Children of a Lesser God was not originally written for a young adult audience, but the 1987 film version starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt was popular and had a wide appeal. It should be noted that there are significant differences between the play and the film.
The play deals not only with the relationship between James and Sarah but also with the cultural conflicts that take place within the deaf and hearing-impaired communities and with the larger hearing world. Young adults may not be fully aware of the difference between being profoundly deaf and hearing impaired, the considerable training and practice required for lip-reading and speech, or the difference between American Sign Language (ASL) and various forms of signed English. It is also important for them to understand that much of deaf culture revolves around residential deaf schools such as the one in the play and that the community is often very insular.
According to the author, the play “takes place in the mind of James Leeds,” so his impressions control the way in which the action is seen. Through him, the audience sees Orin as annoying, Lydia as childish, Franklin as cynical, and Sarah as compelling. This point-of-view approach may make it difficult for the audience to judge James objectively—naturally, he seems sympathetic. His own failure to realize how much his prejudices affect his relationship with Sarah make it that much harder for the audience to see them.
Because virtually all of...
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