Scenes 17 and 18 are a twisted parody of scenes 2 and 3 at the beginning of the play, and are a turning point, where we see Treves and therefore his general society change roles with Merrick and the rest of the ‘freaks’. It is at this point in the play that we clearly see the problems with the Victorian society, and we are shown for certain that Treves is unsure of who he really is and what his intentions are. Scene 17 In scene 17, Merrick has taken the place that Treves was in during scene 2, and Gomm has taken Ross’ place.
The fact that the roles have been reversed is brought to the fore when Merrick calmly says, “I am Merrick. Here is my card. I am with the mutations across the road. ” The simplicity of the statement, and the way that Merrick says it completely deadpan, is almost funny, and drives the point home. It is a reversal of a mixture of statements Treves makes in scene 2, where Merrick tells Ross that he is at the London across the road, and gives Ross his card.
From the very beginning of the scene, we are shown Treves’ uncertainty of himself when ‘Merrick’ says “If he is merely papier michi and paint, a swindler and a fake”. This is a direct copy of what Treves says about Merrick in scene 2, but it is taken in a different context here, especially when you read Merrick’s later statement, “therefore exemplary for study as a cruel or deviant one would not be”. This shows that Merrick is looking for a kind man, and when he asks if he is a fake he is making sure that Treves is really as good as he appears to be. Gomm’s statement about Treves, “No, no, he is a genuine Dorset dreamer in a moral swamp”, shows how Treves is stuck in between conflicting views and ideas.
The phrase ‘moral swamp’ is very descriptive of the situation that Treves is in, as he is quite literally bogged down by a confusing mess of different opinions. This has left Treves unsure of what is the best thing to do for himself or Merrick, and whether anything that he considers normal or proper is actually right or not. And when Merrick says that he had not dreamed of changing Treves, there are two apparent meanings to the statement. The first is carrying on with the reversed roles theme, referring to the way that Treves has attempted to change Merrick into a ‘proper’ Victorian.
The other possible meaning is referring to the way that Merrick himself has actually changed Treves. He has done this by causing him to step back and take a look at himself and his society, and consider the fact that they might not actually be doing the right things and that they could in fact be the ‘deformed’ people. Scene 18 In scene 18, we have Merrick taking the place of Treves at the lectern from scene 3, and we have the ‘Pins’, who are some of the deformed people who were in the same freak show as Merrick, taking the place of the scientists and doctors from the crowd in scene 3.
However, one thing I have noticed about the speech is that it has taken on some of Merrick’s ideas and theories, such as the phrases ‘carvings up for others’ own good’, and ‘without the weight of other’s dreams accumulating to break his neck’, as well as directly parodying Treves’ speech earlier in the play. Merrick begins his speech in the same way that Treves did, commenting on the shape of Treves’ head. He says “The most striking feature about him, note, is the terrifying normal head.
This allows him to dream in the exclusive personal manner, without the weight of others dreams accumulating to break his neck”. This is an oxymoron (two conflicting words), and refers to Merrick’s theory as to why his head is heavy and deformed, and to the fact that Merrick is unable to sleep properly, and is a parody of Treves’ statement: “The most striking feature about him was his enormous head. Its circumference was about that of a man’s waist”. He continues by saying, “From the brow projected a normal vision of benevolent enlightenment, what we believe to be a kind of self-mesmerised state.
The mouth, deformed by satisfaction at being at the hub of the best of existent worlds, was rendered therefore utterly incapable of self-critical speech, thus of the ability to change”. Once again this is a parody of Merrick’s deformities, as seen in these quotes: “From the brow there projected a huge bony mass like a loaf… From the upper jaw there projected another mass of bone. It protruded from the mouth like a pink stump, turning the upper lip inside out, and making the mouth a wide slobbering aperture… The deformities rendered the face incapable of the expression of any emotion whatsoever”.
