By: Mary Ainsley Fox “I Pledge”
Word Count: 1788
The portrayal of disabled people in our assigned readings and even in our world today seem to not receive the same amount of resources they may need and/or would benefit from. Dating from years back, the disabled population have been seen as sins, collateral damage in a sense, and a “freak of nature.” Back in the day, a person with physical disabilities was seen as God striking down on them and their sins in the past life. Another excuse and honestly a complete insult is that God gave two flawed people who have made numerous mistakes a child who has disabilities. Some people would try to hide their child due to “public humiliation” and this was yet another obstacle the children would have to bear. Three of the main topics that this paper will be focusing heavily on are To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and the infamous Coronavirus pandemic. Although many different portrayals of disabled people have constantly been negative in film, literature, etc., we as a community have seen their basic needs not being met through a global pandemic that would sweep the world off their feet. Throughout history, we can see the change of the definition of “disability” and the different verbiage going along with that. For example, people of different ethnicities, culture, and skin tones were treated as if they were ostracised from society, treated like they had something “wrong” with them. Perspectives constantly switch from a time of unpredictability, loss, and devastation to a time of change, different outlooks, and bettering the future. Whether it be a physical, educational, or mental disability, our society tends to ignore basic resources needed. Three specific themes that are recurring are unpredictability, loss, and devastation and are seen throughout history. Although a majority of the human population has gone through the action of fighting these themes, disabled people have been the biggest victims of impact.
In the very famous, banned book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the two main characters are George and Lennie. These two ranch workers are in search of new and better opportunities for jobs. Throughout their journey, Lennie is obsessing over the “perfect life” with George. “Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws” (Steinbeck 2). In this quote, we can see how Lennie was described as a literal animal, as some people with disabilities (and people of color) were expressed to be. He was described to have no human features and to have one that comes very close in comparison to almost a zombie. Although he appears to be a fit male, his disability is within and the audience can concur that he has some form of intellectual disability. Early on in the book, we witness an encounter between the two ranch workers and Lennie asked George where they were going. George yelled back and said “So you forgot that awready, did you? I gotta tell you again, do I? Jesus Christ you’re a crazy bastard” (Steinbeck 4). Obviously, Lennie cannot remember or grasp a simple concept, such as where they are headed to and instead of reminding him, George angrily calls Lennie a “bastard” and does not really give him a chance. All his life, Lennie has probably been called inhumane names and derogatory cuts at his own being. Lennie was obviously deprived of a better education where he should have received a tutor and extra help in school, but did not have the right resources. Later on, Lennie is unable to control and/or cannot seem to “correctly” feel how he feels. Although he is a tall, strong man, who wants the best for he and Goerge, he commits murder. He is a lover of soft texture items and while he is clearly upset, Curley’s wife goes up to him for comfort and allows him to play with her hair. The feature of long hair has always been symbolic of femininity and also serenity. Lennie becomes very overstimulated and he does not know his own strength. He shakes her head so hard, it kills her. “Lennie never done it in meanness” (Steinbeck 90). George said this in hopes of saving not only Lennie, but his own reputation as well. After killing Curley’s wife by accident, George was in disbelief that Lennie was capable of killing another human being. The killing of Curley’s wife ultimately led George to kill Lennie, because he was afraid what would happen if others found out.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley is neighbors with the Finch family, where he seems to hardly be seen. He is consecutively hopping in and out of the picture, when he wants to be seen. Mr. Finch, Atticus, is having a conversation with Scout telling her that basically if she learns to sit back and learn to understand why people are the way they are and to walk a mile in their shoes, her life will be a whole lot less worrisome (Lee 33). A simple lesson we have all been taught could be so important it could save someone from a deep form of loneliness, depression. If someone would have taken the time to understand why Boo is the way he is, then maybe he would have more people to lean on and he would feel more comfortable in his own skin. Based on his tendencies such as hanging out with the younger generation (Scout and Jem), Boo seems to have a more innocent personality than others his age. Another “disability” seen in this book is the color of Tom’s skin and his social placement is used against him under the law. For example, it states that “Maycomb’s Ewells lived behind the town garbage dump in what was once a Negro cabin” (Lee 193-194). This is a prime example of how underprivileged Tom was by the law and society that he does not “deserve” the same, clean, sanitary treatment as those around him. The Ewell family is on the outskirts of towns and on the outskirts within the society.
Lastly, I think we can all agree that the Coronavirus swept out America and the world as a whole more so than what we were expecting when it first hit. Not only were people with physical disabilities out of reach of basic needs, such as private tutors, rehabilitation centers, and therapists, but money was another component that ran out. Workers ran out of their jobs and this would later lead to a time of uncertainty within their families. During quarantine, women and children were trapped in homes being abused everyday, but had no resources for therapy and they felt as if there was nowhere to go. With the closing of schools across America, the school system became one of uncertainty and unpredictability. Teachers had to relearn how to teach online and they also had to learn to work from home. Students had to learn to be away from friends, teachers, and tutors. The children who were learning online did not receive the education they should have, especially at elementary aged students. Not only was their education missing, but their opportunity to socialize became lost. For younger children, they are at an age where socializing is just as important as going to school and both of these concepts were taken away from them. Many people still suffer the consequences of quarantine due to major health issues that were impacted. People were losing jobs left and right, parents and children were unable to support their families, and health became a dire priority. This virus hit the world like a scene from a movie, children became orphaned, parents became childless, and the world became hopeless. The future held empty promises for many people, but especially those who were impoverished and those who simply did not maintain the same financial status as others. Health care and health insurance would soon be a luxury for most of America and other countries as well. Underlying health factors would also be an important component with the Coronavirus. For example, if a victim has respiratory issues and they become ill with COVID, they will most likely be put on a ventilator.
Most disabled people are continuously in need of more attention and different forms of resorts. People of all ages, genders, and societies could potentially benefit from different forms of centers. Our society today is trying to combat different judgements against the disabled community, such as certain verbiage (ie. getting rid of the “r” word) and teaching to the younger generation that “disabled” people are actually just abled people who go about life a little bit differently. The disabled community could be due to lack of funding, circumstances, and nature at the end of the day. Many different students may feel a sort of shame that their peers are getting ahead faster and/or a little bit easier in the classroom than they are, but with resources life becomes easier. The right tutors can change a students life upside down, but affording a private tutor may not be an option for most students. However, some colleges offer free sessions with a private tutor who is usually a fellow student. People who may have a physical disability, such as those who have Tetra-Amelia Syndrome may feel as if they do not have the same standards as the peers who are not able to relate. Tetra-Amelia Syndrome is a disorder for those born without any of their limbs. However, with the right support system and those around them pushing them to be the best they can be, they can go on to have families of their own, jobs of their own, and they can even participate in the special olympics. Life for them may not come as easily as it would for someone born with all four limbs, but they are still able to do everyday tasks that everyone else is able to do. Lastly, mental disabilities should be handled with the same amount of care and gentleness as any other disability. A mental disability is a constant battle in your own mind, such as depression and/or anxiety. Getting out of bed each morning may be a struggle, while to an able mind it may just be an expectation, an easy, everyday task. Numerous people each day are deprived of necessary resources that could, at the end of the day, be the reason for successful living. To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and during the deadly Coronavirus, we are exposed to the lack of aid out there for our society all throughout the past.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York. Harper Collins. 2006. Print
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Books. 1937. Print