Mad Shadows is a book about obsession and delusion. It’s characters exhibit fixations on beauty, wealth and revenge. This coincides with the fact that all the main characters are defected in some way or another. The main character, Isabelle-Marie is hideous. Her ugliness is even more exaggerated in comparison to Patrice, her Adonis-like brother. Patrice is a soulless idiot who’s only thoughts are of his own good looks, perhaps cultivated by his mothers admiration of them.
Isabelle-Marie nicknamed Patrice “beautiful beast” because in her mind, his lack of personality is inhuman. Her cynicism is a reflection of the bitterness that she holds towards her mother Louise, an empty-headed, shallow woman incapable of loving her children for who they really are. Her false sense of love for Patrice is repulsive to Isabelle-Marie. Louise’s security blanket is knowing that Patrice’s beauty is an image of her and that satisfies her own vanity. The story introduces two new characters.
Lanz, Louise’s crippled lover who adorns himself with Frivolous clothing and a gold cane to make himself feel complete in his lameness. There is Isabelle-Marie’s blind Lover Michael, who finds security in the belief that Isabelle-Marie is a Beautiful woman. Every character except for Isabelle-Marie is fooling themselves because they are happier not seeing the truth. When they do discover the truth, it leads to their demise. For Louise, it was the cancer in her face and the grotesque scaring of Patrice that caused her to realize how empty her life was. The end of Louise’s world is when her crops burn.
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Lanz’s death was only a minor blow to louise because she rationalized that she still had Patrice’s good looks to cling to. The “decomposition ” of Lanz before his death was a symbol of him finally becoming real under neat all of his jewels and fine clothes, but only too late after a life of sin. This was Lanz seeing the light before his darkness. Patrice does see the light, in sense, but only after his disfigurement, during his insanity, and directly before his death. It is realizing how ugly he was. Michael’s love for Isabelle-Marie dies instantly when he realizes how ugly she is.
This is his awakening and he disappears from the story directly afterwards. Although Isabelle-Marie is not disillusioned, she is hate filled and revenge seeking. This is only curved for a short time when she is being loved by Michael. When that love ends, the old Isabelle-Marie retaliates by burning Patrice’s face in the water, mistreating her daughter and ruining her mothers crop. Once this is done she commits suicide because she has nothing else left to live for. The only case of real love was Isabelle-Marie’s love for Michael because it wasn’t based on his looks or wealth.
Lanz’s feelings for Louise were lustful and she wanted to be with Lanz because he made her feel wanted. Louise loved Patrice only because of his face and body. Michael loved Isabelle-Marie only because of the perception that she was beautiful. The characters only realize how void their life is when they lose the one thing they hang on to, so much so that they’d rather die than continue living. Even Isabelle-Marie kills herself once she’s gotten her revenge because her bitterness was all she had to cling to. Mad Shadows is symbolic of man’s desire to find completeness in something that lacks substance..