The Elephant Man

Topics: Joseph Merrick, John Hurt, Human Pages: 3 (1028 words) Published: February 27, 2011
“Elephant Man Paper”

We come across people who have burdens as well as virtues. John Merrick, better known as the “elephant man,” lived his life as one of those persons. In the play by Bernard Pomerance, Merrick is portrayed as an unfortunate man with a complex story. The play is based upon significant moments and the times they are taken for granted. The unique and heartbreaking story of John Merrick, “the elephant man,” unfolds into a message about strength and courage. Throughout the play, John Merrick can be viewed as a modern tragic hero based upon the obstacles he overcame.

A tragic hero is defined by numerous qualities. These qualities pertain to levels, or steps of the tragic hero process. The character should have a high stature or wisdom. The social status of the tragic hero is usually one of a higher status; however, the modern tragic hero does not have to reach this criterion. The hero also has to overcome their flaw or downfall, leading into their metamorphosis, or enlightenment. The character becomes responsible for their own destiny. Finally, the tragic hero suffers their death, however, with great honor. Even though he never viewed himself as a tragic hero, John Merrick went through these phases and became a hero once he understood the origin of his imperfection.

John Merrick could only be described as “a despised creature without consolation” (10). His life was anything but normal, as he was always being stared at and used as a display. Merrick developed a great deal of negativity about himself. “To live with his physical hideousness, incapacitating deformities and unremitting pain [was] trial enough, but to be exposed to the cruelly lacerating expression of horror and disgust by all who behold him —[was] even more difficult to bear (10).” Merrick was treated as pure entertainment; he wanted to be more than that. He struggled with an ongoing battle of overcoming his physical appearance. This was not only a survival struggle, but also a...
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