Emily Malone’s Take-Home Final Exam

Emily Malone 

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384

9 December 2021

Word Count: 1020

Othering and Acceptance in Romkema’s “Perspectives” and Mukhopadhyay”s “Misfit”

Autistic people face many hardships in the way they are treated in society. Because of differences in behaviors and speech, many are othered by people in society, including peers and family. “Othering” happens when someone treats another person or group as inherently different, and usually inferior, to their own group. The poems “Perspectives” by Craig Romkema, and “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay both describe a person’s experiences being an Autistic person in society and include themes of othering and being seen as different contrasted to feelings of acceptance and freedom.  

In the poem “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay, the speaker is othered and excluded from society for behaviors society sees as different and unnatural, but he feels accepted and free to be himself in nature where these behaviors and movements are entirely natural. He describes the ways his movements mimic some of the motions in nature. He turns in the same way as the earth does, and he flaps his arms in the same way the birds do. He shares, “My hands, as usual, were flapping” before stating,  “the birds knew I was Autistic;/they found no wrong with anything” (Mukhopadhyay, 7-9). The birds know he is Austic, but do not see an issue because they do not see him as abnormal or different. The word “flapping” intentionally connects the speaker to the birds he sees. The way he flaps his arms is the same way these birds flap their wings. These movements are natural in this world. The speaker is connected to this natural world through the movements they share. 

While nature accepts him for who he is, society does not. He explains, “Men and women stared at my nodding;/ they labeled me a misfit” (Mukhopadhyay, 10-11). People from society don’t relate these movements to what they expect to see in society. Instead of accepting him, they stare and other him by labeling him as an outsider. They see his nodding as different, leading to him being labeled a “misfit”. In this stanza, he describes the way these people see him, “(A Misfit turning and turning)” (Mukhopadhyay, 12). From the perspective of the men and women in society, he is just turning in a way most people do not, despite this movement relating to the movement of the earth when looked at from a larger perspective. He ends his poem asking “why stop turning and turning/ when right can be found with everything?” (Mukhopadhyay, 18-19). The speaker does not see his movements as wrong or different. He has decided not to change himself to fit in with the society that labels him an other. The natural world accepts him and does not see him as wrong. Instead of letting society make him feel bad for being different, he chooses to continue to be himself.

“Perspectives” by Craig Romkema describes the way the speaker was othered and labeled as different because of his autism, but ultimately found freedom and acceptance with his ability to communicate using computers. The second stanza sets up these feelings of being othered. He describes his “differentness” and how he was studied by many different people to try to understand why he was different (Romkema, 10). He shares that, despite all these tests, people did not understand him. He describes, “some were stiff and cold/others blessedly kind/ others not acknowledging I understood every word”(Romkema, 16-18). This line explains how some people assumed he did not know what they were saying because he did not communicate in the same way they did, or the way they expected him to. He even states he was “labeled” “retarded/ or some other variant” (Romkema, 20-21). Because of his differences, people assumed he could not understand them, so they labeled him as something different from them. He was othered by society, not accepted by them. He describes how his parents believed in him and said they knew he “was there/Inside” as if he was trapped inside his body and would need something to set him free. 

He describes the many questions he is still asked about his behaviors and other aspects in his life. With his new ability to communicate his thoughts through technology, he is expected to give these insights about his behaviors. Instead of being treated only as something to be studied, he is now acknowledged as being able to participate in the conversation. He explains that, although he is treated differently, he is “not startlingly different in appearance of habits/ from that little boy so willingly labeled”(Romkema, 44-45). This line shows the ways he feels he is still that same kid. He is not labeled in the same way now as people did when he was younger. He explains that the only thing that has changed is his ability to share what he is thinking by typing. His ideas and feelings are not different. He was always able to understand what people said, he is simply able to communicate his understanding in ways he didn’t have the opportunity to before. Now he is able to participate in “discussions on Shakespear and/ Algebra/ vote, give opinions on government actions” (Romkema, 48-50). These are all things he could understand before, but he just did not have a way to communicate his abilities to others.  He shares “now my mind is free” (Romkema, 51). His ability to participate in discussions and share in thoughts has allowed him more freedom and acceptance into society.

