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Correspondence with Keith Banner

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As some of you know, while writing my major paper on The Wedding of Tom to Tom, I stumbled upon Keith Banner’s Facebook page, and sent him an email telling him how much I liked his short-story, letting him know about our course, and directing him to this blog. At his request, I thought I would share his correspondence with me.

His initial response: Wow. I love when this happens. It does not happen a lot, of course, but that story has a few fans, and truthfully it’s one of my own faves of what I’ve written. So glad you are “using it.” Thanks so much for your kind words and I look forward to reading your paper… Keith

Then last Wednesday: Amanda, someone sent me a link to your paper about my story. Just out of blue I read it yesterday. Wrote this blog about it. Thank you so much and please relay the thanks to your prof and other students… Keith

Here’s is the link to the blog he wrote about the experience of reading my paper: http://twoplustwoequalsfive-tskyinc.blogspot.com/2010/11/tom-tom-bliss.html

He apparently was very touched by my analysis, but also was impressed with what we’ve been doing as a class.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog-post that also acknowledges the monologue project!

A true example of 2 + 2 = 5: me the writer writing something wholeheartedly dedicated to reinventing the way people view characters with developmental disabilities in literature, and ten years later a writer takes what I did and gives it back to me fully reinvigorated. Wow. Another example on the same blog is four students in the class creating monologues based on some of the characters in my story that I did not give a lot of voice and agency to. Reading those monologues made me cry too.
Maybe I’m just some overemotional freak (well wait a minute: yes I am that), but also I think that this is probably a pretty normal thing that happens to writers all the time. This is just my first time. It was Amanda and the other students’ thoroughness that got me.
Thanks to ENGL 375A2 at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia…

Written by gormanda

November 29th, 2010 at 11:26 am

Meg’s Major Paper

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During and after the modernist period, female writing often produced what is called a “gendered space” (also known as “matria” and “wombspace” and will be used interchangeably in this paper). This space literally and figuratively existed as a communal place for women to inspire and assert themselves against the oppressive features of the male society and the submissive roles that it wanted to place them in. In Toni Morrison’s Sula, only Nel and Sula form a wombspace through their mental bond, their “me-ness.” Without that gendered space, the women easily become disempowered, choosing to fight each other for men rather than band together.  However, although there are women who can benefit from the idea of a gendered space; disabled characters such as Shadrack would also benefit from the idea of a community space for empowerment—one where the characters can bond through any “otherness,” rather than just gender. Through an analysis of the empowered and disempowered characters in Sula, one may establish the efficacy of the womb-space for both feminist and disability studies. Through its insistence on agency and dependence on community and support, the space then becomes an empowering device that enables the individual to assert his/her identity.

Gendered space is any space where a woman may retreat from a system designed to exploit and undermine the feminine. Here, an individual may seek her identity, looking to define it against society (without society’s pressures) and safely enabling her to be “other” without being judged for it. It is regenerative and restorative, a completely nurturing place. Further, this space may be mental or physical. The “wombspace,” or “matria,” as the “gendered space” is also often called, is centered on community, as opposed to the paternal structure of society, which, based on dominance and submission, is hierarchal. Thus, the feminine space is based more on support.

The support and identity assertion of the space is also a concept that should work within Disability Studies. Like the domestic female, the disabled individual has been continually cast into the same roles. In one role, they are infantilized; they are made to be the Tiny Tims of the world. Their only purpose, in effect, is to produce sympathy. But with that, they are also cast as fairly useless; they need a savior, some kind of redeeming, rich Uncle Scrooge figure to help them onto their crutches and out of the grave. Alternatively, there is the other side of disempowerment, which enforces that the individual’s need be overly normal.

Thus, this idea of a space where the individual can exist and assert one’s identity against the ableist society is a positive one. There needs to be a space where the disabled person can display exactly what he/she wants displayed about disability without the filter of the ableist lens cast by editing or popular belief. This will not only illuminate and educate; there is something cathartic about having your voice heard against the myriad of others, particularly when it has blended in for so long. At the same time, the metaphorical presence of this space enables one to realize one’s own identity in relation to disability within the sphere, which may have been previously subdued or erased by the push of an ableist community insistent on normalcy.

In Sula, none of the women save for Sula and Nel function within the wombspace, which is manifested through the mental bond that they share. Both women connect through their sense of otherness, be it the limitations of their sex or “the slant of life that made it possible to stretch it to its limits” (120) (i.e. the otherness in the way that they view things). After Nel’s incident with the train conductor, she has a new-found self-awareness, one that is like “a gathering in her like power, like joy, like fear” (28). This sense of “me-ness” and power is instantly juxtaposed with Nel’s meeting of Sula. This suggests that this self-awareness is ominous; with the coming of Sula, so too comes Nel’s power.  The gendered space also empowers both women’s personalities throughout the text. The two women are like opposite sides of coin; where Nel is supposedly consistent and lacking aggression, Sula is fluid. However, the shared space of their friendship (which no one permeates at first, not even their mothers) seems to promote and empower what their personalities lack. For example, Sula, who is supposedly inconsistent and fluid in her actions, mutilates her finger in order to defend Nel from a gang of boys (54). This act refocuses the girls from emphasis on the deformities of the body to an emphasis on their mental capabilities. Its act makes Nel immediately banish her clothespin, an implication that Nel’s imperfections must be reformed (through painful means). Instead, Nel begins to prefer Sula’s freer, more independent ways. Because Sula values the bond that she and Nel share, Sula also ignores the deformity that cutting off her finger may cause. In order to protect their closeness, she enables herself to completely disregard her body and commit an act that may mark her as an other. Sula’s return at the middle of the novel also shows potency. Sula’s physical presence (and assumed reassertion of the bond and space) has a regenerative, restoring effect on Nel. Even Nel’s “body [is] not immune to the magic. . .It was like getting the use of an eye back, having a cataract removed” (95). Again, the two women are relying and drawing power from one source. It allows Nel to draw back and reflect on her girlhood, empowering her to view her body as young and useful. She begins to have sex again with her husband.

