The Elephant Man By Frederick Treves Essay

1576 Words Nov 20th, 2014 7 Pages
In “The Elephant Man” by Frederick Treves, Treves documents his interactions with Joseph Merrick from their first meeting in November 1884, to his subsequent death in April 1890. Although Treves introduces the Elephant Man as John Merrick, his given birth name was Joseph Merrick. Frederick Treves was a wealthy, accomplished surgeon who was made a Baronet, a member of the aristocracy, by King Edward VII after successfully performing a surgery on the King himself (Keith). Treves was also a lecturer on anatomy; and, after his first meeting with Merrick, wrote a detailed paper documenting Merrick’s deformity to provide insight into the conditions he had. In his essay, Treves reveals prevailing social attitudes surrounding physical deformity in Victorian England in the later part of the 19th century. Throughout the text, Treves explores the attitudes expressed toward Joseph Merrick to contrast the compassionate feelings held by Treves and many of the educated upper class, with the more basic reaction held by the lower working class that associates deformities with disease and harm. The contrasting attitudes held by different classes suggest that a lack of education and awareness are an underlying cause of the discomfort shown toward physical deformity.
Treves essay makes it clear that the first reaction to seeing Joseph Merrick is repulsion and disgust. Merrick was part of a traveling show that exhibited himself to the public; for two pence, viewers could see the “frightful…

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