Monday, August 4, 2014
Beyond the Pale -- Reading books with random dwarfism passages
From out of nowhere, two short statured characters were introduced. Though using the word diminutive was very much in character for the narrator, I struggled a little bit with the language and sat staring at the page until it was time for me to leave the train. Later that day, I told my wife about it. When I said diminutive out loud, we both laughed about it because the word is rather silly, and when I said the word aloud, it became more clear that the word said more about the narrator than it did about the dwarfs. Laughing allowed me not to take the language so seriously and I was able to pick up the book again either that night or the next night.
I tried to appreciate the context of the narrator. Nevertheless, I struggled through the section that included the diminutive retirees. Though the narrator recognizes that "'midgets' is beyond the pale," the word is used fairly often through the section. Also, at no point during the section does the narrator frame the two short-statured characters within the realm of everyday life, within the realm of the typical. The narrator is unable to interpret the characters except through a frame of reference that is defined by dwarfism. Because the narrator can not accept dwarfism as part of the everyday environment in which he lives, everything about the parents is other worldly and they are never portrayed as regular people who happen to be dwarfs. Instead, they are portrayed as people who are very different who live in a very different world.
Thinking about the section, I try to understand that the story is written from the narrator's point of view. And the narrator is someone whose own reality is very different and skewed from the reality in which I wanted him to place the two dwarf characters. Though I tell myself this, the fact is the picture the author created of the dwarfs could just as easily reflect the ignorance that still exists about dwarfism in broader society. The fact is, the picture in the book could easily reflect the author's own ignorance. After all, almost every time one reads about or sees a dwarf in popular culture, the dwarfism is often sensationalized and the dwarfism often defines the individual.
Whatever the case may be, I will keep reading. I will finish the book. I will keep buying books and will do what I can to some day become a voracious reader. I just hope that in future books, when I come across random passages about dwarfs, the picture is more flattering.