Elephant Man Essay, Research Paper
Ashley Montagu tells John Merrick s unusual story in the book that studies human dignity, The Elephant Man. The Elephant Man, an intriguing book that captures the heart of the spirit, is the story of a simple, yet unfortunate, man. It causes one to think about life s precious gifts and how often they are taken for granted. As the sad and unique story of John Merrick, the elephant man, unfolds, all are taught a lesson about strength and courage.
When Sir Frederick Treeves first discovered John Merrick in 1884, he could only be described as, a huddled mass of loneliness (14). Merrick had a horrible disease called elephantiasis. This extreme misfortune caused Merrick to be lame and his appearance to be that of a monster. With his skull the size of his waist and large quantities of skin growing randomly all over his body, no one wanted to befriend John Merrick. Everywhere he went screams of horror and looks of disgust greeted him. As a young child, his mother passed away leaving him a homeless orphan. So, because of his hideous looks, being displayed as half-man and half-elephant at a freak-show became normal. His life consisted of torment and torture for the next twenty years of his life, until Sir Frederick Treeves asked him to come and be studied at the London hospital. Soon, Treeves arranged with the head of the hospital for Merrick to live in an extra room at the hospital. After twenty years of loneliness and disrespect, John Merrick finally had a place to call home. He began to ignore his monstrous looks and finally allowed himself to act like human with feelings. With the help of his new friend Frederick Treeves, he even attended plays and went for walks. He lived happily at the hospital for almost seven more years where compassionate people frequently visited him. Even people of royalty paid him visits. No matter how ill treated he may have been, no one ever heard John Merrick complain about his hideous looks or his horrible life. With outstanding endurance, he proves to the world what a truly heroic person can do.
The Elephant Man, an intriguing and well-written book, also captures the true essence of John Merrick s life. The context of the book asserts descriptiveness and easily captures the interest of the reader. When Treeves first viewed the elephant man, he states:
The showman pulled back the curtain and revealed a bent figure crouching on a stool and covered by a brown blanket. In front of it, on a tripod, was a large brick heated by a Bunsen burner. Over this the creature was huddled to warm itself . . . this hunched-up figure was the embodiment of loneliness (47).
Descriptions such as these paint the sad but vivid picture of the life John Merrick led. While writing his story, Montagu made a point of using photographic words to set up the scene he wanted to describe. His detailed writings helped the story move along. In addition to the viewpoint of Frederick Treeves, Montagu included many other people s perspectives, including his own. Often he wrote of other peoples outlooks such as William Kendal and his Wife Mrs. Kendal. Mrs. Kendal often delivered gifts to Merrick and every summer they allowed him to stay at their summer cottage for six weeks. The Prince of Wales standpoint also adds to the story when he states; John Merrick is the classic tale of human resilience. If people could have his courage and dignity, we d all be better off. (76). The easy-to-follow writing style of Ashley Montagu makes The Elephant Man a more enjoyable book.
In every book, one can find room for improvement. Some main weaknesses in Montagu s book are the plot s chopiness and he often jumps around from different topics. An important characteristic in a book is for all the writer s ideas to flow and make sense in an entirety. Montagu would talk of how Merrick was born and then, without closing, begin discussing the events of his death. Chronological order is vital when trying to form a strong plot. The Elephant Man can also leave the reader unsatisfied because the most important details of Merrick s life are left out. A brief description of his living style is stated and then the rest of the context is a medical analization. It can be difficult understanding the terms used by doctors when one has no knowledge of the information being stated. Had Montagu been aware of details such as these, The Elephant Man could have transformed into a more enjoyable book.
The Elephant Man, written by Ashley Montagu, is a well-written look into the life of truly remarkable human being, John Merrick. This study of human dignity shows us all that life is precious. All can be taught a lesson about strength and courage from the unique story of John Merrick, the elephant man.