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

Tabitha Robinson’s Final Exam Essay

Abundance of Right: Literary Analysis of “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay

Tabitha Robinson

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384: Disability and Literature

7 December 2021

Word count: 1,046

Abundance of Right: Literary Analysis of “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay

              The wind blowing, birds fluttering, the stars turning with the earth—these are all aspects of nature that are universally beautiful. In poems, their awe is rarely compared to anything except the poetic speaker’s love interest, or the sublime feelings raised by romance. The lived experience of disability is not a typical comparison for a beautiful sunrise. However, in “Misfit” by Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay, he compares his life with autism to nature’s beauty. This poem questions what is “natural” by comparing the autistic experience to aspects of the organic world.

              “Misfit” uses the villanelle, a strict poetic form. The villanelle traditionally deals with pastoral or rustic themes, which is fitting for the subject of the poem. A step further than “natural,” “pastoral” refers to an idyllic life in nature full of beauty, peace and romance. The elements of nature described in “Misfit” have an idyllic quality and blissful tone; there is no speech, but at the end, the speaker references his “laughing lips” and finds right in everything. While the villanelle form has no set meter, it has a strict pattern of refrains and stanza lengths that give it rhythm.

              A villanelle consists of five tercets (or three-line stanzas) and a quatrain (four-line stanza). “Misfit” follows this pattern exactly. There are five stanzas of three unrhymed lines each. The last stanza contains four unrhymed lines. The refrains of a villanelle are two lines which are repeated alternately in each stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated, alternatively, in the next five stanzas. The two-line refrain comes together in the quatrain and serves as the final two lines of the poem. In “Misfit,” the refrain lines are “turning and turning” and finding/found “no wrong with anything.” This structure is hard to find at first in the poem, but the repetition of these lines gives the poem a circling feeling, much like the turning of the earth in the first line. It may seem strange to discuss something as wild and free as nature in such a strict poetic form, but the pattern allows for great syntactical creativity while structuring the speaker’s thoughts.

              There are many areas of comparison in the poem. The speaker with autism flaps his hands like the birds, turns like the earth, and in what he calls an unseen “trick,” becomes the wind blowing. This sets up the idea that the disabled body, long seen as unnatural, may be closer to nature than the nondisabled body. Similarly to how the speaker breaks down the natural/unnatural binary and becomes the wind, the refrain comes together in a new way in the quatrain. Suddenly the line is blurred between the earth and the speaker. “Why stop turning and turning / When right can be found with everything?” it asks. It is unclear whether this refers to the earth’s turning or his own. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, “since right can be found with everything,” whether natural or unnatural.

              The speaker’s perspective does not even enter the poem until the third stanza; the first two stanzas instead emphasize the natural rhythm of the earth. The speaker slips in like one halfway through a dance. In the first stanza, the earth is “turning and turning”; the stars recede in dawn, “finding no wrong with anything.” In the second stanza, there is an early morning feeling. Birds fly “all morning.” The sky lights up “from the earth’s turning and turning” (emphasis mine). The repetitious movement of the earth is necessary for life, for light, for the sun to rise. Does that make the speaker’s repetitious movements unnatural? On the contrary, as the speaker enters in the third stanza, flapping his hands, “The birds knew I was Autistic; / They found no wrong with anything.” The birds, flying/flapping all morning as the earth turns and the sky lightens, see no wrong in the speaker’s autism.

              “Men and women” enter in the fourth stanza, seeming very out of place after the descriptions of the natural world. The speaker fits more into the natural world than they do. They never move or say anything. Their only action is to label the speaker “a misfit.” While the speaker flows along with the rhythms of the natural world, the (presumably non-autistic) men and women feel stiff and unnatural with their naturally nondisabled bodies and staring at the speaker’s movement.

              The speaker engages in several types of movement with several different responses. In the first stanza, the impersonal stars find “no wrong with anything”; In the third stanza, the birds find “no wrong” with the flapping of his hands. In the fifth stanza, the speaker himself finds “no wrong” with his blowing as the wind. It is only in the men and women in the fourth stanza who “stared at my nodding; / They labeled me a Misfit.” Still, as if to remind the reader that this is the action of the earth, approved by stars and birds, he adds, “(A Misfit turning and turning).” The sixth and last stanza poses the indirect question: Which is more natural, my movement or the labeling gaze of the men and women?

              “Why stop turning and turning / When right can be found with anything?” rings the final refrain. This final line comes closest to breaking the villanelle format. While the idea is the same, the word “right” has not yet been used in the poem. The refrain thus far was finding “no wrong with anything” (emphasis mine). Using “right” instead is a crucial word choice. The world goes from finding no wrong with these movements to finding an abundance of right. There is no reason to stop the natural rhythms of the earth. There is nothing but right in these movements, the speaker concludes with “laughing lips.”

              Like the blowing wind, fluttering birds, and rotating stars, the speaker’s autistic movements are a natural part of earth. Far from being a far-fetched comparison, this poem shows that our idea of what is natural may be the most unnatural way to think. “Misfit” compares aspects of nature to the speaker’s experience of autism, questioning what is “natural.” In the end, the reader is left to conclude that turning and hand flapping are just as natural, beautiful and even crucial as the spinning of the earth.

I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. –Tabitha Robinson