It is also useful to look at the disempowerment of women within the text; that is, when looking comparatively at the women who do utilize such a space, one can visualize the effects of the gendered space. For instance, although Eva is often seen as the “powerful mother” figure, masterful in her manipulation and empowered through her matriarchy, there is nevertheless something lacking about her impressive figure. Eva lacks any kind of close relationships (as all women seem to do in Sula). Although the citizens of the Bottom supposedly glorify her leg, “unless Eva herself introduced the subject, no one ever spoke of the disability” (30). Immediately there is something about Eva’s disability that takes away from her. Despite being perpetually in view, it is not a subject talked about. This is something Eva bitterly recounts when Boyboy revisits her. He is like “everyone else” (36), avoiding reference to her disability. This suggests that there is no intimacy for Eva. The citizens of the Bottom create her leg as a show, something freakish to marvel at, but not something to commiserate with. Eva is not someone to get close to or love. Because of this, Eva’s arrogant, larger-than-life persona seems to be more of a physical performance as well, suggesting some sort of inadequacy about her person because of her disability (rather than the empowering effect that her machinations and overbearing nature should create). There are no strengthening inner relationships for her to rely on.

Sula, too, is alternatingly seen as both an empowered and disempowered figure. Although she is not physically disabled, her birthmark functions as “formal particularity, disability’s other manifestation (Garland-Thomson 119). It is constantly seen as both a good and bad image by the various citizens of the Bottom. It is a snake, a rose, or “Hannah’s ashes marking her” (Morrison 74)—as open to interpretation as Sula herself is, and like Eva’s leg, a show to the town. The Bottom reads Sula through her birthmark, it being her most striking feature ( Nel’s children immediately hone in on the “scary black thing over her eye” (97-98), as does Jude); the citizens then immediately read and interpret her through her actions, judging her peculiarity as a boundary for themselves, whether in looks or in actions. Sula then reinterprets this through the physical as well. Rather than fostering community, she reaches out with her non-normative body, letting actions do more of her speaking.

Nel furthers the image of the body as something to be judged later in novel, believing it too is a peculiarity which the younger, more beautiful girls and men judge her for. She, too, is stuck in the physical realm—in the places that society has judged that women should be in. When Jude leaves her, Nel can not find her role in society other than what society deems is the normal way to live. She contemplates the idea of bringing intimacy into her life again (after the removal of Sula and Jude), but can not focus on anything other than her body. Because they have rejected it, she too rejects her body, believing it to be “empty” and “old” (111); it is not wanted by her husband, so it is not wanted by any man and is therefore not useful. Nel’s body can not perform what she believes is the normal course for it. Therefore, if she can not pass in society through the role of the desired wife, she will take the role of the mother, whose aged malformations can at least be forgiven in lieu of its hard work.

The empowering and disempowering effects are not just for women; they can also be traced within males as well. Because of this, the space again should not be merely for women to connect on a gender sphere. Rather, the individuals should unite over any sense of otherness—gender, body, or mental—and form a community (which to them, in a sense, makes them the normative since they are their community).  Like the disempowered women in the beginning, with Shadrack, there is an immediate focus on his physical and social otherness. When he is in the hospital after his injury, what comforts him is the “neat balance” (8) of his food. Shadrack also perpetually focuses on his hands, believing them to be monstrous; the narrative mentions them several times. By drawing Shadrack’s attention to the physical realm, the reader’s attention is drawn to the physical as well. Instead of Shadrack’s food and hands, however, we dwell on his matted hair and grotesque appearance, as well as the lewd way he acts in society. Furthermore, these are a result of his mental illness. This connection makes us as wary of Shadrack as the rest of the Bottom is, effectively isolating him from the rest of the community. Because the community fears and isolates him, they also seek to define him. Once they are able to understand “the boundaries and nature of his madness, they could fit him….into the scheme of things” (15). However, it is only the nature of his disease and the bounds to which they can ignore it that the people pay attention.

Shadrack’s need for a community is also manifested in Sula. She is his only visitor, and therefore remains fixated in his mind. Thus, he retains the belt that Sula leaves behind. Shadrack remarks that “it was pleasant living with that sign of a visitor, his only one” (157). Sula’s belt becomes his only source of community; it is the representation of the ideals and understanding that he needs to share. This sense of community is furthered in the doubling that goes on within the novel. Sula and Shadrack mirror one another. He sees her as a friend because she has the “mark of the fish he loved” (156), interpreting her birthmark not as freakish but a mark of his peers. When he answers, “Always” (62), Shadrack seeks to do the same things that the gender sphere would do; he works to comfort Sula, to share his experiences and reach out to her. Unlike communication between other characters in the novel, which is often unreliable, this speech is effective. Sula realizes that “he answered a question she had not asked” (63). There is an almost silent exchange of communication between them, one that only the two of them, both of whom are afraid of death and its changes, can do. The isolation that both of them experience because of this also necessitates Shadrack’s need to reach out to Sula. In this short span, they form their own disability space, supporting and reasserting their own power (through stability) and constancy in the world. This space is not altogether different from the female wombspace; however, rather than connecting on their otherness through being subjugated and female, Shadrack and Sula relate on terms of otherness in the bodily sense, reassuring each other that they are not singular in their otherness.

Throughout Sula, the men and women both experience a sense of disempowerment, whether they are made to feel as other with their bodies, or they are pigeonholed into a pre-determined role so that society can ignore them. However, with textual representation such as the matria, a strong sense of empowerment and identity can still be experienced by both reader and author.

Written by Meg

November 22nd, 2010 at 11:27 am

Andrew, Helen, Matt, and Mairin’s Major Project

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Andrew Allingham, Helen Alston, Matt Blakley, & Mairin Martin
ENGL 375A2
Major Project Paper
11/22/10

