Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1241
The opening scene takes place in London Hospital: Dr. Treves, the new lecturer in anatomy, presents his credentials to the hospital administrator, Carr Gomm. A salary is settled upon, and Gomm makes a mysterious reference to the salary serving as an excellent consolation prize.
In a store, Ross is collecting money for a viewing of John Merrick, who is described as a freak of nature. Treves enters and says he will not pay if it is all a trick; but after seeing Merrick, Treves pays Ross. They agree that Treves will pay Ross a fee to take Merrick for a day to study his condition.
While conducting a lecture, Treves shows slides of Merrick while describing the exact nature of the deformities. Merrick is also present and demonstrates his infirmities when asked. A voice from the audience tells Treves that he cannot permit Merrick to return to the freak show.
In Brussels, the pinheads are being prepared to sing by the Man. Ross and Merrick enter, and Merrick tells the pinheads that he has earned a lot of money, which Ross is holding. Merrick also says he is happy. The Man enters again and tells the pinheads to sing.
At that moment a policeman enters and orders the show stopped. Ross comes back and tells Merrick that he has become a liability. After stealing his money, Ross turns Merrick over to the conductor, who agrees to drop Merrick at Liverpool Station in return for a little money. The scene ends with Merrick saying he has been robbed.
Merrick arrives in London, and a policeman and the conductor have to hide Merrick to protect him from the mob. Merrick tries to speak, but his words are difficult to understand; the policeman and conductor think he is an imbecile. They find Treves’s card in Merrick’s pocket and send for the doctor.
Treves interviews Nurse Sandwich, whom he hopes will be able to care for Merrick. A number of other nurses have been too revolted by his appearances to care for him. Although he claims to have vast experiences in Africa with terrible diseases, Miss Sandwich is just as frightened and bolts from the room.
The bishop and Gomm talk about Merrick’s aptitude for biblical instruction. The bishop feels it is his Christian duty to help Merrick with religious instruction. He is also pleased that Treves is a Christian.
Treves informs Merrick that he has a home for life and that he will never have to go on exhibition again. Treves badgers Merrick to acknowledge how lucky he is. He repeatedly forces Merrick to thank him and to admit that, while there are rules to follow, those rules will make Merrick happy. It illustrates that Treves sees Merrick as a child and not capable of real thought.
Treves brings in an actress, Mrs. Kendal, to meet Merrick. Treves informs her that Merrick is very lonely that he needs to be more socialized. Mrs. Kendal asks about Merrick’s disorder and whether his sexual function has been inhibited. Treves is embarrassed to discuss sexual matters with a woman, but he finally admits that Merrick is normal in that way.
Mrs. Kendal comes to visit Merrick and they discuss Romeo and Juliet, a play she has acted in several times. They engage in a spirited discussion of Romeo and Merrick is revealed to very much an intellectual capable of deep thought.
Mrs. Kendal is very impressed with his ability to explore beyond the obvious and tells Treves that Merrick must be introduced to some of her friends. She shakes Merrick’s hand as she leaves and he is heard sobbing in the background as she exits.
Merrick is working on a model of St. Phillip’s Church. He is visited by several important members of society, each leaving a Christmas gift for him. After they leave, Treves and Merrick discuss the model he is building and the illusion of perfection.
(The entire section contains 1241 words.)
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