Autism in a Speaking World
The allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, uses characters and places to tell two stories. The obvious story readers can find spelled out on the page, but the real story lives in the heart of each reader. Beelzebub, as the mayor of the merchant city, demonstrates the fear of change and how people can prioritize money over morality. He becomes hostile to Pilgrim and Faithful when they disrupt the town’s normal way of life. The calm demeanor and godly words of the pilgrims cause a catastrophe. Beelzebub condemns the pilgrims because their differences cause unrest and disorder.
Beelzebub forced me to live my worst memories. I recognize his fear and cruel reaction from people whom I have encountered. Yes, all people want their society to be clearly defined. I, however, challenge the idea of normal by looking different, and I bewilder their beliefs with my ability to think. My parents take me to public places and people act as if I am a child, playing peek-a-boo, or they act afraid, keeping away from me. In either situation I am the focus of attention because I am different.
As punishment for the pilgrims’ odd behavior, Beelzebub condemns them to a cage in the center of town. The cage in this story symbolizes how a community can punish thoughts that differ from the main beliefs and put them on display as an example. Some citizens of the Merchant City spoke out against the punishment and then Beelzebub scared them into submission. A literary example of public shame exists in The Scarlet Letter, with Hester Prynne. She remains scorned for adultery similar to the social ramifications for being termed a zealot.
Society still uses a version of cages for people who differ from the norm. My cage was special education, because autism makes me different. I do not often speak of my religion, as the pilgrims did, but I used to scream about my intelligence. The more fervently I screamed, the smaller my cage became and then the more I screamed. I was not a typical student and teachers thought I could not be intelligent. Some who tried to save people like me have been silenced from fear, just as the townspeople were silenced, but others succeeded. I broke out of my cage and now try to liberate others. In addition, I finally found a community that refuses cages and invites differences.