Craig Romkema’s poem “Perspectives” and Tito Mukhopadhyay’s poem “Misfit” both use themes of othering and being seen as different contrasted with feelings of acceptance and freedom in their works about being an Autistic person in society. In “Misfit”, Mukhopadhyay describes the way he is othered by people in society, but accepted by nature. This allows him to feel more accepting of himself. In “Perspectives”, Romkema describes the way he was othered by individuals in his life, labeled as different, until he gained the ability to type his thoughts to communicate. He shares that, although he has not changed on the inside, he is accepted more by society because his thoughts are free to leave his mind. 


Mukhopadhyay , Tito. “Misfit.” dis/lit fall 2021. Accessed 2021.

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” 2010. Disability Studies Quarterly, https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1192/1256. Accessed 2021.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. – Emily Malone

Emily Malone’s Major Project

Transcript from art piece:

My heart was absolutely pounding behind those double doors into the chapel. What am I saying, it’s still pounding even now, but that anticipation before I took those steps down the aisle, unforgettable. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years, ever since I met him. Well, even when I was a kid I used to dream of my wedding day, the way most little girls do. The fancy dress, the bridal chorus, all that attention from your closest friends and relatives. It always seemed like a dream. 

The approach of my wedding did lead to some odd comments. Mainly about my appearance, which in what world is that appropriate? I’m sure people don’t even realize how rude they are being when they ask things like that. Most of the questions were along the lines of, aren’t I disappointed that I’ll need to carry my walker, do I think it will take away from the beautiful dress, didn’t I wish I had gotten those surgeries so I could stand up straight up on the altar1? They act like it’s a tragedy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, maybe I don’t walk the way everyone else does. I’m slow, and some people may say I wobble, but it’s my way of walking. My movements are simply my own2. My walker doesn’t take away from my beauty, it adds to it. And I get to hear the wedding song play a little longer which is obviously a plus. 

I look around at all the people looking at me. Every face I know so well, watching me make these important steps. I can barely look up at my soon to be husband. I know he’s crying, which I know will make me cry. We are both so emotional when it comes to this stuff, which is just one of the reasons why I love him. This is his first time seeing me in this dress. I picked it out with my mother months ago after visiting every shop in every town nearby. It’s perfect. It took longer than I would have liked for them to finish the alterations to ensure the perfect fit to my body, but in the end it was worth it. When I reach him, finally, and am standing across from him in front of the most important people in my life, I can’t help feeling lucky. In this moment, in this spot, in this dress, I feel entirely me. I feel at home, and I wouldn’t change a thing. 


1. Reference to Sheila Blacks poem “What You Mourn” 

2. Final line from Jennifer Bartlett’s poem “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY”

Write Up (613 words): 

Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” discusses the feelings of a disabled woman whose body was surgically altered when she was young to straighten her body. The speaker mentions how a doctor told her “now you will walk/ straight on your wedding day”(Black, 3/4). This really stood out to me, and inspired my idea for my project. In response to this poem, I created a painting of a disabled woman on her wedding day accompanied by a short point of view writing of how she feels on this day using language from the poems we read in class, including “What You Mourn” and “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Jennifer Bartlett. 

For my painting, I chose to paint a bride using a walker on an abstract background. I did this because I wanted the focus to be on the woman and her thoughts, and to show that she is deep in thought in this moment. When I first started this project, I spent a lot of time determining how I wanted to draw her. I wanted it to be clear she had a disability, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I should do that. I remembered what Kenny Fries said when I saw him speak. He told a story about how he modeled for a drawing, but was told that the final project didn’t make it clear he had a disability despite him thinking it looked exactly like him. The person judging the art piece had an idea of what a disabled body should look like, so the person wasn’t able to see the image for what it was. I looked up photos of disabled women who used walkers on their wedding day, and used these images for inspiration. Many of them looked like any other bride, just with a walker in front of them, which was usually decorated and had the bouquet attached. The final image I created was of a woman using a walker as she walked down the aisle to go along with the moment she is thinking about in the written portion.