Voices of Disability

“The Wedding of Tom to Tom” by Keith Banner presumes the limited capacity of the characters identified as “disabled” within the story. The main character, Anita, leads readers to view the residents of the home, and the disabled community in general, as incapable and dependent upon their caretakers. This story’s existence hinges upon the presence of an able-bodied narrator to tell the tale of these disabled individuals. By writing four different monologues utilizing four other voices from “The Wedding of Tom to Tom,” the understanding of disability is broadened, providing a more progressive view of disability.
Kate’s monologue reframes the story of the Toms into a narrative that is actually theirs, as opposed to Anita’s story that uses them as devices for her own epiphany. Through Anita, Kate is portrayed as a villain, but Kate’s monologue asserts that she does care about these two men. She is, however, a slave to the institution: she falls into the trap of assuming them to be without agency and acts in the interest of their physical safety. Kate’s monologue brings to light the problematic nature of the relationship between the caretaker and the disabled individual in disability narratives. The context of the group home forces her into the role of a parent.
These monologues predominantly take place within the context of the group home, but the character of Roland takes the role of disability outside the home to see it in the able-bodied community. Although Banner’s narrator mentions that Roland is on disability leave from work because of a back injury, Anita does not identify her father as being “disabled,” but rather “on disability” (pg 61). When Roland becomes the narrator in his own monologue, he is able to go into further detail about the pain he is in and how he is ostracized from his workplace as well as from his marriage. Roland’s psychic powers are also read as disabling within the monologue because his ex-wife states that she is leaving him because his abilities make him seem crazy. In the reality of the monologue, his wife’s real reason for leaving is because of his physical disability and her own pride. By vocalizing these problems, Roland becomes less of a tool for Anita within the scheme of the story.
Larry gives readers a perspective upon what being disabled means to a mentally disabled character. Within the actual story of “The Wedding of Tom to Tom,” Anita seems to have preconceived ideas about the normative behaviors of disabled people. These are not necessarily her ideas: Kate’s files and instructional videos have told her what to expect. Larry’s monologue shows both his internal process and his perception of normalcy, as well as how he understands the rest of the characters within the group home to function. Although Larry is a disabled character, he still grew up with the same socially constructed ideas of what it is to be normal. Because of this, he views the people he lives with through a similar lense to Anita. Larry utilizes Tom A.’s departure as a mode of explaining his own agoraphobia, as Anita uses the Toms to examine her relationship with her boyfriend.

Tom A.’s monologue gives a voice to a completely nonverbal person. Even though Tom A. is a significant character, he is not depicted within the story beyond his physical description and actions. By giving Tom A. an internal narrative, it legitimizes his relationship with Tom B. and disallows the argument that their relationship is only a symptom of their respective disabilities. As a nonverbal character, it is assumed in the story that Tom A. has no agency, except within the context of sexual situations. Even so, that agency is qualified by the fact that Kate and others believe him to be incapable of making his own decisions. The sensory details that he conjures up express that he has a higher level of intelligence than is attributed to him by his caretakers. When we see him functioning at more elevated cognitive level, readers begin to understand the complexities of interaction that are available to him through the intensity of his sensory experiences.

These four monologues in conjunction alter the limited perception of disability in the original version of “The Wedding of Tom to Tom.” If they were read in concert with one another, the reader would have a more rich understanding of the nuances of the disabled experience. The monologues take stock disabled characters, which are often the only representation of disability in literature, and humanize them.

#1: Kate

by Helen Alston
[Lights up. Kate Anderson-Malloy, Group Home Manager, rifles through a filing cabinet, stage right. She finds the file folders that she was looking for and walks toward a desk, center stage. The desk is full of office clutter: a telephone, a stapler, a coffee mug, manila envelopes. KATE sits down in the desk chair. Looking out at the audience, she smiles, nods, opens the top folder.]

KATE: Yes. All of the paperwork should be going through tomorrow. We’re pretty excited about the prospect of Juanita moving in over here. Makes the home feel a little bit more diverse. Having another girl will be nice! We should have realized sooner that two Toms was a bad idea. Too much of a good thing, maybe.

[KATE laughs, but does not seem convincingly amused. She looks down at her paperwork and rifles through the stack.]

KATE: It isn’t just a matter of trading them up, Tom A. for Juanita. We’ve got to have records. Franklin Street wanted me to switch their folders when we switched their rooms and just change the name of the home in the margin, but I want this to be a professional transaction. This is a business, and we have to have some kind of record of this move. We’ve got some real medical reasons for having Tom A. placed over there. His brother, Mr. Allen, is very concerned by the recent… events, we’ll say, that have been witnessed over here. And that’s understandable. We are a business that Mr. Allen chose to invest something very personal in—his own brother!—and we are not able to provide the kind of facilities that Tom A. requires.

[She finds what she was looking for in the folder and holds her finger up to a spot on the page. She opens a desk drawer and pulls out her reading glasses.]

KATE: Yes—maybe that was part of the reason why the Orient home shut down. Other than the name, you know. [She laughs.] They were more… extreme, perhaps, in their preventative methods than we are over here. It says here that they started off by separating Tom A. and Tom B. during the day and seating them away from each other at mealtimes, but that wasn’t enough. The head caregiver over there wrote that they were “obsessed with each other’s presences,” which sounds like them, doesn’t it?

[KATE pauses, shakes her head, and shuts TOM A.’s folder.]

KATE: Toward the end of their stay at Orient, it seems like there may have been some, ah, shock therapy. Of course, you must understand that that was how things of that nature were dealt with back then. Behavior of a, ah, homosexual nature…

[She pulls out another file folder from the stack.]

KATE: …it just wasn’t acceptable back then. [She pauses.] I think we’ve been pretty tolerant. Certainly no ECT here, no sir. Much more homeopathic. We just give Tom A. and Tom B. their medicine and call it a day. We’ve got all sorts here.

[KATE pulls out a manila envelope and starts packaging the file folders.]

KATE: But yeah, maybe we’ve been a little too tolerant. Really, I should have seen it coming. After the way they were treated in the Orient home, we didn’t want to scare the poor dears. Tom A. is totally nonverbal, except for his screaming. We were worried that the shocks totally unhinged him. So for a while, we let some things happen. At first we would just catch them kissing in the living room on that love seat while everyone else was watching T.V. Larry would start pointing and gabbing on and on about Tom and Tom. My line was that they could kiss, but only on the cheek. People do that in public all the time in Europe. I figured that if we gave a little bit of ground, that little bit of affection might be enough for them.

[She licks the adhesive part of the envelope shut and closes the metal catch. With a thick marker, she begins to address the envelope.]

KATE: They couldn’t just leave it there, though. Like I said, totally obsessed with each other. First there was Tom B. putting his hand in Tom A.’s lap at dinner. They were always touching each other, but it wasn’t always totally inappropriate—do you know what I mean? That’s when we started doing the structured alone time. They were allowed to sit across from each other at the table, and they could do crafts together, but they couldn’t be on the love seat at the same time. The Toms seemed sad about it, of course. Those two sweethearts really are fond of each other.

[KATE pauses and takes a sip from a mug sitting on the desk.]

KATE: I think it was Raquel who was on duty when they locked themselves in the bathroom together. She beeped me, just like I tell all my staff members to do in an emergency, but we didn’t have the right tool to get the hinges off the door fast enough. They went through a whole bottle of lotion… [She shakes her head.] We’ve tried everything, you see. Just recently it’s come to my attention that Tom A. has been sneaking into Tom B.’s room after lights-out and performing dangerous sexual acts upon Tom B. I’m talking anal penetration. We just can’t have that kind of behavior here.

