If you know of any books with disabled characters in them please contact me or
post their titles (and even a quick run down if you can manage it), or E-Mail
me direct at: ba...@syma.sussex.ac.uk.
Anything from childrens books to adults will be appreciated, we've managed to
find some but as you will realise if you think about it, it's difficult to
find any books with disabled people in.
Thanks in advance.
ba...@syma.sussex.ac.uk Paul Silver
UG/PH BIOLS, University of Sussex, Exp Psychology
Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex. Undergraduate
: If you know of any books with disabled characters in them please contact me or
: post their titles...
>Anything from childrens books to adults will be appreciated, we've managed to
>find some but as you will realise if you think about it, it's difficult to
>find any books with disabled people in.
Is it? Leaving aside for the moment just what you mean by disabled,
the following (as you'll see) are very much off the top of my head.
The Secret Garden (Burnett). Colin is an invalid.
Heidi (Spyri). Clara cannot walk.
Treasure Island (Stevenson) At least one pirate has a wooden leg.
A Christmas Carol (Dickens) Tiny Tim (need I explain)
(I'm sure that there are lots of other disabled characters, too.)
Jane Eyre (Bronte) Rochester goes blind
Then there are the assorted frail characters of literature,
like Proust's narrator, and characters whose physical
disabilities are deformities of body, like Richard III
in Shakespeare or what's-his-name in Lolita. Isn't there a
hunchback in The Secret Garden, too?
There's a series of detective stories featuring Max Carrados,
a blind detective (by Ernest Brahma) and numerous ancillary
characters in wheelchairs some of whom are (or are suspected
by be) faking it. (If you want some references to these, I'll
send email.) I'm not much good at the details of thrillers
(spy and suspense stories), but I do recall that there's
a disabled and embittered character in Follett's _Eye of the
I have a strong sense that I'm leaving a lot of books
out here, not to mention plays (of which two come to mind
ma...@panix.com Life is too important to be taken seriously.
You are thinking of Mr. Craven, Colin's father.
I don't think this book qualifies since the boy's
troubles are a result of his father's neglect of
him (as an unwanted reminder of his dead wife),
and the elder's bowed shoulders a result of long
grieving -- neither of them has any significant
My own favorite for this thread would be the
mental disability of the narrator of Silverberg's
_Dying Inside_. :)
> Mara Chibnik
"I admire a man who admires cats" -- Lillian Jackson Braun
|> ma...@panix.com (Cobra Woman) writes:
|>The Secret Garden (Burnett). Colin is an invalid.
|>.... Isn't there a hunchback in The Secret Garden, too?
| You are thinking of Mr. Craven, Colin's father.
| I don't think this book qualifies since the boy's
| troubles are a result of his father's neglect of
| him (as an unwanted reminder of his dead wife),
| and the elder's bowed shoulders a result of long
| grieving -- neither of them has any significant
| physical disability.
Actually, he is described throughout by the narrator as having
"crooked shoulders", one reason others (in the past) found it
surprising that the beautiful Lilias (Colin's mother) would marry him.
The only real "hunch" in this book was Colin's imaginary incipient
(I just reread this in the last two days, so I might be right!)
>>The Secret Garden (Burnett). Colin is an invalid.
>>.... Isn't there a hunchback in The Secret Garden, too?
> You are thinking of Mr. Craven, Colin's father.
Right, so I am.
> I don't think this book qualifies since the boy's
> troubles are a result of his father's neglect of
> him (as an unwanted reminder of his dead wife),
> and the elder's bowed shoulders a result of long
> grieving -- neither of them has any significant
> physical disability.
I'll grant you the father, although I did refer to him
as part of a "deformities rather than disabilities" train
of thought, but Colin goes through a process of gaining
strength enough to walk. When Mary meets him, he is
disabled. (The parallels to Heidi are strong.)
> My own favorite for this thread would be the
> mental disability of the narrator of Silverberg's
> _Dying Inside_. :)
And I didn't touch mental disabilities, except indirectly.
In Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" the lead character is disabled due to
I think an accident of battle. (It matters not a great deal.) Anyhow his
disability is to his groin and means he is not able to perform sexual
In the novel he is portrayed as to some extent morally superior to the people
he moves among. Enjoyed it a great deal myself.
- pleb retort
_The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_, Heinlein
_A Spectre is Haunting Texas_, Lieber
I believe _Stardance_, Spider and Jeanne Robinson has disabled
people in it.
I'm fairly sure John Varley wrote a long story or novella about
someone who required an exoskeleton to function (a la Spectre)
Frederick Pohl's Heechee novels contain at least one person
without legs. If mental disability applies, then the whole
series revolves around Robinette Broadhead's attempts to get his
head screwed on straight.
Someone, perhaps Harlan Ellison, once wrote a story about how
life would be if non disabled people had to be handicapped so as
to render the competition "fair", a la racehorses...
I believe that TV's "Ironside" series has literary roots.
Oh, yeah, there's "Charlie" or "Flowers for Algernon" or whatever
it's called in the form (story, play, novel, film, whathaveyou)
(Dare I say it -- well, it *is* expected of me) --
FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies (war wounds -- is it a missing leg?).
OF HUMAN BONDAGE -- Somerset Maugham (club foot).
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP -- John Irving (penis bit off)
Skallagrig by William Horwood is an extraordinarily moving, and effective,
account of Cerebral Palsy, effective in showing intelligence without the
means of expression or of communication. Its also a damn good story (over
the top in parts, crudely manipulative here and there, but then I'm
English and don't like to be caught crying in my books).
Horwood's own daughter had this disability and was the inspiration for the
Recommended without reservation, you just need to suspend your disbelief
that you could ever enjoy a book about "spastics" fro 20-30 pages.
Money? I used to have money - till I converted it into wealth. Its all on
the bookshelves now.
Well, I will go out on a limb (Ha! Little inside joke for
those who have read the novel!) and say that it is not
clear to me that even Craven has any real deformity (and
certainly no disability; the original poster has granted that):
Mary reports in the "Might I Have A Bit of Earth?" chapter
that he "was not so much a hunchback as a man with high,
rather crooked shoulders," which means absolutely nothing!
(I recall a physical a few years back in which the she-doctor
looked at me and observed: "You have broken your collar-bone"
-- since I had slightly unbalanced shoulders -- yet I'm as
strapping a youth as you could want). Miss Lilias certainly
had no quibbles about his supposed 'crooked shoulders,' and
other's reminiscences could be little more than retrospective
projections: 'land-sakes, how could she have wanted someone
as deformed as he obviously is *now*?' (cf. the comments
about Ben Weatherstaff's memory a page or two before the end
of Chapter XI). In any case, regardless of whether Craven
senior has any actual deformity, however miniscule, any
insistence on the physical problems the characters have
completely bypasses the point of this, one of my favorite, novels.
Which is that the three major characters -- Mistress Mary
Quite Contrary, Colin, and Mr. Craven -- are deformed,
not in body, but in mind: Mary *looks* like a cholera victim,
Colin and his father *look* like hunchbacks, but their
problem is one of attitude: they have no physical barriers.
They have grown cankerously inward: Mary a self-centered
spoiled brat; Colin similarly, with additions of low self-
esteem born of fatherly abhorrence; Craven with ten years
of (as he says) "dark thoughts." It is only when they turn
outward, become (as Mrs Medlock says in speaking of Mrs.
Sowerby, Colin's and Martha's mother) "healthy-minded,"
that their bodies improve:
"Look at me!: he commanded. "Look at me all over!
Am I a hunchback? Have I got crooked legs?"
Ben Weatherstaff had not quite got over his emotion,
but he had recovered a little and answered almost in
his usual way.
"Not tha'," he said. "Nowt o' th' sort. What's
tha' been doin' with thysel' -- hidin' out o' sight
an' lettin' folk think tha' was cripple and half-witted?"
"Half-witted!" said Colin angrily. "Who thought that?"
"Lots o' fools," said Ben. "Th' world's full of
jackasses brayin' an' they never bray nowt but lies.
What did tha' shut thysel' up for?"
