Word count: 1437 words
On October fifth, the class started off with a quiz. The class joked lightly about each question being repeated. There were two questions on “To kill a mockingbird” chapters twenty two through twenty seven, two on the “Beasts of Burden” and the final question was on the “Symptoms” poem. After the quiz, Professor Foss went into several extra credit opportunities that were coming up. Some of these events have already passed but one event that is happening in a few days is on October thirteenth. It is a coco movie night that starts at 6:30 p.m. in the channeler ballroom.
The first reading we discussed was a small portion of the ‘Beasts of Burden’. The chapters that we read were chapters nine and ten with a small portion of chapter eleven. In the story, it comments on how people with disabilities often get dehumanized. My small group discussed the fact that even though humans are technically animals, we don’t usually think of ourselves as animals. There is often a negative connotation being associated with an animal. For example, being associated with a snake or cat means you are sly and untrustworthy. I overheard one of the other small groups, while discussing this, joked that it doesn’t matter because “we are all animals anyways.” One of the first people that is brought up in chapter nine is a woman named Pastrana. She and her son died several days after she gave birth. Pastrana was only twenty six at the time. Her body was heavily covered in fur like an ‘ape’ or a ‘bear’ as the story describes it. Once she died, she was embalmed and went around on tour. The tour lasted for 112 years and no one even thought about properly putting her to rest. As my group said, it goes to show that Pastrana was seen as an object rather than a person or a human being. Another thing that we mentioned was that those that are disabled often aren’t seen as the same as those without disabilities. An additional thing I overheard was in relation to Pastrana, “taking out internal organs, the body will last a long time because there’s nothing progressing the aging process.” I don’t know if this is actually true, but it was something interesting I heard. The final thing I overheard in relation to chapter nine was that chapter nine was all about being objectified by others. Continuing on what they were saying, chapter ten is about people taking control of the names others call them for themselves. On a similar note to what I overheard about those two sentences, it is about other people’s labels versus people’s own labels or no power versus their own power. As I already started to write, chapter ten is about people embracing who they are, especially the money girl and the alligator skinned man as some others commented on. They ended up getting married. Since they actually embraced their conditions, they were able to somewhat control what other people called them. The beginning of chapter ten it was brought up that Percilla Bejano was similar to Pastane in terms of her condition, but instead of being exploited while being dead, she was exploited while being alive. Both of the Bejanos took control of their circus life which meant that they had more control of their disability rather than having a negative affect on it. Besides the Benjano couple as I just mentioned, one of the other main people that is discussed in chapter ten was Otis Jordan who had arthrogryposis. Because of his arthrogryposis Jordan was unable to find a job so he ended up going to join the circus. Our group commented on the fact that when a disabled woman who was a disability rights activist saw his show, she went to court to try and get the court banned. We were surprised that not everyone had the same view on it, especially with the difficulty of trying to get a job. Not everyone sees the good out of a bad situation based on their personal experiences. Our small group also took note in the final chapter in “Beast of Burden” that there are cases where people with disabilities don’t always get a choice when they get ‘fixed’. Sometimes they feel better because they could’ve been in a worse position then they are now, but they could also wonder what it would’ve been like if they weren’t fixed. There is also the fact they could feel like their body is no longer theirs.
When in the big group, nearly everyone had different thoughts on what was read. One of the things that the large group mentioned which was similar to the small group was that the human brain is developed differently from other animals. Many people who are not disabled consider people who are disabled as “suffering” or as animals. For example, is there a ‘natural’ body when drawing a line between animals and humanity? Where does the line get drawn? After all, what is wrong with society if the only option left for those who are disabled, is to join the circus. Oftentimes in dystopian societies and other stories, the homeless, disabled, and African Americans have comparisons to animals. It is assumed that tourists don’t want to see the homeless or disabled in the world, as shown in utopian societies. The shift in discussion happened when people started talking about how people can’t know what those with disabilities are going through. Those that have the same disability can have entirely different experiences as everyone grew up differently. There are times when people don’t want to say how they feel because they always hear that there’s someone worse off than them, such as ‘kids starving in africa’. They forget that what they feel is valid.
The next thing we discussed as a large group was the Symptoms poem. It is about a woman who is going through sclerosis. She describes it like she is wearing a corset as if she’s trapped in what she can do and she hates it. Corsets were to fit the fashion in the past, but it was a very dangerous fashion trend. Lambeth isn’t defeated by it though. She struggles with trying to find the right words to explain how it feels and the lines may be intentionally disjointed to show the struggle. As she puts it, the disability tends to remain hidden but occasionally she has to show it when her clothing ‘drops’. Even if it doesn’t seem that hopeful it offers a perspective in a way that others couldn’t imagine before.
The final thing we discussed was “To Kill a Mockingbird” chapters twenty two through chapters twenty seven. It was very weird when people were trying to make Scout a lady even though she was only eight at the time. For reference, in modern times, when a kid is eight, they are usually in second grade which most people don’t try to make kids try and act more mature. Granted, her personality might have been slightly influenced as there was no mom in Scout’s life, but most people don’t try to abruptly change it. It usually isn’t until middle school when kids start figuring themselves out and in highschool when a kid’s behavior starts setting in stone. Though, we did have a chuckle on how Scout noticed Jem was becoming more of a man. We eventually shifted to Tom Robinson and the trial. Until he was introduced, we just knew him as an African American. When it was revealed he was disabled it was a mild surprise because the disability wasn’t really talked about. The issue that the townsfolk had with him was that he was an African American rather than disabled. If he was white, we were sure that there would be more of an issue with it. People commented on the fact that just because he was disabled, he was innocent. It would be a sin to kill him, just like it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. There was also an offhand comment that there didn’t seem like there were many African Americans, or at the very least, those that played a major part in the story. There was also the fact that it seemed like mixed kids seemed to be ostracized. That was the end of most of the conversations as it pattered off. Professor Foss was kind enough to let us out of class early as it was the week before break. People were happy about that. I hope you enjoyed this rambling of the class period.