“Hieroglyphics” is a short story written by Scots writer Anne Donavan. The story is humorous but also portrays a serious message about dyslexia and the struggle the main character Mary has coping with this learning difficulty whilst dealing with an unsupportive family, lack of educational support and a continuous loss of friends. The writer conveys these problems through various techniques such as imagery, use of language, key incidents, and mode of narration, to give a more visual understanding of her circumstances resulting I the reader feeling sympathy for Mary.
Sympathy for Mary is almost immediately felt from the opening paragraph. In the first paragraph the reader is informed of Mary being dyslexic. This opening gives the reader a better understanding of the impact her dyslexia is having on her. “Ah mind they were birlin and dancing roond like big black spiders. A couldnae keep a haunle on them fur everytime ah thoat ah’d captured them, tied them theigither in some kindy order they jist kept on escaping. ” Anne Donovan uses imagery in the form of a simile to show Mary’s struggle when trying to grasp the understanding of certain words .
The words such as ‘birlin’ and ‘dancin’ is used to personify Mary’s lack of control she has over the words on the piece of paper. The comparison of the words to spiders shows that the words are obvious and she fears them. ‘tying them together’ suggests her struggle to write a simple word down. Overall, this first paragraph was an effective introduction to Mary’s dyslexia. This is because it clearly shows Mary’s dissatisfaction with being dyslexic and how hard it is making her everyday life. This therefore demonstrates how awareness of Mary’s learning difficulty evokes sympathy to be felt by the reader.
Mary is evidently struggling in primary school because of her dyslexia but further sympathy is felt by the reader when they discover how unsupportive and unsympathetic Mary’s mother is when she is informed Mary is struggling in school. “She’s lazy ye mean. ” This reaction suggests that Mary’s Mother does not recognise the problem and is attempting to make up narrow-minded excuses for why Mary is struggling and not face the truth which is Mary has a learning difficulty. Furthermore, evidence is shown that Mary’s mother is unsupportive and unsympathetic of Mary. Ma Mammy thoat a wis daft, naw, no the way wee Helen fae doon the street wis. ” This conveys that Mary’s mother can tell there is something wrong with Mary but does not do anything to help Mary it is as if she blames Mary for her dyslexia and is punishing her by being unsupportive.
Donovan strongly sets the scene of sympathy towards Mary for successfully showing the little support she acquires from her Mother making the reader feel sympathetic. Another aspect of the story which evokes sympathy to be felt towards Mary is the ‘special’ treatment she receives from her teachers throughout primary and secondary school. Maisty the time the teacher gied me the colourin in tae dae an when ah wis in primary seven ah goat tae run ae the messages an helped oot wi the wee wans. No wi their reading of course but getting their paints mixed an takin them tae the toilet an pitting oot the mulk for them. ” This shows the ‘special’ treatment Mary has received all the way through primary. Although this special treatment was not extra attention from her teachers or being pushed to do her best it was instead being given simple tasks with underestimate her and do not require much thought.
Mary says how she does not help the nursery children with their reading which shows Mary does not even have the reading ability of a nursery pupil and that she is not pushing herself to do her best as nobody else has pushed her before for example her mother and her school teachers. This evokes a lot of sympathy for Mary as it shows her vulnerability, lack of confidence and insecurity which all is because of her dyslexia. Another example of how the teachers do not give Mary the attention she needs to deal with her dyslexia is when Mary said that they had gave her tests to determine her levels. The gave me aw these tests an heard ma reading and telt ma maw a hud a reading age of 6. 4 an a spelling age of 5. 7 and goad knows whit else, but naebedy ever asked me whit wis goan oan in ma head so ah never telt them. ” Sympathy for Mary is naturally felt by the reader at this part of the story.
It conveys how teachers are obviously aware she has a learning disorder but decide to neglect it. Mary abbreviates this neglect by saying that ‘naebedy ever asked me whit was gaun oan in ma head. This confirms that Mary was infact neglected in her education by her teachers and that is most likely why her dyslexia has become so bad as nobody has ever attempted to help her, even the people who are employed to do so. Overall, this part of the story evokes even more sympathy for Mary as Donovan is now emphasising the neglect Mary suffers from not only at home but at school by showing teachers are not willing to help her. By this point in Mary’s life she is used to teachers under minding, neglecting and taking pity on her. That is most probably why Mr Kelly’s treatment towards her came as a shock.
