John Merrick, a man so pathetic and helpless because of the curse of his extremely disfigured body he carries around with him. Lots of people are born with some deformity or another, but none such as the case of John Merrick, in other words, 'The Elephant Man' who was given this name because he was so deformed he resembled an extremely ugly elephant. The movie shows how John Merrick is marginalized not only by the general public, but also the poorest of people to such an extent that his life was a misery. This movie shows how cynical people can be towards fellow human beings.
His abnormalities did not even allow him to take a walk in the garden by day light as the common society looked at him with complete disgust. Although John suffers much, he manages to win a few hearts with the help of his 'friend', Dr. Frederick Treves, and when he was content with his life he commits suicide. In this story the darker side of society is witnessed and their utterly cynical behaviour is practiced on John, for one reason only - he does not look like any other normal human being. It is seen how the general public reacts in the very beginning of the movie, when Mr. Bytes presents him in the carnival just like an animal would be presented in front of an audience in a circus.
In addition to this injustice Mr. Bytes brutally beats him which further disfigures him and then calls him as a 'freak'. When Dr. Treves takes John to the hospital, a dispute brakes out whether he should be allowed to stay in the hospital, for no other reason, but only because he was so ugly. In one part of the movie it is shown how one nurse is upset with another nurse because the latter had her involved in the care of John Merrick which she did not like, because he was so ugly that it scared her. Amongst all the negative people in John Merrick's life, the night porter who in one part of the movie refers to himself as 'Sunny Jim' is the most cynical character in the entire story.
His vile and selfish behavior tempted him to earn an extra income at John Merrick's expense. He would take money from people and expose them to John, where the women would look at him with awe and fear while the men literally played around with him as if he were nothing but some broken toy. It is noticed how John was marginalized even by the lowest of classes even thought they themselves were among the marginalized people. All these examples show how John was mistreated because of personal need and satisfaction.
John Merrick leads a very sad life to be surrounded by four walls all the time because if he ever came out into public, society would never accept him. Even when he came out in the rarest of occasions he wore a cloth as a mask to over his head to keep it covered so that it was kept hidden. When he comes back to Britain from France, on the station a small boy asks him why his head was so large and John being frightened carries on walking, but the boy persists. A few more boys, watching this, join the pursuit and while John is walking away he accidentally pushes a little girl who begins to cry.
Seeing this a crowd follows him and then surrounds him threatening to beat this sick man to death because he was so ugly. Finally out of frustration he shouts with his weak voice, "I am not an animal! I am a human being! I... am... a man!" He did not let anyone know that he could speak or read because he was afraid to do so. It was until Dr. Treves persuaded him to speak by training him to say a few lines since he had a meeting with the director of the hospital, Mr. Carr Gomm. Yet he was discovered by the director assuming that he had been trained for, but when Dr. Treves was escorting Mr. Carr Gomm out of John chamber, he began to recite a part of Psalm 23 of the Bible which he had not been taught to him by Dr. Treves.
Then he confesses that he knew how to read and he read the Bible a lot when he was a young boy. John is always haunted by the memory of his mother who may have died at his birth. In the movie it is shown that John has nightmares where his mother is being attacked by an elephant. He misses his mother and has a picture of her which he carries around wherever he goes. He always believes that his mother would not have loved him for the way he looked, as she herself was so beautiful. This thought that floats in his mind makes him very sad.
John Merrick leads a life of misery both physically and mentally. Although John Merrick's life revolved around sorrow he had an element of happiness towards the end of his life which in a way led to his death. John's personality was quite unique; he received many visitors including people from the upper class who normally would not even consider being in the same room as someone with a physical disability. A famous actress, Mrs. Kendal, befriended John and was considered a very close friend of his until his death. At one part of their meeting she tells him that he is no Elephant Man, but he is Romeo. She invites him to the theatre and in there, at the end of the play she dedicated the evening to Mr. John Merrick where he saw for the first time how many people loved him.
Another important scene in the movie is when John is at Dr. Treves house for tea and he is introduced to Dr. Treves' wife. It is when they are in the middle of a conversation regarding John's mother when he bursts out in tears because for the first time a beautiful woman such as Mrs. Treves has ever been so nice to him because they would usually scream in fear and run away. Even Mrs. Treves was crying at the end of the visit because she was so upset seeing John's condition. Out of all the people in John's life, Dr. Frederick Treves played the most important role, as he was the one who discovered him and saved him from that brutal Mr. Bytes. Treves brought him into the hospital and created an opportunity for John's happiness. John refers to him as a 'friend'.
During his stay at the London Hospital, Merrick built a beautiful model of a church which was made out of cardboard. When it was complete he said, "It is finished", which meant that he was content with his life and had received love from all his friends. He wished to sleep like a normal person on a bed, which he was not supposed to because of his head being too large, which in turn would kill him. Yet he decided to sleep like a normal person, so he arranged his bed and went into the blanket and slept... forever. He committed suicide.
'The Elephant Man' is what John Merrick is referred to due to his physical abnormality which was close to that of an elephant. John had lots of people in his life that looked at him with an evil, selfish and cynical eye thus marginalizing him to the extreme. Due to his pathetic and out of place facial features he was not accepted by society thus he was always indoors unable to have an independent life. Besides all of this John still achieved some happiness with the help of Dr. Treves who helped him to gain the hearts of many people and when he felt that he had lived his life to his heart's content he committed suicide.
John Merrick went down in history books as a legend, because he led a life of extremes, which was filled with sorrow, but happiness towards the end of his life. When he was tired of being pushed around and had achieved sufficient love and happiness he slept to his death thus ending the curse of 'The Elephant Man'.