I associated freaks with elephants after watching this show on tv when I was young, being the impressionable kid I was then, which resulted in my healthy disinclination for even cutesy animated Elephas maximus characters on tv, like the one of a little, orphaned elephant that became king of the elephants - Barbar The Elephant.
Reading this real life story of Joseph Merrick a dozen years later, I am humbled by his will, courage and determination to be educated even with the public contempt and stigma his unfortunate disfigurement brought. Joseph apparently suffered frm Proteus Syndrome, a condition which involves atypical growth of the bones, skin, head, and a variety of other symptoms. Joseph had a misshapen head due to an extreme overgrowth of bone in his skull and the right side of his body. He was thrown out of the house by his step-mother, sold shoe-black in the streets, paraded in a Victorian circus freakshow, but was later rescued by Surgeon Frederick Treves. After several appearances to the medical community, he becomes somewhat of a celebrated medical observation, and then is well cared for. However, it is his struggle for survival, the never-ending quest for knowledge and thirst for genuine human relationship that makes the book worth reading.