For the point of view writing, I had a few more decisions to make. As someone who doesn’t have a physical disability, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting words into the mouth of my character. Instead, I tried to pull language and themes from some of our poets from this semester that described their movements and the way they felt about their body and disability. The poems I mainly pulled from were Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” and “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Jennifer Bartlett. I also didn’t want to focus entirely on her disability because a criticism of the poems seemed to be on others’ focus on aesthetics despite the speaker’s personal feelings. I also didn’t think her disability would be the only thing she would be thinking about on her wedding day. I wanted the focus to be on the happiness she felt in the moment and how good she felt in her body, in contrast to how the speaker in “What You Mourn” described how she felt in her body. I also wanted to make a reference to the comment the doctor made in this poem to point out the way people seemed to care more about her appearance than the way the speaker felt.   

My goals for this project was to respond the Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” and portray a happy disabled woman on her wedding day. Because the poem talks about people focusing on her appearance while disregarding how she felt, I wanted to both include a visual photo and a written portion of how my character was feeling. 


Black, Sheila. “What You Mourn.” dis/lit fall 2021, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/sheila-black.pdf. Accessed 2021..

Bartlett, Jennifer. “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY.” dis/lit fall 2021, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Bartlett.pdf. Accessed 2021.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. – Emily Malone

Emily Malone’s Class Summary for 9/28/21

The class started with a quick, and surprising, reward quiz before we jumped into the topics of class discussions. Our discussions for this class period focused on the ways we can, and should, see disability in “To Kill a Mockingbird”,  and Kafer’s political/relational model for disability studies. 

We started our discussions about “To Kill A Mockingbird” in large group. Dr. Foss started the discussion by asking the class if we should view Arthur Radley, or as the kids call him “Boo Radley”, through a disabled lense. The class felt it may not be right to think of Arthur as a disabled character because we have never seen his character. Some felt that because the book doesn’t say he is disabled, we shouldn’t assume he is because we have no evidence to support this. All we know about him are the rumors that people say about him. Because he is not there to disprove the rumors about him, he is almost forced into a disabled lense. We also briefly discussed whether Arthur could be compared to The Creation in “Frankenstein”. Both characters can be seen as kind or benevolent until they are judged by other people, but Frankenstien is judged by his appearance and Arthur is judged because no one sees him.  

We then moved our discussion into small groups where we mainly talked about Tim Johnson and the idea of racism as a disease. My group thought the question of whether we should see Tim Johnson in a disabled lens was interesting, especially because his name is a human one, but ultimately felt the disabled lens didn’t work because he had a contagious disease. The town wasn’t afraid of him because of a disability, but they were afraid of his sickness spreading and killing others. We also talked about the pros and cons of talking about racism as a disease. In chapter 9, Atticus refers to racism as a disease when he says “I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease”(100). We felt that it could be a good comparison, but pointed out that sometimes people lump offensive thoughts and language with mental illness, which can feed negative stereotypes about people with mental illness. Also the idea that racism is something you can catch in an unavoidable way isn’t the best representation.

Before returning to the large group, Hollis had to leave to save his books from the sudden rain. The class suggested we should all leave to help, but our attempts were quickly squashed. We briefly reconvened to share what we talked about in our groups including the parallel between the shooting of Tim Johnson and the shooting of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men”, and an interesting point about addiction and disability. It was pointed out that Mrs. Dubose was shut in her home in the same way Arthur was, and that addiction can be a disability. We also noticed that the respect Atticus has for her comes from the ways she overcomes her addiction, which we believed to be problematic. 

Dr. Foss then introduced Kafer’s introduction to “Imagined Futures” which led into our small group discussion. We discussed Kafer’s response to the medical and social models before talking about her political model. The medical model is problematic because it treats disability as something that needs to be fixed medically, but Kafer states that exclusively using the social model excludes those who seek medical assistance or relief for pain or other difficulties due to their disability. If we attach disability to a solely medical model, it becomes apolitical. She discusses how people see only negative outcomes when they look at her disability, but disabled people can still live a complete, happy, and fulfilling life. 

We had a small controversy between the small groups about the disability awareness activities. We discussed the ways that these activities try to put people in the shoes of a person with a disability, but these activities are always very surface level. This idea led to our final thought about Atticus from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the ways in which his activism is surface level and won’t lead to real change in the system. We questioned if the book sends the message that surface level activism is enough.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” Emily Malone