Summary of the Play (on Film) "Children of a Lesser God"

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"In the beginning, there was only silence," James Leeds says at the very beginning

of Children of a Lesser God, "and out of that silence there could come only one thing:

Speech. That's right. Human speech. So, speak!''' he could not have been more wrong.

In this opening speech, James appears to establish silence, and by extension

deafness, as "bad," and speech and sound (and hearing) as "good." This is the distinction

which most deaf people learn at a young age. Sarah learned this distinction from her

mother and her teachers, but chose as an adult to reject this explanation and

establish a definition of her own: "Deafness [is] a silence full of sounds ... the sound of

spring breaking up through the death of winter.'' The words that make this phrase

are beautiful; the signs that give this phrase life are deeply moving.

The struggle, then, throughout the play becomes one of making those who have

ears, however residual their hearing might be, able to hear.

Orin and Lydia have some

hearing - not enough to allow them to function in the hearing world without assistance

but some hearing nonetheless. Lydia has a crush on James and refuses to listen to

anything but her own heart strings. She is oblivious to how her behavior affects

Sarah and she will not listen to James's voice or Sarah's signs when they not so

indirectly talk to her about watching television.

Orin is deaf to anything that does not fit his vision of protecting the deaf. As a

deaf man who speaks relatively clearly and reads lips, Orin is a good candidate for one

to bridge the deaf and hearing worlds. But, he is entirely wrapped up in his

"cause": deaf teachers for deaf children. When James takes Sarah out...