The Elephant Man

"I Am A Man"

Throughout the novel The Elephant Man by Christine Sparks, John Merrick's quest becomes evident. This quest is not only for John to attain the friendship of others, yet furthermore, for him to find a place in society where his horrid appearance will not cause people to gawk at him mercilessly. John wants to be normal and have others perceive him as the man that he is. Behind John's mask of ugliness, there is a virtuous, tender gentleman whom only a few people take the time to discover. John Merrick's quest for love and stability in his life is impeded by the English society's fascination with freaks, John's fear of what is unknown to him and the Victorian era's perception of disabled people which lead John into believing that his dreams can never be satisfied.

In the generation of John Merrick, the English society dominates itself with powerful people who obsess over others' ill fortunes and appearance malformations. The disabled people are merely objects for their "owners" (16) revenue, which is why John is afraid to go back to Bytes. While in the hospital, John has wealthy, prominent, fame-crazed people come to see him everyday. Mrs. Madge Kendal starts these visits from London's high society, simply with respectable intentions. Mrs. Kendal, as well known as she is, has a group of followers. What John does not know is that "wherever Mrs. Kendal goes, others inevitably follow" (182-183). With all of these ritzy visitors, John believes that people want to see him for who he is, not just to make themselves appear more valuable than their compeers are. John and others alike, excite the English. When Fredrick Treves first hears about John Merrick, an "excitement (takes) possession of him"(2) and Treves feels "like a hound that has scented prey"(3). Treves, at first, wants to use John's disfigurements to make his name prestigious and notable. Most people have used John to exhibit him like an animal for most of his life. John assumes that he can not entrust anyone with his heart. The society that surrounds John is barbaric and judgmental towards those who have disfigurations and disabilities. This society treats them as outcasts.

John Merrick, who only sees star-crossed paths through his life, is afraid of what he does not know and what never shows presence in his life. John never has the privilege of being in a friendship until he meets Treves. Fredrick Treves is John's "friend"(258) and Treves demonstrates this when he invites John to his home for tea. The philosophy of having friends fascinates John. "Friends, ah yes, friends. How nice"(166). Another main component missing from John's life is his mother. Motherly love is foreign to John because he only has a mother when he is a very young child. John does not recall what happened to his mother and when Treves tries to converse with John about her, John lets out a "desolate moan"(32) and begins to "rock back and forth as if in agony"(32). This portrays to Treves that John's mother abandoned him and he misses her greatly. The one thing John wants most of anything, is for a woman to love him. John obsesses over romance novels in search of love yet, he knows that he will never find someone to love him with the certain passion and affection that he is looking for. John fears himself and other people. He dreads the emotions he feels and the choice of whether or not to display them.

Throughout the Victorian era, people with disabilities, are merely called freaks with whom society generalizes as having no feelings, ambitions or dreams. People used terms like "monstrous"(2) and "wicked"(2) when referring to John Merrick. In the English society "No one objects to freaks"(5). This passiveness of cruelty demonstrates itself with circuses, "freakshows"(2) and "funfairs"(2) that contain tents reserved for people with abnormalities. The high-class go to see John while he is at the "London hospital"(10) because it is fashionable to do so. These people look like they are being considerate, but the only two who honestly care are Madge Kendal and Princess Alexandra. Near the beginning of this literary work, Christine Sparks demonstrates the cruelty that the general society shows towards the disabled by the way Mrs. Mothershead disregards John's cries. She treats him with no compassion despite his fragileness. When talking to John, Mrs. Mothershead