Martha’s Vineyard is commonly known for its integration of deaf members into everyday community life. There have been various literary works on how this involvement helped the whole community thrive. Two such works are by Nora Ellen Groce and Barry Crouch. There are many similarities and differences between Groce’s and Crouch’s versions of the history of Martha’s Vineyard. This essay compares the two literary works, analyzing some of their differences.
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One of the similarities between the two writings is the complete integration of deaf people in their communities in Martha’s Vineyard. Both authors highlight the different ways in which deaf people were included in every day work. For instance, both scholars cite that some deaf people held senior positions in church, politics, and other social elements of life. In my opinion, this similarity is important in the history of Martha’s Vineyard as it depicts why the society flourished despite the challenges faced by some of its community members.
Another similarity between the two readings is the notion that Martha’s Vineyard excelled because of the tolerance and accommodation of the members of the community who could hear. This similarity encourages the assumption that the larger society is to be tasked with ensuring inclusivity in the community. The theme runs throughout both writings indicating that this element of accommodation allowed deaf people born in Martha’s Vineyard to be an integral part of the society. Additionally, both writings portray Martha’s Vineyard as a near perfect community. Arguably, this premise might be based on both writers’ biases on what a near perfect community should look like. One can state that through their writings, a perfect community is one that does not discriminate those who are believed to be different. Secondly, a suitable society is one that incorporates everyone in their daily activities. In my opinion, inclusion should not be viewed as special as everyone in such communities must be equal.
Despite the similarities, there are significant differences between the two readings. One prominent difference is that whereas Groce sees Martha’s Vineyard as a whole, Crouch divides the Vineyard into different sections. According to Crouch (1986) there were only two main sections of Martha’s Vineyard that were inclusive. These sections ensured that deaf people held senior positions and the rest of the community also used sign language when necessary. This difference is not mentioned in Groce’s writings. Instead, Groce focuses on the fact that deaf people were more included in the society than in any other community in the world. Personally, I believe the two authors wanted to depict two different things about the community, hence, this difference.
The two writers also differ in regards to their statistics. Both use figures and numbers to show the prevalence of deafness in the community. Whereas Groce (1985) states that 1 out of 155 people born in the community was deaf, Crouch (1986) argues that 1 out of every 382 babies was born deaf. The difference in data is crucial as it affects the perception of the writer. Crouch’s number is lower than Groce’s which means his writings were also influenced by the fact that more people in the society could hear. Importantly, these statistics have been recently debated as national demographics records prove that the number of deaf people was higher than the numbers quoted by both authors.
Notably, despite the differences, both writers give significant insights into how the community in Martha’s Vineyard lived. They depict the importance of inclusivity, despite disability, in a society. The two authors’ views on an ideal society are also important as they shed light on how communities today can mirror the same and prosper.
Crouch, B. A. (1986). Martha’s Vineyard, 1700-1900: A deaf utopia? Sign Language Studies, 53, 381-387.
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Groce, N. E. (1985). Everyone here spoke sign language: Hereditary deafness on Martha’s Vineyard. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.