However, it goes deeper into showing Treves’ true personality. The ‘normal vision of benevolent enlightenment’ refers to the way in which Treves and his peers are so confident in what they are doing and that their reasons are correct. This continues with the statement about him being incapable of self critical speech, which was a general ‘virtue’ of the Victorian people in the play; in that they are all so confident of what they are doing is right, that they do not for a second stop and think about whether it really is.
There is, however, one important exception to this rule: Mrs Kendal, who is the first person to properly try to understand Merrick without trying to change him. Next, Merrick says “The heart showed signs of worry at this unchanging yet untenable state. ” This is showing the way in which Treves has recently begun to doubt himself and his motives, and yet is continuing to do things in his usual manner because of the confidence that his peers have in him, and because he believes it is the sort of thing that anyone else in his position would be doing.
He continues by saying “The back was horribly stiff from being kept against a wall to face the discontent of a world ordered of his convenience. The surgeon’s hands were well developed and strong, capable of the most delicate carvings up, for others own good. Due also to the normal head, the right arm was of enormous power; but, so incapable of the distinction between the assertion of power and the charitable act of giving, that it was often to be found disgustingly beating others – for their own good.
” This is a parody of Merrick’s crooked back and useless right arm, and also highlights the way that Treves is coming to believe that what he does for Merrick is not actually good, and that he may be ‘beating him for his own good’ by exhibiting him to the upper classes and teaching him the ways of Victorian society. For the next part of his ‘analysis’, Merrick says ” The left arm was slighter and fairer, and may be seen in typical position, hand covering the genitals which were treated as a sullen colony in constant need of restriction, governance, punishment.
For their own good. ” This refers to the way that the Victorians were very uptight sexually and emotionally, and kept a strict control over the way they acted. For instance, things as innocent as piano legs were kept covered up because they were deemed ‘suggestive’. It also mirrors the comment that Treves made about Merrick’s left hand being fine and delicate: “The other arm was remarkable by contrast. It was not only normal, but was moreover a delicately shaped limb with a fine skin and provided with a beautiful hand which any woman might have envied”.
He finishes the speech by saying “To add a further burden to his trouble the wretched man as a boy developed a disabling spiritual duality, therefore was unable to feel what others feel, nor reach harmony with them. Please. He would thus be denied all means of escape from those he had tormented. ” This is a parody of the comments that Treves makes about Merrick’s hip disease: “To add a further burden to his trouble, the wretched man when a boy developed a hip disease which left him permanently lame, so that he could only walk with a stick. Please. He was thus denied all means of escape from his tormentors”.
It also seems to be referring to the way that Treves has been thinking that what he has been doing for Merrick is good, and is only just realising that he may actually be wrong. It also explains the way that Treves has now begun to become depressed at what he thinks he is doing to Merrick, and the way that everyone around him is acting (see Scene 19: They Cannot Make Out What He Is Saying). After the speech has finished, there is a conversation between the Pins and Merrick that parodies the conversation between Treves and a voice from the audience, but with extra lines added in that give a more sinister feeling to it.
The first thing that the Pin says directly parodies the Voice from Scene 3. However, Merrick then says: “We hope in twenty years we will understand enough to put an end to this affliction”, to which the Pin replies “Twenty years! Sir, that is unacceptable”. Merrick responds by saying “Had we caught it early, it might have been different. But his condition has already spread both East and West. The truth is, we are dealing with an epidemic”. This is talking about the way that Victorian culture had spread across the globe through the British Empire, quite like an epidemic, and that it may eventually be repairable, but it would take time.
This is almost like a premonition of things to come. I think that both of these scenes are very important to the play, and give us an insight into the mind of Bernard Pomerance’s character Treves. They illustrate a turning point in the play where Treves begins to come to the conclusion that he and his society are the people who need changing, not Merrick. This is particularly well demonstrated by Merricks statement in scene 18 “We hope in 20 years we will understand enough to put an end to this affliction”, and “The truth is, we are dealing with an epidemic”.