In the following study on Joseph Merrick and perceptions, I detail the differing views of his life and his disease. I combine the different perspectives on Merrick because no one has made comparisons between the perspectives up until this point. I find that Merrick, society, and doctors experienced a change in perception when it came to accepting Merrick’s existence in addition to dealing with other monsters.
First, I delve into the theory of monstrosity by outlining the fascination with what is different. Coming to terms with the unknown or the different can be an unsettling experience. When one’s view changes drastically, a paradigm shift occurs which entails achieving a different level of understanding. In addition to understanding monstrosity, I deal with how monstrosity was believed to come about through women. Up until the late 1800s, women were blamed for bringing monstrosity into the world because they were thought to be the only contributors. I analyze the reasons and implications of blaming women for monstrosity in addition to connecting their struggle with perceptions.
Next I deal with circus life in order to examine how other freaks dealt with being different. I detail how circus culture creates an environment for freaks that emulates a home. Freaks had different experiences when in the circus, but most of them found refuge amongst those who were like them. The circus was a place where they could be comfortable in their own skin. I tie the circus life of other freaks in order to illuminate how Merrick could have viewed his time as an act.
Lastly, I discuss how Merrick perceives himself along with how his doctor perceived him. In order to get inside of Merrick’s personal thoughts, I closely analyze his autobiography and photos in order to reveal how he felt and dealt with his physical state. I conclude with an analysis on the relationship between Dr. Treves and Joseph Merrick in order to reveal the discrepancies, appropriateness, and the thoughts of outsiders on their relationship. Ultimately, I intend to separate Merrick from the Elephant Man in order to perceive him as a human being.