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INTRODUCTION In this section, five deafauthors describe the experience ofbeing deaf. Needless to say, these writers get down to the essentials of the day-to-day experience. It is interesting to compare the viewpoints in this section with those in the previous sections. In those sections, the deaf characters are all manifestations of the writer's views of society or of life in general. Perhaps the deaf character represents a superior moral position, or represents the suppressed mass, or the alienated mass, or any ofthe other ways in which deafcharacters have been used by hearing authors. Rarely does a hearing writer concern himselfor herselfwith the actual experience ofbeing deaffor example, hearing authors generally create deafcharacters who can lipread anyone from any angle in any kind of light, which is an impossibility as anyone who has tried it knows. The aspect most common to these five writers (except for Terry, who, though deaf himself, did not write much about deafness) is that of defiance and this aspect, interestingly, we find in the sections by hearing writers also. There is a certain pride in facing the difficulties that life throws at you and standing up to them. Ballin entitled his autobiography The Deaf Mute Howls-and, indeed, he does. A deaf English poet, David Wright, deaf since the age ofseven, but still an accomplished poet and Oxford graduate , also shows the defiance I speak of. In his poem, "Monologue of a Deaf Man," Wright says "The injury, dominated, is an asset: It is there for domination, that is all." 205 • From DeafAuthors • In his book, Deafness (which, because it is still in print, we have not excerpted), he says So far as cripples are concerned pity is no virtue. It is a sentiment that deceives its bestower and disparages its recipient . Helen Keller hated it, and she was blind as well as deaf. Its acceptance not only humiliates, but actually blunts the tools needed to best the disability. To accept pity means taking the first step towards self pity, thence to the finding, and finally the manufacture, of excuses. The end-product of self-exculpation is the failed human being, the victim. As the cliche runs-"victim of circumstances beyond his control " -as if anybody were in control of circumstances. Defiance-refusal to accept the subtle traps of the world. Miron, in Relgis' account of the loss of hearing, finds his own key to survival in defiance: hounded by his old friends, Miron, who has just become deaf (and thus the hounded), accepts the treatment for a few long moments but then something within him rebels. The strength returns to his body as though stimulated by the lash of a whip. Electrified by revolt, the heritage of so many generations which have struggled against humiliation and slavery-Miron, with a bound, rises to his feet. His ardent and piercing glance is fixed upon the eyes of the evil child who had howled into his ear. The first revolt of human dignity, always the same, is revindicated in its simple grandeur , unknown to children and in which their parents do not believe. And Miron, his eyes burning, his forehead raised, his hands clenched, walks away, holding in check the group wavering between ferocity and fear. John Kitto, the deaf English writer of the nineteenth century who wrote The Lost Senses, does not show such an open rebellion, but rebel he does. At an early age, after he had lost his hearing, he was put into a job that nearly destroyed his will-it was a grueling physical job that left him only enough time to fall exhausted into bed at night, but it was felt that, being deaf, he was suited only for this kind ofjob. That he forced himselfto continue learning during this employment, and that he eventually found 206 • Introduction • a profession in spite ofthe great effort he had to expend, is another testimony to the value of defiance for the deaf person-defiance of the victim role thrust upon deaf people by those who imagine themselves to be benefactors. Wiggins and Ballin also demonstrate defiance, as is mentioned in the prefaces before each ofthe selections. Defiance is a healthy reaction-it avoids the chance of becoming a mere "victim" of life, as David Wright points out, and the choice between defiance and playing victim is a central part of the deaf experience. 207 ...


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