cardinal strength of the novel.
Another strength is the author’s ability to keep the story readable, even though so many medical terms are used. Although sometimes difficult to understand, Sybil’s story is one that is kept personal and coherent. This novel is a medical journal in disguise, and a very good, precise one at that. Details are recorded in an organized fashion, and important things are mentioned in a way that captures the reader’s attention, but without boring him or her. This is what makes this a great non-fiction work. It is arresting and informative to any person who reads it.
However, with strong points in stories also come weak points. The novel seems, in some areas, to drag and become repetitive. The plot seems to weaken after all of Sybil’s personalities have been introduce. There is not much action that takes place other than Sybil’s disassociation. Also, although the vocabulary is considered one of the novel’s strengths, it can also be considered a weakness. Some of the terminology may be too puzzling for some readers. The details, while necessary, become banal and could possibly cause some readers to become uninterested. On the other hand, there are also parts of the story that move very quickly, and occasionally leave the reader behind and confused. Overall, the weaknesses of the story are by far outweighed by the strengths.
This novel Sybil is appealing to many types of readers, but should be approached with the understanding that it is a graphic novel. Many of the details that Flora Rheta Schreiber writes about are not to be taken lightly. Once the reader has accepted the situations of abuse and the severity of Sybil’s case, it is an amazing read. Also, a person reading the story must take into account the possibility that they may have to look up a word or two to understand the flow of the story. All in all, Sybil is a splendid story that is sure to leave an impression on anyone who reads it.
Review by Tabitha Lirely
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This book is of more importance historically than factually. Since it was written, much more has been learned and understood about multiplicity, and there are far more informative books available to those in search of current information. The author’s focus on Freudian analysis, sometimes to the exclusion of common sense, can be really annoying.
Review by The Garden People
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I first read the book in my first year of marriage and it was so familliar but I couldn’t understand why at the time. My sister had the book when I was younger and when I was caught looking at it she told me not to bother reading it because it wouldn’t make any sense, it was hard to follow. Of course when I did read it not only did it make sense, it made sense of my life.
It took 2 years to be diagnosed with MPD and since then I have recomended the book for my friends to help them understand. Although it is an early book on MPD it still has a signifigance to the trials and tribulations of a Multiple. The book changed my life, I recomend it to any one who has doubts in their lives and don’t necessarely believe what the doctor says.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when one has to ask oneself if the time he/she spent in this life was wasted. For the character in this thrilling non-fiction novel, the answer is harder to find.
The novel Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber depicts the life of a woman beset by sixteen alternate personalities. Sybil Dorsett was the first person ever to be psychoanalyzed who was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). As the plot unfolds in this true story, it becomes known that all throughout her life Sybil’s alternate selves have lived for her and kept the memories they made while in control. Fully one third of Sybil’s life remained unaccounted for, unremembered and completely buried in her subconscious until after 11 years of therapy that finally gave her memories back to her.
What distinguished Miss Dorsett’s case from the rest of the documented MPD cases was the fact that, until 1974, none had been psychoanalyzed. Another detail that set this case apart was that until that time no other cases had as many alternate selves as sixteen. Sybil was also represented as a novel patient in this disorder because two of her personalities were male. This abnormality had never happened in a documented case before and this book explores the pioneering work of Sybil’s psychoanalyst, Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur.
The author, Flora Rheta Schreiber, compiled with Sybil’s psychoanalyst, Dr. Wilbur, and Sybil herself in order to commit Sybil’s story to paper. In the preface, Schreiber writes, “Upon reading the finished book, Sybil remarked, ’Every emotion is true’; Dr. Wilbur commented, ’Every psychiatric fact is accurately represented’ ” (Schreiber16). Schreiber’s writing and composition turns what would normally be a dry and chewy case study into a thrilling tear-jerker.
This novel is not for the weak hearted or young. It was based on a real case and was written as a readable documentation of what the woman known as Sybil Dorsett suffered in order to trigger her dissociations. That this novel is based on fact lends fierce horror to its happenings. Sybil was put through mental, emotional, and physical torture by her own schizophrenic mother until the only way she could deal with the stress was to dissociate into other personalities.
