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Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls

by Lois Keith
£11.99   paperback  The Women (2001)

Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls by Lois Keith 'Bow we shall be able to come up here together every day, and just go where we like; and you will be able all your life to walk about as I do, and not be pushed about in a chair ... it is the greatest happiness we could have had!' (from Heidi, Joanna Spyri, 1880).
 
What Katy Did, Heidi, The Secret Garden and Pollyanna are all classic novels featuring a miracle cure; a character who literally gets up and walks away from illness or paralysis. Such stories were commonplace in the second half of the nineteenth century, and implicit in them was the idea that disability and physical suffering were a punishment for wrongdoing. Girls who got into scrapes could not enter womanhood unless they were tamed, and an accident was the perfect plot device through which this could be accomplished. Other characters, like Beth in Little Women, were simply too good to live, and died so that another character could be redeemed by their example.
 
All of these novels were products of their time. However as Lois Keith points out in this remarkable study, the temptation to kill or cure disbled characters has had surprising tenacity, and not just in literature. Even today there is a belief that disabled people can get up and walk or that patients can cure themselves through mind over matter. It seems that both literature and culture are still untouched by any awareness that a disbled person can live a full life.

ISBN 13: 9780704346512 | ISBN 10: 0704346516

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