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  1. The first chapter of any novel focuses mainly on the introduction of its characters and the world they will be interacting with. A reader can get the general ‘feel’ of a book by the first couple of chapters, making these first few scenes very important. As a man living with Tourette’s, Lionel Essrog’s life is bound to differ from that of most readers which means that relating or sympathizing with the character can be hard. His verbal and physical tics put us in his shoes, allows the readers to experience the struggle and annoyance that he goes through daily. This makes Lionel a character that seems more human, since his emotions can be experienced by the reader. I also enjoy that Lionel is aware of his condition in a way that does not make him self-conscious. He knows what he has and has long since come to terms with it, he even knows exactly what people are thinking when they are around him,

    “Some stared, others looked away, bored. I’d been identified by the crowd as some sort of patient: spirit or animal possession, verbal epileptic seizure, whatever. I would presumably be given drugs and sent home. I wasn’t damaged or ailing enough to be interesting here, only distracting, and slightly reprehensible in a way that made them feel better about their own disorders, so my oddness was quickly and blithely incorporated into the atmosphere.” (Lethem 31)

    His tics also lighten the general mood of the novel, making serious and important events seem less so. His outbursts of words and sounds add comedy to the novel, but not in a manner that would clash with the somberness of the situation. It is understood from the start that these impulses cannot be controlled, but they do not stop him from working and going about his life. His tics remind me of Lennie Small in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, in the sense that both characters cannot help who they are. Lennie has a condition which has limited his thought process to that of a child’s, making him a ‘freak show’ in his world as well. Both characters often seem comical because of these conditions, without ruining the general somber mood of the novels as wholes.

    Charlotte Lapointe

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