[She opens a desk drawer and pulls out a roll of stamps. She peels one off and sticks it to the envelope as she speaks.]

KATE: That was when I called their guardians. I never can seem to get in touch with Tom B.’s, but I left a message on the woman’s home phone saying there was a medical matter concerning her uncle, Tom Bennett, and hopefully she’ll call back. Mr. Allen, Tom A.’s brother, is very involved in his care. He seemed concerned that his brother’s, ah, actions, shall we say, might incur some legal ramifications for him if Tom B. were to be injured in any way. And you know, I think he’s right to worry. If these guys aren’t able to live on their own in society, how can they be making these choices for themselves? I understand getting attached, and I’m certainly not against two people loving, even if they are two men. I think it’s sweet that they want to be around each other so much, I truly do.

[KATE stands up, envelope in hand.]

KATE: But I am not okay with these sweet little men hurting each other like this. This is beyond love: they’re obsessed, and I think it’s time to wean them off of each other. It was cute when it was just holding hands and kissing cheeks, but this is not a healthy way for our residents to be relieving tension. They’re setting a bad example. What if Damon and Larry start going at it? What will we do?

[KATE moves as if to walk off stage, but stops and turns back toward the audience.]

KATE: I mean, the Toms can still see each other. We can have, like, play dates with the Franklin Street home, structured ones, so they can say hi every once in a while. I would really like that: we need to have more of a sense of community between the homes in the area, I think. It’ll be sad to see Tom A. go, but this is what’s best, Mr. Allen and I agreed. [She pauses.] And I really hope Tom A. will be okay. He’s a nice little guy.

[ANITA appears, stage left, and holds out her hand for the envelope. KATE hands it to her and they walk off stage together. The lights go out.]

END

#2: ROLAND SIMMONS, L.S.P. (Licensed Spiritualist Practitioner)

Matt Blakley

[Lights on. ROLAND is dressed casually, looking under the hood of Anita’s car. He seems perplexed as he pokes around the engine, hoping to find something loose or broken. After his last attempt, he steps backwards, lets out a big sigh, and faces the audience.]

ROLAND: I knew my wife was going to die. On Sundays she and Anita would sit on our couch, my wife leaning into its arm cushion, Anita anchored by her legs folded Indian style, and they would cross-stitch. The two would laugh about the boys in Anita’s middle school, or what Cathy, my wife’s divorced sister, said about her most recently failed date. I’d skim the shiny pages of Popular Mechanics and pretend to watch television, instead staring at my wife’s hand pierce the taut cloth with a steady, thin needle. She’d usually follow the pattern of some cheesy American slogan like, “Live, Laugh, Love,” or a bible verse, even. But one Sunday she sewed a bouquet of flowers. It had a pink ribbon tied around the base of the evenly cut stems, and each flower’s head rested together to create the perfect ode to the landscape they were plucked from. It was that day—that pattern—that swallowed me into the stomach of the future. Its flavor still clamps my tongue in the middle of the night while I dream. It was a place where I saw her death.

[ROLAND walks over to the car, takes one last glance at its intestines, and forcefully shuts the hood]

ROLAND: I told her while she was taking a shower the next morning before work. I have no clue what prompted me to do it then. Something about the sound and steam of the hot water hitting her pale skin, or the echo of her empty “Good Morning” while she washed her face. When I told her, she went ballistic. As if she knew it, too. She forcefully drew back the opaque shower curtain and stood there naked with the water pooling the dip of her right clavicle that would then slither down her body to find the drain. Her hair was still lathered with shampoo. After staring at one another for a couple seconds, she wiped her eyes and yelled at me like my mother. It was like every horrible thought in her mind regarding my life and the way I lived it came bursting out like the stream of the morning piss I took when I broke the news. When she was finished, she closed the curtain and cried for a good ten minutes. After I got home from dropping Anita off from school, she had left a note on the dining room table that said, “Get some help.” We divorced soon after, and she took Anita.

I used to just think I had an overactive imagination, or some sort of sensory overload or whatever. But I know I am psychic. For months I even attributed my visions to all of the different pain medicines I take for my back. It’s not my fault though. It is my damn doctor’s. It seems like every month I go in for a check-up he wants to syringe some of my spinal fluid out for more testing, or wants to shove another damn pill down my throat. My M/T/W/TH/F pill container refuses to fit anymore pills. Just like my bloodstream. A couple of weeks ago I was changing Anita’s oil and as I drained the old, diluted black liquid, my body began to shake like I was on one of those wooden roller coasters while my eyesight evaporated into the canals of my veins. The streams were translucent, revealing the morphine compounds trying to dissolve into my blood, whose sharp edges would part the protein tube of each vein like a dorsal fin.

I awoke still under Anita’s Toyota Corolla with used oil oozing down my face. While I hoisted myself atop our old dining room table that I now use as a workbench, I wiped my face with a rag and felt a rusty resistance penetrate every vein in my body. I figured it had to be the pills. The chemicals. How it fucks with my nervous system. How it fucked my life up—my job, my marriage. She claims she was unhappy, but I know my wife left me because she was too proud. She couldn’t bear to be with a man on disability. Especially a man on disability that claims he can see the future.

[ROLAND opens the driver door and sits down in the seat, still facing the audience. He smiles and angrily sounds the car horn for 10 seconds. Once finished, he remains sitting down, facing the audience.]

ROLAND: At least I have Anita, though. She moved in with me after her mother died in a taxicab accident. The driver fell asleep at the wheel. It was a blessing and a curse, Anita’s homecoming. I had no clue how to talk to her for the first few weeks because her mother had brainwashed her into thinking that I had gone mental—that and the fact that Anita was a teenager. What the hell do I know about teenagers? When I was a teenager I worked 2 jobs and went to school. “Never saw the daylight,” I would tell her when she would whine about something petty. About some dumbass she was dating, or about how she had no idea what to do after she graduated.

I won’t tell her this, but last week, while I was unloading the dishwasher, I saw her receiving an award. She was handed one of those golden awards that requires a speech. She was wearing a dress sculpted out of pink silk and her hair was all done up like a cheerleaders and she just looked happy. I was there in the audience, I think. I was watching her, until the respectful claps from the crowd faded into the cracks and clings of the plates and cups I broke when I fell limp into the spiky fingers of the dishwasher’s bottom drawer. I think the broken glass did more harm to me than I did to them, honestly. I had to get stitches. And subsequently more fucking pain medicine. But regardless of my small injuries, the point is, Anita will be famous one day. I saw it. When she graduates, I’ll tell her, too. At least then if she leaves me hopefully it will be for Hollywood. At least then I’ll know she will be happy.

