In the late 1862 when the Victorian era was in its prime a man was born his name was Joseph Merrick he was a perfectly healthy boy who never showed any signs of any physical deformity his mother and father were so happy because they now had the best gift that nature could ever give them.
The boy stayed the same for a few years but then Tragedy struck the family as the boy who was now 3 years old started to walk but he was limping and his skin began to grow thick like that of an elephant, and almost the same color he was growing but his limbs were of different sizes. His father never showed affection towards him but he enjoyed a close relationship with his mother but when he was around 12 years old his mother died at that time his situation had worsened. His whole body was now covered with deformities and his father now re-married a woman who was cruel to young Joseph.
His father and her both were disgusted by his appearance and didn’t wanted him near them they made him sleep on the floor and when he was given meals his stepmother taunted him that “This is more than what you have earned”. He wandered the Victorian streets Leicester in such of work because he had dropped out of school which was common at that time but his efforts for employment were met with little success as every door that he knocked at for a job was closed shut at his face. His stepmother and his father or should I say his tormentors kicked him out of their household because they didn’t want any undue attention from the locals.
A 13 year old Joseph wandered the English streets at night with an empty stomach and no shelter he had no other option but to stay at his Uncle’s humble adobe but two months later Joseph’s license of state support expired which meant that state was no longer going to support him and when he applied for a renewal he application was refused and license commissioner had this excuse for his superiors when they asked him about the rejection of Merrick’s application, “the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I had ever seen”, and they also agreed with the commissioner when they saw Merrick themselves.
With his support cut from the state his uncle could not afford to support him anymore and told Merrick that he had to leave. His head was so full of deformities that the deformed meat on his face started to cause problems in his speech and breathing he had to go under the knife to cut off the excess mass on his face his head was so enlarged that the doctors feared that soon Merrick would be walking with a broken neck due to the weight of his head. He was forced to join a freak show because he had no other option and with no place to stay and nothing to eat he used to sleep in the circus carts at night and shared meals with other performers and the owners of the circus treated him so badly that he used to faint when he saw them coming the freak show host used to whip innocent Joseph so that when he cried his deformities on his face would make him sound like an animal.
Joseph was forced to get naked in front of huge eager crowds imagine what Joseph must have gone through, all those eyes pointed on your body for self-amusement all those taunting whistles from the crowd who are pushing the limits of morals that God has embedded in every human mind just to see what will be the reaction of poor Joseph. In one of these humiliating shows a doctor was invited his name was Travis and he was there at the request of a friend he sat there for an hour and a half and then it was time for the main event the show host addressed the crowd “Ladies and gentlemen … I would like to introduce Mr Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.”
”Before doing so I ask you please to prepare yourselves—brace yourselves up to witness one who is probably the most remarkable human being ever to draw the breath of life.” and then came a man he was covering himself with a robe like piece of cloth and then he dropped it when he was in the center of the stage there was a moment of silence in the hall room because nobody was able to believe that a human like Joseph could exist in this world and then this whole room which was filled with silence bursts into a scene of claps, laughs, and taunts but the doctor sat their in utter shock because he had never encountered a specimen like this.
After the show was over the doctor invited Joseph to this hospital for a quick examination and Joseph agreed the doctor suggested to Joseph that he should cover his face when on his way to the hospital so that he doesn’t attract undue attention from the public so when Joseph arrived at the hospital he was wearing a hat which had a stitched mask with it. The patients at the hospital got afraid of Joseph’s eerily hideous appearance that they started to leave the hospital so Dr. Travis quickly invited Joseph to his room he told Joseph that he is going to ask him a series of questions about Joseph’s family background and how it all started but Joseph’s response to the questions was not helpful at all but the doctor wanted to help Joseph and wanted him to stay at the hospital so that he can be taken care of. Joseph agreed to this but the circus owners didn’t wanted to let their biggest selling attraction go so they asked the doctor to pray a hefty sum of pounds to them or give up Joseph. The doctor had no choice but to buy Joseph’s freedom .
At first the nurses didn’t wanted to come near Joseph and refused to take care of him but the doctor persuaded them too through money so that they take care of Joseph. The doctor even invited Joseph to his home where Joseph met the doctor’s wife. When they were having tea Joseph saw a picture of children in the doctor’s house and inquired about it the doctor told him that those are his children Joseph told the hosts that how lovely their children are and then asked them if they would like to see his mother on which they and then Joseph pulled out a picture of a beautiful lady from his pocket and gave it to Mrs. Travis.
She told him that his mother was beautiful by hearing this a teary-eyed Joseph replied that he must have been a great disappointment to her because she died so early in his life. Mr and Mrs. Travis tried to console a sad Joseph but he said “If only I could meet her again, so she could see me with such lovely friends here now; perhaps she could love me as I, by hearing this she cried, Joseph started to apologize to Dr. Travis that he didn’t want to make anyone sad or make anyone cry.
The doctor brought Joseph back to the hospital and tried to make him sleep but he was refusing to lie down because due to the weight of his head he could not lie straight on a bed otherwise his head’s mass weight would block the blood passage in his head and he would eventually die. He told the doctor he always slept sitting up. Joseph stayed at the hotel for two years and then on one night the security guard at the hospital invited a band of goons into Joseph’s room they started to curse and swear at Joseph they turned his room upside down and they carried Joseph out of the hospital and forcefully intoxicated Joseph and when they had enough fun they dumped him on the outskirts of the city.
Joseph wandered the streets again at night looking for a place to stay because he could not find his way back to the hospital because nobody was helping him everyone mocked him in his path one day while Joseph was sitting at a local train station a group of men spotted him and recognized him from the Freak show posters in which Joseph was called the ”Elephant man due to his Deformities!” they started to shout. ”Oi, it’s the Elephant man from freak show gig ” and they started to chase Joseph. Joseph ran and he didn’t stop more men joined in the pursuit and chased him down to an alley and surrounded him and started to make fun of him Joseph started to cry and let out his feelings ” I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”
Then he fainted somebody informed the police about his incident and police brought Joseph back to Dr Travis because he had filled a report about Joseph going missing. Joseph was then shifted to a special care room where he was treated even more nicely than he was treated before even the duchess of Cambridge paid him a visit and promised him a place at the hospital for as long as he lived. But Joseph was still not fully satisfied because there was one thing he wanted the most in his life to sleep like a normal man he invited Dr. Travis to his room to have one last chat he told the good Doctor that “People are frightened by what they don’t understand.” and that “Can you cure me?” to which the doctor replied “No. We can care for you, but we can’t cure you.” after hearing this he thanked the doctor for everything that he has done for him.
It was night time and Joseph was ready to fulfill his dream once and for all he wrote a letter to the Doctor and told him that “My life is full because I know I am loved. Now i am going to sleep” and then he laid his head down to sleep and slowly his breaths started to slip away from him he always had a picture of his mother in his and Hand and as he was moments away from dying he said “Mother if you could see me now that how happy i am” and then he took his one last breath and he was gone.
“It’s true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind’s the standard of the man.”
In memory of Joseph Merrick 5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890