This novel drags the reader into the story and puts them on a personal level along with Sybil and her other sixteen selves. Her drama becomes real to the reader, as its story is indeed a true and documented case. This book is a non-fiction affair, yet it is written as if to be read like a fiction thriller. Schreiber blends almost seamlessly the styles of both a case file and a classic tale. This book is a must read to those who are not afraid of a touch of psychiatric jargon and enjoy intricate plots. This story was not only based on Sybil herself, but also follows the lives of the others. Sybil’s sixteen offspring who shared in her life in a way no one else ever could.
Review by Tia Christenson
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The novel Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is a fascinating work of modern literature, depicting a quiet woman of her mid 30’s, who obviously has a few psychological problems. The novel, which is surprisingly a true story, is written in such a style that it has the palpability of any work of fiction, while still providing facts about the unfortunate reality of the girl named Sybil Isabel Dorsett.
Sybil contains numerous literary devices, which strengthen the novel and engross the reader. An appalling flashback to Sybil’s childhood horrifies the reader with vivid details of child abuse; physical, emotional, and sexual; along with child neglect and obsession. Facing the brunt of a schizophrenic mother and a father ignorant to family issues, Sybil was forced to dissociate into 16 wholly diverse personalities to cope with her horrific childhood. The disturbingly frank details of this ghastly lifetime make the reader feel like an onlooker of a car wreck. All of the gore and damage sickens him, but he finds that he cannot look away. The reader is transported to the little white house with black shutters on the corner, where Sybil’s schizophrenic mother muttered, “I have to do it, I have to do it”? over and over while she would close the shades on all of the windows in the kitchen, string Sybil up so she hangs above the kitchen table, and fill an adult-sized enema bag with nearly-freezing water, stick its tip into her urethra, and fill her bladder to more than its capacity. The book elaborates on this and many more secret rituals, which make the reader cringe, but keep reading.
There is a very small amount of criticism to be found for this book. Other than perhaps being too vivid, Sybil literally sporadically travels through time. It breaks the traditional structure of a novel by using so many unforeseen flashbacks, from her years in New York to her years in Willow Corners, that it leaves the reader confused and whip lashed. There are points in this novel where the author gives no forewarning of these flashbacks, and when it happens, the reader can get lost extremely easily. Sybil is also tarnished by its tendency to resemble a car traveling through a city during rush hour. The events of the story slow down and speed up so frequently that it can frustrate the reader. Parts of Sybil are so eventful that the reader becomes eager to see what happens next, but he is let down, because what happens next is much less appealing than initially hoped for. For example, in Chapter 19, the reader can be engrossed in the book, since he has just found out that two of Sybil’s personalities are male. Then, the reader arrives at an entire chapter about religion, and the ball is dropped. The reader is no longer absorbed, and finds it difficult to struggle past this chapter.
Overall, however, Sybil is a fascinatingly dark tale of a woman who struggles to accept her past and its consequences. Her tale of self-discovery and self-recovery is a fascinating one to observe. The virtually pristine blend of horrific flashbacks, psychological information about what created Sybil’s condition, and the permanent friendship gradually created between Sybil and Dr. Wilbur is what makes this novel one that leaves the reader content once they finish the last sentence.
Review by Timothy Wessel
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it was a gift from me and i never thought this book would be the best books i read....the story is really a amazing..you cant imagine yourself being sybil...really complicated!
Review by twztd
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Sybil WAS a good book. It has since then been proven that her therapist made up some of Sybil’s alters and in fact, Sybil had no symptoms of DID (or MPD) before she started therapy with Dr. Wilbur. According to Dr. Spiegel, Dr. Wilbur suggested the alters as part of the treatment.
This is not the only case were patients are in the hands of professionals who create alternate personalities during hypnosis. Is Sybil’s story true? We might never find out but fact is that this is not the only case where therapists have created personalities to suit the media and the medical establishment.