[ROLAND stands up and shuts the door. Immediately after, Anita opens the garage door and ROLAND joins her in the house. Lights out.]

END

#3: Larry

by Andrew Allingham

[Interior: assisted living home. LARRY’S room – day.]

Larry rocks back and forth in his rocking chair, pictures of big breasted women surround him on the wall, held fast with strips of black electrical tape.

LARRY: I am not going out anywhere today. The sun is too bright and the air is too smoky. It’s just too unpredictable outside today. The thing is that I have asthma and if I go anywhere today, I could have an attack and would not have a chance. Really, it’s in my best interest to just stay right here just in case. Here I have pictures to look at and a rocking chair and I know everybody and there is no reason to leave. Anita said that she wouldn’t smoke around me. If there is smoke inside then it is no better than the outside. Anita is very nice, much nicer than Racquel. She smokes inside and I have to keep my distance from her. The air is too thick when she is around and I could choke at any moment.

There was a time when I didn’t live here. I was a part of society and I had a job. Back when I used to have hair, I didn’t need anyone to look after me and I left the house when I felt like it. I didn’t have to ask about whether or not I had to go anywhere to prepare myself ahead of time. I went for walks in the park. I ate at restaurants. I saved room for dessert. I didn’t get anxious at the thought of being left vulnerable, open to the vultures flying circles overhead. I shopped for groceries. I was normal enough to fit in, to pass off as everyone else. It didn’t change all at once. It gradually seeped in. I stopped going out for drinks with friends. I called in sick to work. My asthma started acting up. I stopped getting the morning paper. I couldn’t breathe. I drew the curtains closed. I cut the cord to my phone and alarm clock. Locked up tight in a box and closed off is how they found me. They ran test after test and tried to find the right pill. I stopped belonging in the world, but at least I don’t have to keep pretending that I do.

Even here I don’t quite fit in, but not because I am the freak. I go to group meetings with the others, but I used to be normal and they didn’t. I just have asthma and it gets hard to breathe sometimes. Normal is using a rocking chair to rock back and forth. I used to go out to the movies and I’d buy a coca-cola and popcorn with extra butter and salt. Here I can sit in my rocking chair and nothing is expected of me, just like the others. I am able to pass as normal here. I am treated like everyone else. Normal is different here than it is outside. Normal isn’t an act and you don’t have to wear a mask. I can say more than “Mona Lisa” and I try to make a good first impression. I brush my teeth after I drink soda and not the other way around. Normal is being able to carry on a conversation on any topic at the drop of a hat. Normal is never letting the conversation lull. We built these walls to get away from the outside, so I don’t see why we’d want to leave them.

They are making Tom A. leave, but not me. So much could happen out there and you would have no way to protect yourself. You could get attacked by bees or robbed and you would have to run away without having the chance to stretch first or limber up. It could rain when you’ve forgotten to bring an umbrella. Why they would make anyone leave is a mystery to me. It is just so big outside that it is hard to breathe. There is so much pressure to live when there is very little living going on. Just thinking about it makes me feel a wheeze coming on. I can hear my lungs blow a quiet whistle tune. Sometimes I wake from a dream of the outside world in the middle of the night, and it’s like a choked rendition of some jazz song I can’t quite remember being played by an out of tune brass section. I have to cough to keep it from taking away my breath. Then I see the four walls and the roof over my head and I can be calm again. Everything is safe, and everything is in its place. There is just too much space that imprisons you out there. Here you know what happens and you can control it and be free to do as you please. You don’t have to worry anymore. If everything is familiar then there is no reason to panic and if there is no reason to panic, then everyone is calm.

Tom A. is a little slow, so maybe he does not know the dangers. Maybe not knowing the danger makes it easier to move around. I do not know how Tom B. will be able to live without his friend Tom A. Especially since Tom A. will be out there where anything could happen. They are always together, separable only by the nagging of the nurses. I try to tell Tom A. and Tom B. that they shouldn’t go anywhere alone, so that they don’t get caught with their guards down, but they don’t listen and they just sneak off without thinking about what might happen. Maybe Tom A. being around Tom B. is what keeps them from worrying. Tom B. speaks slow and with a slur and Tom A. doesn’t talk at all, but they are still friends and are able to talk to one another. Making Tom A. leave changes the surroundings. It will still be familiar, but not the same as before. If anyone has to leave, I suppose it’s better him than me. I am not going out anywhere today.

[ANITA enters and takes LARRY out of the room for breakfast.]

END

#4: Tom A.

by Mairin Martin

[TOM A is sitting in the living room on a dingy sofa somewhere between grey and light blue, almost covered in unidentifiable stains. The room is bare with the exception of a set of poorly made ply-wood bookshelves teetering under the weight of several plastic storage bins label things such as “floor cleaner”, “wash cloths”, “diapers”, and “crayons”. A small television set with bunny ears sits on a lop-sided microwave cart, a piece of folded cardboard stuck under the front-left leg in an attempt to steady it. The television plays a black and white Western. A woman sits on the floor attempting a jig-saw puzzle. When TOM A’s monologue comes over the speakers as a voice-over and the actor moves and follows the stage direction as if he were speaking. When his voice is heard and when he moves, no one listens or acknowledges him at all.]

TOM A:

I am sitting on the sofa and watching t.v. with Tom and everything is good. Do you know what I mean by good? Like really good. Like I can feel his hand and where every line on it leaves a tiny space for the air to get to my skin. But the air is hot so it’s not really like air, not like a breeze is flowing in onto my skin, but I just know, I can tell that his hand is a tiny bit away from me there. I wish his hand could cover all of me. It is so warm. I love his hand and I wish it were so big and that is didn’t have any little lines so that he could cover me and no air could touch me in between the cracks and every bit of me could be covered by his warm, warm hand. I can remember the first time Tom held my hand. We was sitting on the old sofa at our old home, just like we are now, and he just reached right over and grabbed it. Normally that would have scared me. But his hand was just so warm I couldn’t help it.

I let him hold my hand.

And then I loved him.

I didn’t used to like people to touch me before Tom.

[He lets go of TOM B’s hand and holds himself in a tight embrace, rocking slightly back and forth looking down towards the floor.]