Here's Rachel with her monthly "This isn't what you wanted" post: _The
Plague Dogs_ by Richard Adams. True, the disabled character is a dog,
not a person, but he's nevertheless a sensitive yet never mushy portrayal
of a truly mentally disabled individual. Plus, he's probably the most
literally "dis-abled" character you'll find.
Rachel Meredith Kadel
Cottleston, cottleston, cottleston pie. \ Rachel Meredith Kadel
A fish can't whistle, and neither can I. \ Managing Sysop, PHSBBS
Ask me a riddle, and I reply \ rac...@phsbbs.princeton.nj.us
Cottleston, cottleston, cottleston pie. --A. A. Milne
If you post a followup, please mail it to me--my newsfeed's flaky.
Ben Elton: "Gridlock" (not that great but both of the major characters are
disabled, one with cerebral palsy and the other with traumatic paraplegia).
Samuel Delany: several of his books do fictional takes on his epilepsy.
Samuel Beckett: "Not I" (stroke).
Sophocles: "Philoctetes" (chronically infected wound).
Amfortas (ditto) in Wagner's "Parsifal" and presumably in earlier treatments
of the Grail story that I've forgotten.
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (the blind librarian "Jorge of Burgos")
Jorge Luis Borges: the original of the above. If we continue with that one
to include other disabled authors, you could add the Scottish poet William
Soutar (bedridden with ankylosing spondylitis), Louis-Ferdinand Celine
(brain injury), Paddy Doyle (autobiographical author of "The God Squad",
with epilepsy exacerbated by surgical mutilation at the hands of the Irish
Catholic Church), Nietzsche (chronic syphilis), Jack Clemo (blind and
deaf), zillions of blind epic poets from traditional cultures everywhere...
must be lots more.
Scary or romanticized cripples for exploitative schlock value: Tom Robbins'
"Even Cowgirls Get The Blues", Shakepeare's Richard III, Mary Webb's
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<Forgive me if this has been mentioned already, I missed most of this thread>
I nominate _A Leg To Stand On_ by Oliver Sacks.
This sounds like "Harrison Bergeron," by Kurt Vonnegut.
Smarter, stronger, more talented people are handicapped so they
won't make the normal boobs feel inferior. Vonnegut was writing about
enforced mediocrity, not disability. Very enjoyabable black comedy --
this from someone who doesn't usually like Vonnegut.
>I'm fairly sure John Varley wrote a long story or novella about
>someone who required an exoskeleton to function (a la Spectre)
_Blue Champagne_. Long story.
Irony is not the same thing as "irony"; point of view is not the same
thing as attitude; I have no confidence at all that these distinctions
mean anything anymore. -- Jon Carroll
Try Flannery O'Connor's stories "The Lame Shall Enter First" (features a
clubfoot orphan) and "Good Country People" (features a misanthropic
amputee); I think O'Connor would say, however, that her characters are
more spiritually than physically disabled. Also take a look at Katherine
Dunn's _Geek Love_, Twain's _Those Extraordinary Twins_, Carson
McCuller's _The Ballad of the Sad Cafe_ and Shakespeare's _Richard III_.
You'll Find a lot in Dickens, too: Smike (?) in _Nicholas Nickleby_, the
marchionesse and other characters in _The Old Curiosity Shop_, etc.
I'm wondering, though, how elastic is your (your sister's?) definition of
"disability"? There are some very interesting accounts (auto/biographical
and fictionalized) of people who made their livings as sideshow
professionals, displaying their "disabilities" for profit (not always
their own, but the most famous ones, the ones about whom you will find the
most documentation, e.g. Tom Thumb, Chang and Eng (the "original" Siamese
twins, Johnny Eck (the "half boy" featured in Tod Browning's film
"Freaks") and others did very well and were not exploited.)
I'd be interested to see other additions to this list, folks, as it
intersects with my own academic interests.
If I remember rightly, Tey's _The Daughter of Time_ asserts that
Richard the Third only had crooked shoulders. Perhaps it was once
seen as a rather more serious complaint. It certainly seems prone
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