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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Getting to know them : characters labelled as mentally disabled in ten Canadian short stories and novels Williams, Allan James


This thesis is a study of the treatment of mental disability in Canadian literature. Literature reflects the perceptions and practises of the culture of which it is a part. Radical changes have been made in recent years in the thinking about persons with mental handicaps. The issue of whether the changes are reflected in literature prompted the writing of this thesis. Little is known about characters labelled as mentally disabled in non-didactic, Canadian Literature. They are not commonly discussed in the academic journals of Canadian Literature and Education. The purpose of this thesis was to get to know ten of the above characters. The following questions were drawn from issues in the academic literature regarding mental disability. All seven questions were applied to each character in turn. (1) Label? (2) Personal relationships? (3) Thoughts and feelings? (4) Choices? (5) Daily activity? (6) Relationship with service providers? (7) Personal assets and abilities? Short story characters: Benny Parry, "The Time of Death," Munro, 1968; Dolores Boyle, "Dance of the Happy Shades," Munro, 1968; Kelvin, "Circle of Prayer," Munro, 1986; Neddy Baker, "Hello Cheeverland, Goodbye," Findley, 1984; Stella Bragg, "Bragg and Minna," Findley, 1988. Characters from novels: Francis Cornish, "What's Bred in the Bone," Davies, 1985; John-Gustav Skandl, "What the Crow Said," Kroetsch, 1978; Lotte, "Not Wanted on the Voyage," Findley, 1984; Rowena Ross, "The Wars," Findley, 1977; Tehmul Lungraa, "Such a Long Journey," Mistry, 1991. Findings indicated that Canadian literature is not yet reflecting the new movement to develop full personhood. Most characters were limited in the choices they made. A variety of labels were used. Little was said about what the characters think or feel. No characters were married, had children, or a job. Most of the characters had a personal relationship with another character.

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