When I was little my mom used to hold me but her hands were never clean and warm like Tom’s. Her hands were rough and her long finger nails frightened me. They would get caught on my knobby clothes and I was scared that maybe one day they would get caught on me- tear a little snag on my skin just like they did on my Batman pajamas.

[He shifts his arms in and out of the sleeves of his Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, pulling his elbows towards his waist then slipping his arms back into the sleeves.]

Once, when I was at my old home, before Tom came, one of the ladies tried to wash my face. She was trying to scrape my skin off. The washcloth looked fluffy but I knew better. It was made of steel wool. It bit me and scratched me and tried to get rid of white skin and make me walk around pink like a raw baby bird. So I screamed and ran away to the safety of my cot. The blanket on my bed is so soft. It is water. It is warm cotton air coming through the Magnolia and Mamosa trees to wrap my prickling, burning skin in comfort. Breeze. It is breeze and it is water and it is perfect. Tom’s skin is like this too. His skin against mine is water. It is the perfect amount of hot. It is the air coming from a fire of oak and cedar on a night in mid May when the mosquitos aren’t out yet. The air carries nothing but the oak and cedar. Thick air. Wood air. Spice air. Soft, worked leather air. It rolls through the night, unfurling from the sticky flames to wrap my bubbling, bursting skin in comfort.

[TOM A slowly moves back to an upright position and takes TOM B’s hand once more, stares at him for a moment then goes into a whisper delivering his next lines]

There was a time when I once didn’t love Tom. When I couldn’t. They sent me into a room…

[TOM A shudders and lets go of TOM B’s hand, bolting up onto his feet and standing at attention.]

When I left the room my skin was running away from me. There were bright pink and yellow pipe cleaners shooting through my veins. They were boring out of my armpits and kneecaps and tunneling from my temples. They crawled from under my finger nails and spelled out messages on my arms in the lose parts that left, the collapsed tunnels under my skins: NO NO NO NO NO NO TOUCH TOUCH TOUCH NO NO NO TOM TOM TOM NO NO TOUCH NO NO TOM

[He presses down with his pointer finger on his forearm with a brutality, tracing the images of the words he repeats, slowly and poignantly.]

I couldn’t touch Tom anymore for a long time. A really long time. When he tried to hold my hand I screamed. I could feel the pipe cleaners resurfacing and the malicious furry ends sticking to my blood and sucking it from my cells so that they started to deflate. I could feel them dying and I could feel the emptiness. And the emptiness was pain. The deep wood air had disappeared from Tom. I thought that if it could come back, then it could fill re-inflate my cells and fix them. Tom could make me full again; I knew it. But I didn’t know how it could happen because those pipe cleaners terrified me. I couldn’t move when they were in me. All I could do was scream. The places that they especially loved to poke and seep from were the charred circles from cigars twisted and ground into my back. They were another reason that I ran from my mother’s touch…

That smoggy, rotting scent of cigar smoke…They looked like slugs and they smelled like mud and bowling allies. When that scent snuck under the door of my room and seeped into my pores I could smell the pain, the death, my skin would cry for me to run away. It knew what was coming. But I couldn’t run. So I would scream. And then I would be punished. The glowing, seething slug-like roll crept towards me through the darkness and emptiness of the room. It latched onto my back and spit fire into my muscles. My skin cried out so I cried out but this only made the slug burrow deeper. My screams peopled the darkness and I was left alone with them and with my throbbing scars and with the residue of the embers from the cigar as it slithered away.

[TOM A stares ahead blankly as he sinks back onto the sofa and reaches for TOM B’s hand, resting his head on TOM B’s shoulder.]

END

Written by Helen

November 21st, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Gregory Corso’s “In Praise of Neanderthal Man”

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This is the poem of which the Flying Words Project video is meant to be a loose translation. Scroll down to pg. 194 on Google Books to read it!

Written by Helen

November 5th, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Samuel Beardslee’s Formal Post on Jim Ferris’ “Poet of Cripples”

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we carry within, our hidden void,
a place for each to become full, whole,
room of our own, space to grow in ways
unimaginable to the straight
and the narrow, the small and similar,
the poor, normal ones who do not know
their poverty. (lines 6-12)

A common theme which has appeared in several pieces of Literature throughout this semester is the idea of a disabled character bringing about an epiphany for another main character.  The concept behind “the epiphany” implies that a certain ignorance is in place before an event occurs which illuminates the situation and matures that person’s thoughts on the subject in question.  This is important to distinguish in disability readings, as how this epiphany is handled determines what is ultimately said about the disabled character’s role.  Jim Ferris, in “Poet of Cripples”, focuses, among other things, on the ideal role of the disabled individual in life.  He also addresses another problem people have both in and out of fiction.  People wish to gain an understanding of the world around them, and this is exceedingly difficult due to the innumerable inconsistencies and paradoxes that one encounters.  When confronted with an abnormality, people react in different ways, however, these reactions are simply a process in which we “make sense” of the world around us.  Unfortunately, the definition of “abnormal” is becoming grayer with each passing year, which can lead to a treatment of disabled persons as something “other” and “unapproachable.”

One of the more difficult obstacles in the way of human understanding is understanding another human.  This is to say that sympathy and, much more so, empathy, while difficult to consistently utilize, are essential in making sense of humanity, not only in terms of society, but also to the metaphysical concepts of the state of being.  Finding connections and similarities between two people is daunting and sometimes risky, as finding these points of common understanding can lead others deeper into one’s own psyche than one is comfortable with.  This is “the hidden void” mentioned in Ferris’ poem, a place which we desperately wish to fill, and certainly try, but, more often than not, fail.   Filling this void seems to be impossible by oneself, so we turn to others to help fill it, however we do not know if the other is going to help fill the void or to expand its emptiness.  So we search for ways to gauge whether or not another with help or harm by finding points of similarity or complementarity.  This is difficult enough on a psychological level.  When someone is disabled, suddenly their outlook on life is different than the majority of the world, which makes them harder to connect with.  At least, this is the initial thought process regarding anyone who is “other.”

