Disability Essay

One of the unfortunate things that happen to Melody is something she calls the “tornado explosion”. It is an episode in which she gets very frustrated that she loses control over her body, which her family confuses with “seizures”. In these episodes, she starts shaking and screeching, panicking even more as she loses control over her body. She recalls an incident in which she was shopping with her mom, wanting to tell her about a toxic toy that she saw in the commercial, but could not utter the words to explain herself. Her mother ended up leaving the trolley behind, bursting out of the store, yelling “what is wrong with you?”, and getting sedative pills. Melody is constantly tormented by the silence that was “cursed” upon her, and her family’s lack of understanding and comprehension in such situations. Words have power. Melody’s dilemma is her inability to speak, and her misery is the choice of words of people who surround her. The way Melody’s mother reacts to her reminds us of the ways in which Lacan argues that parents build extremely difficult expectations and are in shock when their child is incapable of meeting those standards. This can be deeply agonising for the child, for they feel inferior and worthless, just like in Melody’s case.

Melody then begins talking about Mrs. V, the lady who lives next door. In the novel, Melody is surrounded by drastically different personalities and characters. One of which is Mrs. V., a lady who is goodhearted, but strict when necessary. Mrs. V. motivates Melody to reach her full potential. She explains that while her relatives and family friends are always too afraid to hold her or even touch her Mrs. V. was the only person who held her like a “normal” child. Melody’s parents invited Mrs. V to take care of Melody due to their busy schedule, and while they referred to her as a really “special” child that can be handful, Mrs. V remarked that she has big hands, that every child is special, and that this little one has superpowers. This made Melody truly feel really special, and not in the way her parents intended. According to Lacan’s elaboration of the Gaze, the way Mrs. V. looks and reacts with Melody seems to be less of a judgemental gaze and more of a mutual understanding. Unlike everybody else, Mrs V. acknowledges Melody’s disability, and sees her differences as uniqueness and speciality. While others gaze upon Melody and other her, Mrs V. goes beyond staring, as she looks at Melody for who she really is, and not for her disability.

And so Melody was introduced to the magnificent Mrs. V. From the very first day she babysat her, she picked her from her wheelchair, placed her on a sofa, and encouraged her to roll over to get a stuffed toy. After struggling for a while, Melody managed to roll over for the first time. This kind of exciting and motivational treatment was the most wonderful thing Melody has experienced in a long time. Mrs. V. had taught her how to scoot and crawl, and when Melody turned three years old, she learned how to move herself across a room. Despite being tough on her, like letting her fall off her wheelchair onto pillows in order to learn how to catch herself, Melody expresses how Mrs. V’s treatment made her gain a sense of independence, and a huge boost of self-validation. Mrs. V. is a great portrayal of the alternative ways by which people should approach children with disability, giving way to tolerance and understanding of the other. She seems to have figured out a way of making Melody feel as a “normal” child, while she took her “difference” into consideration by allowing Melody to be more familiar with her body. According to disability studies, the social construction of disability creates a dichotomy in which people with disability are looked down upon as a burden and an obstacle. While Melody’s parents seem to have fallen for the enviable stereotypes of the social construction of disability, Mrs. V seems to fight back at it by embracing Melody’s disability and attempting to empower her. By introducing such a character, Draper refers to the importance of acknowledging the circumstances of children with disability, and finding ways in which they do not feel othered.

Later in the novel, Melody recalls a time when her dad got her a goldfish as a gift. She compares herself to the fish whereby the fish is stuck in a small bowl swimming around, eating and pooping. She relates to the way the fish opens and closes its mouth, as if it is longing to say something. Melody thinks she is luckier than the fish, because at least she gets taken out to go grocery shopping or to go to school. Draper’s use of this metaphor relates to the fact that the social construction of disability condemns the disabled “other” to feeling like a burden, and dehumanizing them in a way. This comparison draws the reader to sympathies with Melody. In Literature and Disability, Alice Hall argues that literary representation of people with disability has always been linked to the segregation and marginalisation of disabled people in many societies. Instead of the historical usage of words that dehumanizes and others people with disability, the current literary and cultural representation of disability attempt to challenge these inhumane and false stereotypes. As Melody compares her disability to a goldfish, Draper exposes the consequences of the social construction of disability. Instead of providing people with disability with tools and ways by which they can embrace and be empowered by their disabilities and differences, the social construct of disability gives a space for the disabled person to feel othered and fatally insignificant.

One of the most anxious experiences of Melody’s childhood is her mother’s pregnancy. Melody could tell her mother was pregnant even before she did. She noticed it by the way her mother’s smell changed, and by the way she struggled to carry her anymore. As happy Melody and her parents felt for welcoming the new family member, they were terrified that the new baby might have to face the same challenges Melody has to endure. During one argument her parents had, Melody overheard her mother cry and express her fear that her baby might be as “messed up” as Melody is. Not only did these words hurt Melody, but the fact that she could not say

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