Review by Willeke Van Eeckhoutte
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Re: Anonymous above: MPD is not the same as schizophrenia, in fact they are two completely different disorders (hence the two of them not even being in the same categorie in DSMIV). Schizophrenics only have one personality but the disease is all too often mistaken as "having a split personality". In MPD (or DID these days), sufferers have more than one distinct personality.
Review by Willeke Van Eeckhoutte
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The novel Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is a very interesting and intriguing story. It is about a woman, referred to as Sybil, who has a mental disability known as Multiple Personality Disorder. What makes her case so unique is that she has created sixteen different personalities inside herself. This novel is a true story about her case and recovery from her illness.
This novel has many strengths about it. Aside from being a great story, it also allows the reader to experience and gain some knowledge in the field of Psychology. As Dr. Wilbur, a real psychologist/psychoanalyst, treats Sybil for her condition, the reader not only experiences what Sybil is going through, but also sees how other personalities feel about Sybil, and explores the reasons why people develop such disorders. The novel reveals that in order for a person to disassociate into multiple personalities, there has to be some sort of major trauma, usually early in a person’s life. In Sybil’s case, the trauma came from her endless abuse, her endless primal scene (a child’s auditory and visual perception of the parents’ sexual intercourse), and her last attempt to escape from her torment. When Sybil is three and a half years old, she grows fond of a doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Thinking that the doctor liked and wanted a girl of his own, she came to suspect that he would take her with him, away from her abusing parents. However, he doesn’t come through for her. Sybil is left to believe that she now has no hope of escaping the abuse, which causes her to disassociate into multiple personalities. This novel allows readers to see that such events are the main contributors to psychological disorders.
The characters were developed extremely well in this novel. When the word character is used, it implies Sybil’s other selves. The reader can easily tell the differences in her personalities. There is the loud, outgoing, all-knowing Vicky, the more aggressive Peggys, and the two male selves inside her, Mike and Sid, just to name a few. These characters are described so well that the reader can easily see the different selves in the reader’s head. This easily leads to why the novel is such a good one.
Even with all the psychological vocabulary in the novel, it is not that hard to comprehend. However, people in a junior high and below might have some difficulties with it. This is due to the fact that there are a lot of unusual, but not necessarily incomprehensible words in there. There is also a lot that younger kids should probably not read. This is pertaining to what Hattie Dorsett does to the kids in the nursery at church, her supposed teenage friends, and to Sybil herself involving the feminine reproductive organ. Other than that, this book is good for everyone High School age and above.
There are some good themes in this novel as well. One is that religion, although most of the time it is based on good, moral teachings, can be skewed to destroy a person’s life. This is evident in the odd religion Sybil believes in, and that Mary, one of Sybil’s selves, has trouble parting with it. Mary’s strong will not to part with her religious values almost prevents Sybil from becoming well. Another theme in this novel is that, even though a family or person may appear to be morally good and normal, behind closed doors they are not. This is evident where Willard and Hattie Dorsett will not show affection for one another in public. They also have sex in front of Sybil for the first nine years of her life. Also while Willard and Hattie appear to be good parents, Hattie physically and mental abuses Sybil repeatedly, and Willard turns the other cheek and will not prevent Hattie from doing those things to Sybil. These are some of the many themes in this novel.
This is a very compelling novel and should be on everyone’s reading list. It shows that there are really sick and disgusting people out there behind closed doors who are completely different in public. Flora Rheta Schreiber did well in writing and allowing people to read this novel, Sybil.
My sister gave me this book when i was 15 and said "just read it". I was unable to get very far into it b/c of the inner torment I was feeling. 20 years later i saw a therapist and was sent to another. Finally i was diagnosed with MPD. Unable to accept this, i tried to go on but memories of our past would not let go. We have now been working w/a very good therapist for DID. We still have not been able to finish that book (to many triggers for us); but we have read enough to know it is NOT a/b a schizophrenic; and it is not made up. The Doctor could not get it published in medical field; she had no choice but to write it as it is. It is an excellent book (the part we read)and we suggest you read it. Our sister (after 30 years) said she thought of us alot when she read the book; and thats why she gave it to us.
One more thought. Get over it Anonymous. i dont know what your problem is, but its time to move on.
Review by Zenith for the rest
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