From “Freak Show” to “Charity Case”: The “Containment” of Deafness in Wilkie Collins’s Hide and Seek

The article explores the representation of deafness, and in particular the deaf character Madonna/Mary, in Wilkie Collins’s nineteenth-century novel Hide and Seek. The argument is that Madonna’s rescue from a circus and adoption into the safety of a middle-class home transforms her from “freak show” into “charity case” through a discourse of paternalism. This process of containment parallels wider transitions in how deafness was understood socially in the late nineteenth century. Drawing on the history of deaf education and using Foucault’s concepts of emergence and confinement, the article argues that this mirrors the transition from manual to oralist approaches to deaf education in this period.