John Merrick was a real life person who suffered from a disease that greatly distorted his appearance. He was discovered working as a circus “freak.” This is a scene from a play about his life called The Elephant Man:

John Merrick: [after seeing pictures of Dr. Treves’ family] Would you care to see my mother?

Dr. Frederick Treves: [surprised] Your mother? Yes please.

[John pulls out a small portrait]

Mrs. Treves: Oh but she’s… Mr. Merrick, she’s beautiful!

John Merrick: Oh, she had the face of an angel!


John Merrick: I must have been a great disappointment to her.

Mrs. Treves: No, Mr. Merrick, no. No son as loving as you could ever be a disappointment.

John Merrick: If only I could find her, so she could see me with such lovely friends here now; perhaps she could love me as I am. I’ve tried so hard to be good.

[Mrs. Treves begins to cry]


Is there anyone who does not, in the deep of night, feel a freak? Is there anyone who does not still hear the echoes of  cruel laughter of others at our tenderest soul? Knowing that we are all worthless and ugly to some people leaves its scar on us all. And is not this same wound the source of our greatest cruelty, and our profoundest kindness?