What Ferris is trying to convey in this poem is the lines of connection, of sympathy and empathy, that can be made between all people, whether they are “abnormal” or “normal”.  In fact, he points to those who are “normal”  and calls them ignorant, “the poor, normal ones who do not know/ their poverty.”  By calling attention to the fact that disabled persons, by virtue of seeing the world through a lens that far from what is considered “the norm”, are, in fact, more in tune with the answer of the great question of humanity than “normal” people.  However, Ferris does not say this as a slam against those who are not disabled.  On the contrary, he is calling everyone broken, hobbling, empty, and longing.  All disabled in their own way, trying to make sense of the world that seems to want to make sense but then throws a pink elephant into the room.  He is saying that, in our quest to reach our own epiphanies, the “other” lens may be what we are missing.  It is in this way that Ferris shows the ideal representation of a disabled person’s role in another’s life.  Showing that both characters in question are human, and therefore both searching, in their own way, for fulfillment, is the best way in which to portray any disabled person interacting with someone else.  Likewise, if all people are disabled, then it should be of utmost importance to ensure that the “other”, since it is a concept which isolates and degrades those grouped into it, does not get in the way of finding that understanding that which we all are looking for.

Written by Spyden

November 5th, 2010 at 1:08 am

Katherine Sullivan’s Formal Post on Laurie Clements Lambeth’s “Hypoesthesia”

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“Are you touching me,

I thought to ask, but instead watched as he kissed each part and caressed

and did what we do when I feel right. I didn’t say          I can’t feel that,

but let his hands and mouth travel.

For the first time in my life I let go of my body a while and looked down

with fascination at the man I love in the process of loving me —” (lines 11-16)

Laurie Clements Lambeth’s poem titled “Hypoesthesia” presents three unique perspectives on disability that are captured in a single, vulnerable moment between a disabled woman and her lover.  In this scene, the female speaker cultivates a new definition of disability (that our class has not yet examined), offers an unguarded view of sexuality in a life driven by disability, and experiences the clarity of viewing the self through the eyes of one’s lover.

The excerpt above highlights the exact moment in which the speaker realizes that her body is not defined by her disability.  She is finally able to “let go” of her body and notice that her lover appreciates her exactly as she is.  This acceptance of self is significant in that the speaker learns to experience the pleasure of sex in an entirely new way.  She no longer feels inadequate for not being able to feel the delicate sensations that her lover draws on her skin, and in turn finds pleasure in her lover’s enjoyment.

This poem also describes a shift in the speaker’s attitudes towards sex in the lens of her disability. Up to this moment, the speaker’s entire life, and all of her sexual experiences have been “senseless,” meaning both without logic or thought, and without the feeling of sensations.  This epiphany allows the speaker to finally actively participate in sex, instead of allowing it to happen to her against her will.  Previously, the speaker was not able to actually feel what her lover did to express his feelings through her body, but she instead grows to experience it by watching and listening to her lover.

Lastly, this unique poem cultivates a new definition that our class has not yet come across. Not a non-normative functioning of the mind, or a broken or painful aspect of the body – but the absence of feeling, be that potential feeling bad (like some of the other disabilities we have studied) or good (like the sensations of the speaker’s lover).   In this way, her skin is essentially blind to texture and pressure, but not to temperature, as we see in the line “with each kiss planted along my belly, to feel only the cool afterward.”  This kind of disability connects to many other neutrality-based disabilities that our class has not yet studied, such as emotional disorders that render individuals incapable of processing other’s emotions.

The speaker’s disconnect from the traditional physical senses of her body lead her to a significant epiphany of how she views her own body, sexuality within that body, and disability.  This poem contributes significantly to our class’ on-going discussion of disability because it introduces the complications of sexuality and self-identity.

Written by Katherine Sullivan

November 4th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Meg’s (Last!) Formal Blog Post

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I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted

To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.

How free it is, you have no idea how free—

The peacefulness is so big it dazzles you,

And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.

It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them

Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.

Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe

Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.

Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.

They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,

Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,

A dozen red lead sinkers around my neck.

—Plath, “Tulips”

In this section of “Tulips,” Plath contrasts the peacefulness of death and the hospital with the vividness of life and tulips (which she equates together). Through this, the tulips also become a symbol of Plath’s otherness. Like Plath, they stand out, unable to blend in and exist in her desired world.

In the first stanza, Plath details her desire for nothingness. She mentions lying “with her hands turned up,” a motion that implies both surrender and death. Plath would rather give up to the emptiness and expansiveness of the hospital rather than maintain health. Ironically, this “surrender” doesn’t imprison Plath; to her it is a freeing motion. There is also the idea of bodily transcendence within the stanza. In order to attain what is a heaven to her (and exist on a plane that “dazes”), Plath must take on the role of the disciple and give up her earthly possessions. The “peacefulness asks” only for her to take on a nametag and give up a few “trinkets.” This religious ideal is furthered through the “communion tablet” at the end of the stanza, another symbol of the body given up for a chance at heaven. With this image in mind, then, the hospital becomes a holy place of worship, and the dead those who are truly penitent. This is how Plath would like to exist—since she can not function in the vivid world of the tulips, she would rather experience the bland nothing.

The second stanza sharply contrasts with the first. It details life against death, and where the first stanza comes across as expansive and white, this one is vivid and sharp. Color is key to this poem; the whiteness of the hospital implies sterility and death. There is a nothingness and peace that Plath hopes for. However, the tulips “correspond” to her wounds. The red of the tulips suggests blood, and therefore life. The tulips are also immediately invasive; they are “too red” and their color is “sudden.” Their color is already out of place in the sterile hospital. “Wound” here also probably applies to Plath’s depression; the tulips “correspond” to it because they remind her of the life that she does not want. Like the tulips, it is a gift to her that has been given in the stead of her hospital stay (which should invite emptiness and possibly death).

In this way, the tulip also functions as a symbol of her disease; its bright otherness against the sterility of the hospital is a reminder of Plath’s otherness. She can not exist (or does not believe she can exist) properly in the outside world. She stands out. However, she can not exist in the “empty” world of the hospital either; she is like the tulips, too harsh. Because they are reminders of her depression and of her life outside the hospital, they are a disruption and take her away from health. So, rather than be at the peace that she assumes she will be at, she is “weigh(ed) down” and “upset.”

“Tulips” shows a striking contrast between the sterile world of the hospital and the vivid life of the real world (as shown with the gift of the flowers). Through this, the reader is also able to glimpse a sense of Plath’s otherness and inability (or at least the belief in her inability) to happily exist in society.

Written by Meg

November 4th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Andrew’s Formal Blog Post on Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”

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“Put it back on,” she said.
“Not yet,” he murmured, setting it on its foot out of her reach. “Leave it off for awhile. You got me instead.”
She gave a little cry of alarm but he pushed her down and began to kiss her again. Without the leg she felt entirely dependent on him. Her brain seemed to have stopped thinking altogether and to be about some other function it was not very good at.