Mr Kelly paid more attention to Mary and noticed there was some form of difficulty in her learning but instead of giving Mary the help she required he instead humiliated her to the point where his treatment may be regarded as bullying. This shows the contrast between the treatments she is in the habit of receiving and the form of treatment Mr Kelly is giving her. “Ah did try but ah goat masel instae such a complete fankle that ah hud tae stop writtin and instead a being like the ither teachers an jist leavin me in piece or sending me a message or sumpn he hud tae make hissel smart by drawin attention tae me.
Jist a big wean really, though it didnae feel that way at the time. ” Here Donovan contrasts the two extremely different treatments Mary is receiving from her teachers none of which are helping her deal with her dyslexia again evoking sympathy. All throughout primary Mary was rerated like she was incapable and teachers neglected her education and distracted her with various earns to run. The treatment she is receiving is too much for her she is no used to so much attention being focussed on her education to the extent where it could be labelled as bullying.
Sympathy is again evoked for Mary when Mr Kelly singled her out in front of her class mates by embarrassing and pinpointing her for her learning difficulty “Do you know what hieroglyphics are Mary? ” “Aye Sur, it’s Egyptian. ” “Yes Sir, Not Aye Sir. I is the first person nominative, you will know what the means of course since you have the good fortune of being properly educated in the classical tradition. Maybe if you would learn to speak properly you could then write properly. ” “The class were aw sittin up like circus lions at this point, wonderin whit the ringmaster wis gonny dae next. Here, Mr Kelly mock the way Mary speaks and blames her lack of English skills this again showing that teachers don’t realise that the real issue is dyslexia but instead come up with petty excuses. He compared Mary’s handwriting to Hieroglyphics this lowering the little confidence she had. Donovan uses an extended metaphor when comparing the class to circus lions. This extended metaphor and simile compares the class to lions in the circus waiting in anticipation for their next command.
By comparing Mr Kelly to the ring master suggests he is demanding an in charge it also shows the fear Mary felt towards him. Mr Kelly’s actions towards Mary leads to her class mates isolating her furthermore sympathy is felt as not only is it hard enough dealing with dyslexia but she has now found herself with no friends all because her learning disorder. “And their seemed tae be an empty space aw roond me in the class, fur naebedy sat next tae me if they could help it. Ah couldnae figure it oot, fur they aw hatit auld Skelly so how come jist because he didnae like me they didnae either.
You’d think it was the other way roond. ” Mary failed to understand the isolation she was receiving. Perhaps Mr Kelly had influenced the pupils and they did not want to be viewed as one of her friends because they may receive the same treatment from Mr Kelly. Donovan uses a simile to describe the changes in Mary’s social life in school. “Friendships kindy shuffle roond like wanny they pregressive barn dances and ye make new wans an ye loose auld wans and somhow in the middly aw this process ah fund maself oot the dance wioot a partner and it wisnae nice.
The use of a simile explains the changes in friendship Mary was going through and by saying she was out of the dance symbolised that was she was out of the social group and was friendless. The reader sympathises Mary at this point in the story. Finally, we can find much hope for Mary, she can be considered to be intelligent, yet the intelligence is not acknowledged by anyone. Mary can draw hieroglyphics with ease which is something who can read and write may have difficulty with. “And ah turn oot tae be dead good at it. Somehow tge wee pictures jist seemed tae come intae ma heid it wis that easy compared tae writin words. Mary had a talent when it came to hieroglyphics and she found it exceptionally easy this showing her intelligence but people failed to realise it as they realise she has difficulty reading and writing and assume she is unintelligent.
Mary is also proven to be intelligent as she can begin to understand her own learning disorder. “Mibby it’s because there irny usually as many numbers in a number as there are letters in a word, if ye know whit a mean or is it because ye read them across the way and ye dae maths doon the way? This conveying that Mary can understand herself why she struggles with words more than numbers. Also this shows that she can understand numbers showing she is in fact intelligent. Throughout “Hieroglyphics” by Anne Donovan the author gains sympathy from the reader through neglect by Mary’s teachers and Mother, lack of respect and isolation from her class mates, teachers underestimation her and not pushing her to the best of her ability. Mary’s dyslexia is not all there is to her. She is in fact intelligent but nobody in her life believes this which explains why she does not either.