Although I was initially unsure of what topic to choose, after brainstorming my interests I decided to focus on the novel, The Poisonwood Bible. This choice was stemmed from my interest in colonialism – which I had learnt about in my history class – therefore I believed it was a topic that would sustain my engagement and enjoyment throughout the EE process. My first obstacle was to carefully read through the book as I had realised little progress or further decision making could commence since my understanding of the novel was quite little. I was then interested in possibly comparing the novels The Poisonwood Bible and The Heart of Darkness and analysing their contrasting angles on colonialism in the Congo. My supervisor suggested that I read some external sources of postcolonial literary theory so I could become more comfortable with the specific jargon used, advance my vocabulary and cultivate new ideas.
After discussing with my supervisor, I decided that focusing on the portrayal of disability in The Poisonwood Bible would provide me with a more manageable scope, as well as an engaging topic. Using textbooks, journals and online academic papers, I then sourced research on disability studies done by professors and authors. Though it was initially overwhelming, the theories I found and applied greatly strengthened the claims I had derived from my novel. Because of my great intrigue, I would often write off tangent, straying away from the focus of my paper. My supervisor advised me to minimise this habit by prioritising information whilst referring back to my plan. Furthermore, she suggested I embed more literary context in the first few paragraphs as it had been overpowered by narrative analysis.
During the revision stage, I focused on structuring my writing to better guide the reader through a logical and congruent progression of my thinking. I did this by adding more context in my introduction and the character’s background information before beginning any analysis, to ensure the direction and purpose of the essay was clear. My research and secondary reading largely improved my language and allowed me to focus on the topic of disability beyond the specifics of my particular novel. The concepts I gathered, such as the idea of normalcy, heightened my analysis as I linked my findings to larger cultural paradigms and conventional discourse. I believe that this EE was much more than an academic exercise. The ideas of differently-abled representation and the need for conformity under rigid frameworks of identity are ideas that are still critical in our current day discussions for fairer and more equal societies. Though my essay was anchored in literature, it was critical for me to express how differently abled people should not solely be vehicles for our motifs, symbols or artistic performances. They are individuals deserving of their own narratives. Although the multiplicity of issues that disability studies are often connected to were too vast to include in my essay, I hope I can investigate those intersectional areas more in the future.