In this scene from the end of “Good Country People,” Flannery O’Connor uses the prosthetic leg as both a narrative prosthesis and a literal prosthesis in the narrative. We see behind the false facades that the two characters are outwardly portraying, the simple Bible salesman and the cold philosopher, and are able to see the true ugliness of the situation.

In one sense, Hulga uses her prosthetic leg to help normalize her mobility impairment, while in another sense, she uses the prosthetic to distance herself from her family and other “good country people.” By distancing herself physically, she is also able to differentiate the mental superiority she holds over those around her. Losing the prosthetic causes her to feel vulnerable both mobility-wise and in regards to her distinctive “ugliness” that she flaunts towards her mother.

Hulga acknowledges that “she felt entirely dependent on him,” after the leg was out of her reach, which forces her to have faith in Manely to put it back on. It also shows that she believed in her prosthetic leg, rather than holding disdain for it and using it as a social crutch, which completely casts away her faith, or complete and total lack thereof, and life philosophy.

In portraying Hulga as a cold, nihilistic, disabled person, O’Connor puts her character in contrast with the “whole,” simple Manely Pointer, who turns out to be even uglier and unbelieving than she. The moment of grace that O’Connor works towards shows that Hulga’s prosthetic leg does not hold her back from society, but rather Hulga is giving in to the stigma and letting it repress her.

Written by aallingh

November 3rd, 2010 at 11:02 am

Helen’s formal blog post on Banner’s “The Wedding of Tom to Tom”

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“I mean, I’m not against love. I’m not against human sexuality. I’m against obsession. Those two are obsessed. I mean. I talked to Mr. Allen, Tom A.’s guardian last night on the phone, and he told me they’ve been like that since Orient, since they were boys, and it’s hard to stop that kind of behavior. I mean, you can’t. So we’re just gonna move Tom A. over to Franklin Street… I mean, what I’m afraid of is that they are gonna end up hurting each other. Physically…when I walked in on them the other morning, Tom A., excuse me, but Tom A. was anally penetrating Tom B.”
The way she said “penetrating,” I had to laugh.

Kate Anderson-Malloy, the head caretaker in Keith Banner’s The Wedding of Tom to Tom, draws a line between what she perceives as the difference between “love” and “obsession” when she decides to have Tom A. and Tom B. separated. She cites no institutional regulation that states that the two cannot be allowed to be together, nor does Tom A.’s guardian imply that he requires of Kate that the behavior be stopped. Kate’s assumption—that these two “retarded” people cannot make decisions for themselves despite their seeming lucidity and competence—is complicated by the fact that Tom and Tom are in a homosexual relationship. The implied judgment behind Kate’s decision is that Tom A. and Tom B. are only together because their mental illnesses impair their ability to choose “appropriate” partners. Kate categorizes the two Tom’s “deviant” sexual behavior as symptoms of their greater instability.

All of the caretakers, including Anita and Kate in the quoted passage, seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of Tom A. and Tom B. having sex. It is impossible, here, to separate their discomfort of seeing two “retarded” people having sex from their discomfort with homosexuality generally. Anita laughs at the idea of the two men having anal sex, as do her coworkers. None of them speak out against the move, but neither have they separated Tom and Tom with much decisiveness in the past: the two men’s desire for each other seems to be accepted as a kind of eccentricity that is indulged in the context of the institution, but widely acknowledged to be socially unacceptable. The two Toms are treated like children, as if they were five and had been caught kissing chastely on the playground: it is cute, but ultimately inappropriate. Tom and Tom are not allowed to make this decision for themselves not because they are too young, but presumably because they are “too retarded” to choose an “appropriate” partner.

Because the two Tom’s sexuality does not manifest in more “normal” heterosexual ways, Tom and Tom wanting to be together is regarded as “obsession” rather than “love.”  “Obsessive” behavior is something quantifiable, a commodity that Kate can legitimately seek to control or eradicate in her patients because it is a sign of mental instability. Kate talks of being afraid of the two men “hurting each other,” but she also mentions that Tom A.’s guardian said Tom and Tom had been together for years without much incident. Anita never mentions either of the Tom’s guardians speaking out about having the Toms separated. Kate’s decision to move them apart, then, becomes a matter of her own discomfort.

Although Kate admits that “it’s hard to stop that kind of behavior. I mean, you can’t,” she endeavors to end it regardless because there is some unspoken difference between what the Toms are doing and what two people in love would do. Their love is, to the caretakers, adorable up to a point, but it is only taken seriously inasmuch as Kate believes they are capable of hurting each other. Their homosexual relationship is labeled as “obsession,” a term which, for Kate, changes their relationship into a symptom of mental illness, a quantifiable thing which she has control over and plans to eradicate.

Written by Helen

November 3rd, 2010 at 9:27 am

Spider and Smart

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In class today we talked about whether or not it was Spider’s fault that he killed his mother.  We talked about how determining fault is a sticky task since it’s nearly impossible to separate Spider from his mental disability.  Amanda suggested that without the mental disability, Spider wouldn’t be who he was so it’s impossible to know if he killed his mother solely because if his mental disability.  I think it was Dr. Foss who mentioned that this is a tricky issue in the court of law today.  If a person is mentally unstable (like Spider) how should they be treated in court?

That discussion reminded me of an article I read before class about the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.  For those of you who don’t know you Elizabeth Smart is, she was abducted from her home at the age of 14 in Utah in 2002.  She was found alive and returned to her family nine months later after being made into her kidnapper’s second wife and being sexually abused among other things (here’s a link to the whole story).  Since I have family living in Utah, I remember being out there and seeing billboards with her face on them, both in search of her and after she was found.

The man who abducted her was Brian David Mitchell and the article I read was about how he is  being brought to court, eight years after the actual kidnapping.  The reason it has taken this long is because Mitchell’s mental health was in question.  The article says,

Mitchell was diagnosed with a delusional disorder and was twice deemed incompetent for trial in state court.  Defense attorneys maintain Mitchell is unable to participate in his own defense. In court papers, attorneys have said they’ll mount an insanity defense, claiming Mitchell was so impaired in 2002 that he can’t be held legally responsible.

However, earlier this year, a district judge deemed Mitchell “competent to face trial.”

What does everyone think?  Should Mitchell be exempt from legal responsibilities because of his mental state?  What should happen to him?  This is an issue Spider obviously didn’t have to deal with being a fictional character.

Written by Susan

November 1st, 2010 at 8:50 pm

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