Reacting to Run-aways

Throughout literature and history in general, we learn as students that when something bad occurs one of the human reactions is fight or flight, so often we see one of these reactions when presented with stories of runaways. Cee, a character from Home by Toni Morrison, was medically abused by her employer and her brother helped her escape. When she escaped: “Sarah and the doctor stood locked in an undecipherable stare. As Frank passed around them with his motionless burden, Dr. Beau cast him a look of anger-shaded relief” (Home, 112). The lack of reaction from the doctor surprised me when I read this, so I kept going in search of this response. The book goes on, “Once Frank had fumbled and eased his way through the front door and reached the sidewalk, he turned to glance back at the house and saw Sarah standing in the door, shadowed by the dogwood blossoms. She waved. Good-bye – to him and Cee or perhaps to her job” (Home, 112). The doctor practically allows the two to simply walk out the door. Cee was his medical experiment and his reaction to her leaving seems only to be disappointment that he must now find another test subject. The same lack of reaction can be discovered in Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington where Cade, an experimental subject for doctors testing the effects of radioactive elements on human bodies, also escaped with a lack of reaction from those condemning him. “Cade slipped away. One morning the nurse opened his door, and he was gone. Morgan recalled, ‘They were surprised that a black man who had been expected to die got up and walked out of the hospital and disappeared.’ They were also disappointed” (Medical Apartheid, 217). In both Medical Apartheid and Home, the only reaction is disappointment. The captors do not chase after them, trying to hold them for experimentation even longer. After noticing the lack of response, I expected would be appropriate, I questioned the motives behind the experimenters, their thoughts on their subjects, and what affects the disappearance of their subjects had on their experiments. Furthermore, in Zulus by Percival Everett, the main character Alice Achitophel escapes the city in which she is kept and no there are no attempts to catch or prevent her. She later runs away from the rebel camp she spent time living in and returns to the city. The only difference between her two escapes were the reactions coming from the bodies of people residing in the place she left. The city did not seem to particularly care that Alice Achitophel disappeared. However, when she left the rebel camp they searched after her with torches in an attempt to find, capture, and kill her. This seems to represent the type of reaction I expected when reading about the escapees. Personally, I believe that the response of disappointment in the other situations was due to the dehumanization of the person. The victim or subject turned into a number or statistic in the mind of those in which they were escaping from, which seems to be an unfortunate theme in the books we have studied in class.

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