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Deaf Community Paper

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Ryan Lynch

The community in which deaf individuals are raised in effect how they not only communicate but also their self-image and willingness to become active members of their community. How a community interacts and accepts the deaf individual has a huge impact on their outlook on life. In Cece Bell's’ novel El Deafo, the protagonist Cece’s outlook on life changes throughout the novel as different people interact with her and learn about her deafness, while in the documentary Life Without Words the community in which Maria, one of the protagonist, lives in affects her in a different way. Her community does not quite accept and provide the same benefits as Cece’s and therefore affects her communication and her way of life.

As the story begins Cece is getting her first view of life as a deaf individual as she is just to be deaf due to her horrible experience with meningitis. As the story progresses, she goes to her first day at her new school, this is a school for the deaf where everyone is, as Cece says, “just like me”(Bell, 2014, p.28). The reader can see her confidence start to build as she is no longer the only deaf individual in her community and she begins to make friends in her class. Although time at school and with her deaf friends are great, when she is with her friend Emma from home, she cannot understand her and her self-esteem can be seen lowering. She becomes confused and frustrated as she no longer feels like she fits in with her friend This shows just how much the people and community around a deaf individual effect them. Cece is noticeably happier and more confident when she is in school with the other deaf students and with a teacher who understands her deafness, she is not different like she is when she's with the kids from the neighborhood. Towards the middle of the novel, Cece moves to a new school where she is the only deaf student. She can be seen struggling to have people accept and understand her deafness, she has trouble getting people to understand how to talk to her and the different guidelines on how to help her understand what they are saying such as not covering one's mouth and keeping the lights on. At one point Cece's mother tries to get her to learn sign, but at that point, Cece has lost most hope of being accepted into her community and stops trying, again reflecting the negative influence her community has on her. This shows the vast impact the community around a deaf individual has them. Cece has a low outlook on life and her friends are the leading cause of it. Her friend Laura can be seen bossing her around and controlling her, Ginny does not understand how to talk to her even after she explains herself and Martha stops talking to Cece because she believes she is the reason she got hurt. All of these combined give Cece a bad lookout on life and makes her believe she has “no friends”(Bell, 2014, p.72) and therefore is not motivated and has a demeaning view on her current living situation. At the end Cece's look on life takes a dramatic turn for the better. She makes new friends and is able to use her deafness to her advantage and in the end is able to become friends with Martha again. This turn at the end of the book brings a whole new light into Cece's world and she starts to regain confidence in herself and her self-esteem grows. This again shows how important the community around Cece was, when they were nice and empathetic, she thrived, when they were rude and demeaning she floundered.  

In the documentary, Life Without Words Maria can be seen struggling to be motivated and opted to learn sign language and this can be directly related to the culture in which she lives in, once again showing how influential community is. Maria is twenty-eight years old and went to very little school and due to this, she has a hard time learning the unique language that was “created over the last 30 years by deaf children in Nicaragua”(Kettlewell, 2004). In the article Children Create New Sign Language, the author discusses how intricate this one of a kind sign language is. The lack of schooling Maria had and the lack of motivation by her family to keep her in school affects her and how willing she is to learn a language as she is starting with no form of language and would have gotten help if she attended school. If she had some school, it would not only be easier for her to pick up the second language, but she would also understand the basics of language and communication instead of starting with nothing at the age of twenty-eight. Also, the community she is raised in has very little for those who are deaf, she can be seen going into town with her family to go to a church where she is noticeably underdeveloped compared to the rest of the women her age. The community does not have a lot of deaf-friendly things to do. The only thing that the community has to offer is a teacher who can be seen trying to help Maria learn sign language, but struggles. This shows just how important community is to language development and communication if the community was more educated on deafness and provided more benefits for deaf individuals, Maria might not have struggled so much to learn sign language and might not be in the situation she is today.
        The community in which both Cece and Maria are in greatly affect each of them, emotionally in Cece's case through her struggles with friendships and school, and affects Maria through her the little motivation she has to learn and the minimal benefits the community offers. In Cece's community she struggled to find her place, but once she did, she knew it was where she would flourish, in Maria's case, it might not be perfect but slow and steady she is learning how to communicate. In both cases, the community they lived in was the leading causes thus showing how important it is to live where one is loved, accepted and feels most appreciated, all while providing the necessary utensils needed to live one's life.



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