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True courage, he suggests, requires a degree of choice.Yet the whole structure of The Elephant Man is based on a life that is said tobe courageous, not because of the hero's achievements, but simply because of the bad trick played on him by fate.I kept asking myself what the film was really trying to say about the human condition as reflected by John Merrick, and I kept drawing blanks.
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Ashley Montagu tells John Merrick’s unusual story in the book that studies human dignity, The Elephant Man.
The Elephant Man John Merrick, a man so pathetic and helpless because of the curse of his extremely disfigured body he carries around with him.
Lots of people are born with some deformity or another, but none such as the case of John Merrick, in other words, ‘The Elephant Man’ who was given this name because he was so deformed he resembled an extremely ugly elephant.
The Elephant Man forces me to question this position on two grounds: first, on the meaning of Merrick's life, and second, on the ways in which the film employs it.
It is conventional to say that Merrick, so hideously misformed that he was exhibited as a sideshow attraction, was courageous. But there is a distinction here that needs to be drawn, between the courage of a man who chooses to face hardship for a good purpose, and the courage of a man who is simply doing the best he can, under the circumstances.He lived happily at the hospital for almost seven more years where compassionate people frequently visited him. No matter how ill treated he may have been, no one ever heard John Merrick complain about his hideous looks or his horrible life.With outstanding endurance, he proves to the world what a truly heroic person can do.Wilfrid Sheed, an American novelist who is crippled by polio, once discussed this distinction in a Newsweek essay.He is sick and tired, he wrote, of being praised for his "courage," when he did not choose to contract polio and has little choice but to deal with his handicaps as well as he can.Merrick had a horrible disease called elephantiasis.This extreme misfortune caused With the help of his new friend Frederick Treeves, he even attended plays and went for walks.The film of The Elephant Man is not based on the successful stage play of the same name, but they both draw their sources from the life of John Merrick, the original "elephant man," whose rare disease imprisoned him in a cruelly misformed body.Both the play and the movie adopt essentially the same point of view, that we are to honor Merrick because of the courage with which he faced his existence.How, for example, did he learn to speak so well and eloquently?History tells us that the real Merrick's jaw was so misshapen that an operation was necessary just to allow him to talk.