Academic journal article International Education Studies

'The Elephant in the Dark Room': Merrick and Menacing Mimicry in Bernard Pomerance's the Elephant Man

Academic journal article International Education Studies

'The Elephant in the Dark Room': Merrick and Menacing Mimicry in Bernard Pomerance's the Elephant Man

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper tries to look at Pomerance's The Elephant Man, from a new perspective from which no critic has investigated the play, before. Applying postcolonial theory of Homi K. Bhabha to the play, the author scrutinizes how 'mimicry strategy', employed by the colonizer and the Other, can be threatening for both and how the identity is mutually constructed in the Third Space in the presence of the Other, the difference. Comparing the way people project their own fears and desires onto the Other-Merrick-with Rumi's Parable of "The Elephant in the Dark Room", the author tries to lucidly delineate the colonial relationship between Merrick and other characters more comprehensibly.

Keywords: Pomerance, The Elephant Man, Homi K. Bhabha, colonial mimicry strategy

1. Introduction

The Elephant Man was written in 1977 by Bernard Pomerance. The play is based on the real-life story of John Merrick known as the Elephant Man who lived in London during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Merrick is well-known for his extreme deformity of his body. Because of his hideous deformity, he has been a freak attraction in traveling side shows. Abandoned and helpless, he is found in the nick of time by a brilliant young doctor, Frederick Treves, who takes care of him in prestigious London Hospital and educates him and introduces him to London Society. With the help of Treves' education, Merrick changes from a sensational object of pity to the urbane and witty favorite of aristocracy but he can never reach his ultimate wish of becoming a man like any other.

This paper tries to have a new look at this paly. Employing Homi K. Bhabha's postcolonial theory, the author studies the colonial relationship between the characters and shows how "Mimicry Strategy" proposed by Bhabha can paradoxically be an opportunity and a threat for both the colonizer and the Other in the Third Space and how the identities are mutually constructed in the presence of the difference or the Other. Rumi's parable of "The Elephant in the Dark Room" also contributes to critical reading of the play in which the characters mistakenly evaluate Merrick, the Other, from their own perspectives without understanding Merrick as he is. Therefore, Projecting their own fears and desires onto the Other, they make Merrick assimilate himself so thoroughly that he reflects each character's identity, like a mirror, but he loses his own identity and does not reach his end of becoming a man like others. This paper tries to show how Bhabha's theory of becoming almost the same but not quite the same, is employed by the characters in the play. This paper tries to show how Bhabha's idea of becoming almost the same but not quite the same is employed by the characters in the play.

2. Homi K. Bhabha's Theory

Homi K. Bhabha in his influential book, The Location of Culture, emphasizes the mutual and complex power relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. In his view, the power scheme is not a straightforward exertion of power from top to bottom, from the colonizer to the colonized. He deconstructs the binary oppositions, the rigid distinctions between the colonizer and the colonized, the black and white or superior and inferior. In other words, he deconstructs Edwards Said's traditional notion towards the colonizer's straightforward treatment of the colonized as the Other, or the inferior.

Bhabha argues that the colonizer tries to internalize inferiority in the colonized and imposes "mimicry strategy"-he also calls it "sly civility"-onto it; while the colonizer, at the same time, is afraid of the reformed colonized. Bhabha highlights the anxiety of the colonizer and the agency of the colonized. The colonizer wants the colonized almost the same but not quite, Bhabha claims. Bhabha believes that "mimicry is at once resemblance and menace" (1994, p. 123). Since becoming quite the same means that the colonizer's authentic identity is paradoxically imitable. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.