I was rereading my old Katy books today and cracking up over that rivers game she and Clover play near the beginning. Pisses me off so much that Coolidge made her so boring after the accident. Surely she could have kept her sense of mischief as well as learning to be kind and patient?? What happened to her wild imagination, love of adventure and habit of picking up friends in all places (including an incarcerated thief lol) basically it’s a personality wipe. Not to mention a good dose of the Saintly Cripple although at least she’s not as bad as bloody Cousin Helen, Mary Sue of the century. I still love the books but Coolidge really screwed up her character development. YOUR MAIN CHARACTER CAN CONQUER HER FLAWS WITHOUT TURNING INTO A CARDBOARD SAINT WHOSE WILDEST EXPLOIT IS STARTING AN ANTI-FLIRTING CLUB ok
What amazed me about the whole School Of Pain thing (smooth your forehead out with your fingers so nobody sees you’re in pain, my ass… seriously?) was that nothing has changed. As in, that whole passage could have been in a modern book and it would not have been out of place at all. Our attitudes to disability are literally Victorian in many ways.
For those unaware, we’re talking about a series of books called What Katy Did, written in the Victorian era for children. And there’s this section where the main character becomes disabled, and she doesn’t get out of bed and lies in the dark because the light hurts her eyes and stuff. So her dad makes her permanently-disabled cousin Helen come over and teach her how to be a “good invalid”. That section is really, really hard to read, knowing that people still buy into the same ideas that made that section of the book possible. It’s all about how as an invalid she should make her entire life be for other people, and not show anyone she’s in pain because that just makes people uncomfortable, and do everything for other people and nothing for herself, and not ever feel bad about being disabled even if she’s in severe pain, and etc. etc. etc. it’s just really awful.
The books are available for free online, and if you do a search for “school of pain” or something along those lines you can find that section, if you want to see it in all its horrible glory.
I actually read this book for the first time fairly recently. This is all true, and truly obnoxious, and yet…there were a few things I appreciated about Katy’s and Helen’s story.
1. There’s no miracle cure, or miracle breakthrough from someone else’s heroic efforts or something. Katy gets better, but it takes a serious amount of time.
2. Depiction of a disabled kid having a disabled adult mentor. (And of a parent understanding implicitly that she needed one.)
3. Depiction of disabled people having to know things and having to develop skill sets that non-disabled people don’t.
4. Disabled women deliberately defying the stereotypes readily available to them, and finding ways to demonstrate power and competence (like Katy deciding that she can in fact run her household from bed, and doing it).
Although there were a few additional things that made the storytelling obnoxious to me, like…
1. I’m pretty sure that better pain relief existed even then, than the total lack thereof that Katy is given…
2. Which provides the excuse for a little while that she’s in too much pain even to sit up in a wheelchair, however…apparently no thought is given to making the house more accessible to Katy, or like, giving her a room on the ground floor instead of the second floor so she can get around…even though by the time we see her able to come back downstairs, other major renovations have been made to the house.
And just in general, it felt like a lot of things were made the case for the sake of the story trajectory that in no way actually had to be that way.