CFA 3379 FINAL EXAM REVIEW GUIDE - Final Study Sheet...

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Final Study Sheet: Literature and Culture of Disability 1. Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child A) What is the Lovatts’ attitude toward children in the beginning of the novel? What do they value? They want to create a world of children and happiness. They are young and idealistic and believe everything will work out. B) What is Harriet’s view of disability in the beginning of the novel as evidenced by her attitude toward her sister’s disabled child? When her sister has a Down Syndrome baby, Harriet says she doesn’t think there are accidents and believes the behavior of the parents created the child. (p. 22) C) What is her attitude toward her fifth pregnancy? By the fifth pregnancy, she is very tired and exhausted. She thinks about this pregnancy as survival of the fittest – she’s at war with the embryo and sees it as the enemy. “hooves are cutting her tender inside flesh” Harriet is doing drugs (swallowing tranquilizers) during this pregnancy. D) What is the significance of the fact that Ben’s disability is not named or specified or acknowledged by the medical establishment? It leaves the door open for the ambiguity of just how disabled Ben really is- is it the true medical condition or is it exaggerated by Harriet’s prenatal hate for this child? It begs the question of how much is really there and how much is constructed by the family itself. E) What is Harriet’s attitude toward Ben? David’s? His siblings’? Harriet has a murderous desire towards Ben and wishes he were dead; she’s overwhelmed because Ben doesn’t fit into the family. Harriet doesn’t take care of Ben out of maternal love, she does it for some other reason, some kind of unspoken rule she must uphold. David is also terrible to the child (p. 74) and he tries to avoid Ben They call him things like “troll” and “goblin” Harriet spends so much time watching over Ben that she neglects the other children, and they, in turn, begin to resent and fear their younger brother. F) Why is Ben sent to an institution? Why is he rescued? Harriet brings him home out of guilt. Harriet doesn’t want people to blame her for Ben’s death, she can’t be in the position to kill a child. G) What does it say about society and the Lovatts that some people accept and even admire Ben? Some people cannot be helped or saved no matter what you do. H) Do you agree with the instructor that this is an immoral book? Yes- this is due to the inherent selfishness in the characters and the lack of love Ben gets in his youth that forces him to develop in the clod character and gangster- like character he is. This conclusion can also be drawn from the inherent classism represented in the book. The group Ben finds companionship with the low class youth in his young years (John) and later in his teen years equates poverty with disability- both of which cannot be helped.
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  • Summer '14
  • Martha Satz
  • Down syndrome, Ben, Harriet McBryde Johnson

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