Diane Hostetler | Tom Kerns | Brian Saunders

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Study Questions for

The Elephant Man





First, a note - for those of you thinking of seeing the film "The Elephant Man" - remember it is not the same as the piece of literature you have been assigned. Titles are not copyrighted and so different treatments of stories can have the same name. This is the case here. Although they both deal with the same historical story, and both are very interestingly done, they are totally different pieces with different viewpoints. (Seeing them and comparing them would be very interesting' but they will not substitute for one another.)


Assignment: You will be asked to read the play through twice. After the first read through, you will find out "what happen;," that is, you will figure out the people and the sequence of events.
Now read the play a second time. Answer the following Study questions online:

  1. What did you see the second time that you were unable to see the first? Why?
  2. This play makes some inferences about how scientists and society view those with disease. What are those inferences? Do you share those views?
  3. What is your view of Freak shows such as the one Merrick was rescued from? Do you see any arguments to be made for freak shows which mirror arguments made for the Tuskeegee study? Is there a difference between the "Freak Shows" and the role Merrick plays in the hospital in which he is housed?
  4. What do you make of the titles given to each scene? These are shown to the audience as they see the play.
  5. The relationship between Mrs. Kendall and Merrick is pivotal. What attracts her to him and he to her? Do you agree with Treves' decision about the relationship? What does his decision reveal about him?
  6. Can you find any connection between Merrick's building of the model and the timing of his death? Can you explain what the connection might mean?
  7. Take a stab at the question below (optional choice).


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© Diane Hostetler, Tom Kerns, Brian Saunders