Book Summaries Literature

The Madman Summary (7/10)

The Madman Summary (7/10) 1The Madman Summary (7/10) 2

Below are my favorite selection from The Madman by Gibran Khalil Gibran.


You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,-the seven masks I have fashioned an worn in seven lives,-I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

Carl Jung talked about the persona, how we each wear masks that help us blend into society, but that these masks prevent us from being our authentic selves. The process of individuation, which consists of getting rid of the persona, and experiencing the freedom of loneliness and rejecting the tyranny of predictability – is necessary to free our authentic selves.  


A feast was held in a palace one night, where a man knelt before the prince, and the guests looked at him, and they noticed that one of his eyes was out and the socket bled. The prince asked him what had happened, and the man replied that he is a thief, and that he went to rob the money-changer’s shop, but by accident, climbed into the weaver’s shop, and in the dark, ran into the weaver’s loom, and this was how his eye was plucked out. Now, he asks for justice upon the weaver.

Then the prince sent for the weaver and he came, and it was decreed that one of his eyes should be plucked out.

“O prince,” said the weaver, “the decree is just. It is right that one of my eyes be taken. And yet, alas! both are necessary to me in order that I may see the two sides of the cloth that I weave. But I have a neighbour, a cobbler, who has also two eyes, and in his trade both eyes are not necessary.”

Then the prince sent for the cobbler. And he came. And they took out one of the cobbler’s two eyes.

And justice was satisfied.

Slavoj Zizek tells us of a story of a genie that once asked a man what he wished for, on the condition that whatever he wished for, would be given to his neighbor twice. And so, the man told him to take one of his eyes. Such is human nature.


A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, “I will have a camel for lunch today.” And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again-and he said, “A mouse will do.”

Analysis: Aesop had a fable with a fox and sour grapes. The fox tends to be great at outwitting himself.


In my father’s garden there are two cages. In one is a lion, which my father’s slaves brought from the desert of Ninavah; in the other is a songless sparrow.

Every day at dawn the sparrow calls to the lion, “Good morrow to thee, brother prisoner.”

The great justice of life may be that each person, no matter how great they are, is a prisoner to something.


Once there lived in the ancient city of Afkar two learned men who hated and belittled each other’s learning. For one of them denied the existence of the gods and the other was a believer.

One day the two met in the marketplace, and amidst their followers they began to dispute and to argue about the existence or the non-existence of the gods. And after hours of contention they parted.

That evening the unbeliever went to the temple and prostrated himself before the altar and prayed the gods to forgive his wayward past.

And the same hour the other learned man, he who had upheld the gods, burned his sacred books. For he had become an unbeliever.

I found this interesting. I go back to Jung, who once said that ideas are not possessed by men, but that men are possessed by ideas. We have this delusion of individuality, that each of us has their own idiosyncratic interpretation of the world, but often, we are just voicing borrowed fragments of the collective cacophony of human ideas that dominate our thinking and take possession of our actions.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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