Darkness At Noon: A Critical Analysis Essay, Research Paper
In “Darkness at Noon”, Harold Krents vividly describes some of the everyday prejudices disabled citizens must face. Presented in an often humorous fashion, the author opens the reader’s eyes to the cruel ironies of society’s pre-conceived and inaccurate judgments, and their long reaching effects on his life.
Krents begins his essay by pointing out to the reader that he cannot see himself, and thus, often has to depend upon the viewpoints of others. He states: “To date it has not been narcissistic.” The average reader may not be aware that the word “narcissistic” means, “Excessively in love with oneself.” It is helpful for the reader to keep this first observation in mind as he continues through the article, and hears Krent’s descriptions of society’s viewpoints.
Krents points out three particular judgments that are often passed on him by the public. “There are those who assume that since I can’t see, I obviously cannot hear” then, “…others know that of course I can hear, but believe that I can’t talk” and finally “The toughest misconception of all is the view that because I can’t see, I can’t work.” It is surely an unfortunate irony, that the disabled citizen must not only deal with his own burdens, but also, the imaginary ones placed upon him by society. Krents supports his statements using appealing illustrative stories with effective imagery. Krent’s chooses to use words which are effective, and relay a definite scene to the reader. Some examples are: “…enunciating each word very carefully”, “..if the dread word is spoken, the ticket agent’s retina will immediately detach…”and “…my saint-like disposition deserted me…I finally blurted out…” He creates intense sympathy between the reader and himself by telling his stories in a personable and friendly writing voice.
After explaining these misconceptions of society, Krents begins to talk about their effect, “…one of the most disillusioning experiences of my life.” Despite a cum laude degree from Harvard College, good ranking in his Harvard Law School class and perfectly acceptable qualifications, Krents was unable to find work. Krents states that the numerous rejection letters were “not based on my lack of ability but rather on my disability.”
From this point on, the essay takes a rather downward spiral. Krents discontinues discussing his challenges in the work world without informing the reader of any outcome. The reader does not understand whether Krents ever received work or is now begging change off bystanders as he makes his living under a city bridge. Instead of clearing up these issues, Krents continues by recounting a seemingly isolated event in his own childhood. He begins the story by saying, “I therefore look forward to the day, with the expectation that it is certain to come, when employers will view their handicapped workers as a little child did me years ago…” He then describes a basketball game in his backyard and the visit of a five year old neighbor and that child’s friend. The neighbor informs the friend, “He’s blind.” After numerous missed shots by both Krents and his father, the friend responds “Which one?” Krents concludes that this is what he wishes to see in the work world. He says, “I would hope that in the near future when a plant manager is tourning the factory with the foreman and comes upon a handicapped and non-handicapped person working together, his comment after watching them work will be ‘Which one is disabled?’”
Although this is a lovely sentiment, once again, Krents does not make it clear exactly what he means. In light of Krent’s aforementioned lack of self love, it seems almost as though he doubts his own ability to work alongside a non-handicapped person and looks forward to the day when he can.
When the reader completes this essay, it feels as if a page has been skipped. The inadequate length alone is very dissatisfying, few essays attempt to force such a large theme into such a short space. There is an intrinsic desire for more information, which Krents does not provide. Especially unsettling, is the completely unresolved allegory of Krents getting a job. Many other unaddressed issues come to mind. One such issue is that of the positive influences of Krent’s life. It seems somewhat obvious that all people Krents encountered could not have been as blatantly stupid and prejudiced as those he writes about. Surely, there were events in his life that were influenced by good and kind people. It is wondered why Krents seems so intent on leaving out anything but the negative. This essay greatly needs a more balanced representation of the positive and negative in Krents life. Because of this lack, the essay leads the reader to believe that Krents must not have any positive feelings about his life at all.
Another irksome fact about this essay is its complete lack of non-personal accounts. If the author genuinely desires the reader to believe that all people are prejudiced, and all handicapped citizens are discriminated against, then perhaps he should support this thesis with something other than his own tainted viewpoints. As it is, the essay often comes off as his personal and biased opinion of life. If Krents had used some statistics to back up his statements and perhaps added the stories of his handicapped friend “George”, the essay would be much more difficult to disregard.
Yet, despite these weaknesses the essay is filled with rich and appealing details. Krent’s humor is superb, his dry sarcasm and sardonic approach to issues is quite unique. Once, when explaining why some people will not use the word blind Krent’s suggests this reason, “…they are reluctant to inform me of my condition of which I may not have been previously aware.” How refreshing!
The anecdotes Krents chooses to support his convictions are also very effective in drawing the reader into the story. Especially potent was the disturbing account of an elderly woman Krents encountered while in the hospital. She believed that Krents needed the orderly to act as an interpreter in order for him to speak to her. More unsettling than the woman’s original misconception, is the fact that when Krents voices his objections that no interpreter is necessary, the orderly still repeats Krents’ words back to the woman. “He says he doesn’t need an interpreter,” the orderly announces. It is as though Krents is not even present.
Krent’s other recollections are also effective. They all work together to demonstrate the unfounded fears and misconceptions of some members of society. Krent’s mistake is attributing the opinions of a misled few to those of the entire nation.
Although the reader is moved by Krents many stories and examples, the lack of objectivity in the essay leaves the reader with doubts. Krent’s theme – that if handicapped persons were viewed fairly their disability would be not be apparent- is one that the reader is aware of and wants to believe in. Yet, Krent’s own pessimistic tones overshadow the greater good. The reader is left with the unpalatable feeling that this essay may be nothing more than a very unconfident and dissatisfied man, attempting to pin his disappointments and failures on society, so that he may feel better about himself.
Darkness at Noon by Harold Krents