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The conventional term of enlightenment was not universal in the18th century. The period witnesses many attempts by all the people to create their own contraptions of enlightenment. People were in between their allegiances to the traditional approaches applied by the society that the main characters of the case used to live in at the time. The beliefs held by the people also played a central role in derailing the advancements made towards development of enlightened thinking. Ironically, the people that were to be the most enlightened is the society were among the ones routing for the bizarre conclusions in cases that are straightforward to the common modern man. However, these people were not anywhere close to the modern way of thinking. The case in point involves a young uneducated woman who gave the most bizarre case in time by claiming that the most unnatural thing had actually taken place. She was of the opinion that she was the mother to a litter of rabbits (Manningham, 1-10). This is ridiculous in the common time, but the most ridiculous affect is the fact that many distinguished people were of the opinion that she was telling the truth. They even went ahead to believe her aunt try to explain the presumed way that the eventual conception and the delivery of the litter of rabbits took. Place. This paper will use the case of the Mary Toft to as the leeway into the way that the people reasoned, and the roles of the confused use of emotions and logic led to redundant explanations of scenarios.
Mary Toft was a rabbit breeder who lived in the United Kingdom from early to mid-18th century. She was illiterate, and she was married an illiterate travelling merchant. The issues that brought Mary Toft to the limelight were the claim that she made in front of the court that she gave birth to fifteen of rabbits. This was bizarre claim to most of the people since even if it was possible there was no possible way that the woman could have given birth to the rabbits since just a month ago she had undergone a miscarriage. The miscarriage would have rendered her incapable of giving birth in the near future. This aspect is the main center of the controversy surrounding the claim that she gave birth to a litter of rabbits. The other claim that she made was that the conception process for the rabbits was by startling of a rabbit in the field. This is obviously impossible since, for any human being to conceive there, must sexual contact. The claims made by the woman led to various stages that eventually bred the curious case (Manningham, 1-10).
Mary Toft had undergone a miscarriage a month before giving birth to the rabbits. This fact did not deter her from looking pregnant, and a month later, the sequences that would lead to the formation of the foundations of the curious case came into being when she gave birth to something that looked like a cat. The attendants that took care of the woman were also illiterate. The first attendant that midwifed Mary Toft was the neighbor. The Anna Toft who was the mother-in-law of Mary Toft succeeded her. The mother-in-law confessed of removing objects from the woman under labor that resembled rabbits. In one, day, she was capable of removing over nine rabbits from the womb of the woman (Manningham, 1-10). John Howard who was the obstetrician in Guildford area attested to this information.
The doctor who was enlightened sought to indulge the counsel of other professionals operation in the area. She sent a letter to the greatest doctors of the time. He also sent letters to the scientists and members of the king’s council seeking to inform them of the developments. The newly found bizarre nature of the issue led to the development of a celebrity. Mary Toft was sent to the nearby town of Guildford where she would be under the close monitoring of John Howard. While under the care of John Howard, the doctor sent various letters to doctors inviting them to come to the area of the birth of the rabbits and witness the discovery in the medical field. Among the doctors that came to examine the birth of the rabbits were St. Andre and Molyneux. The doctors conducted their examinations on the rabbits that the woman claimed to have conceived.
They had deep convictions that the rabbits were not from the woman since the lung development could not have occurred in the womb. The rabbits were said to be coming from the womb of the woman (Toft, 5). However, the lung development indicated that they were formed well enough to have survived outside the body. In fact, the lungs indicated that they have been in live existence in an environment other than the womb. St. Andre held that the rabbits were not from the woman. However, he still sought to believe that there was another way that the rabbits could have come from the woman. The logic of the impossibility of the rabbits coming from the womb of the woman was defeated by the claim that the woman would have been under some supernatural control while conceiving the rabbits. The doctor even proceeded to take samples of rabbits and took them to the king and Prince of Wales.
The king suspected that the issue was more than the people claimed were. He sought an external and independent analysis of the issue where he sought the counsel of a German doctor. Upon examination of rabbits and the contents of the stomach of the rabbits, he found out that there were dung pellets in the intestines of the rabbits. This was another indicator that the rabbits were not possibly developed in the womb of the woman. This meant that there was a hoax. The woman must have been working in collusion with the obstetrician (Manningham, 10).
The story also drew another interest from a high-ranking doctor in London Sir Richard Manningham. He observed Mary Toft after being consulted by the St. Andre. He observed the woman give birth to her so-called rabbit babies and had the conviction that whatever he was witnessing was a hog balder and not a live rabbit. However, he was convinced by St. Andre and John Howard to avoid disclosing his area of contention until when there was adequate proof that the woman was indeed a fraudster (Toft, 35). What the two doctors that vetoed the claim that a human being was capable of conceiving a rabbit was desperate attempts to protect their reputation that would be injured in the event that the woman was exposed.
The other angle of looking at the matter was that the contraption was a means of attaining the livelihood for the family. The bizarre nature and the press coverage that the story received made the rabbits a favorite for the people. The people were drawn to the absurdity yet they were willing to believe what the enlightened members of the society. The belief in the supernatural was also a contributing factor to the popularity of the story. The enlightened members of the society betrayed the other people that relied on them for guidance in that they were quick to allow fanning the false story (Toft, 45). The most liable enlightened person in this story was John Howard who made it attain the popularity that in the public domain. The delays undertaken by the king and his council in ruling out the possibility is also a pertinent contributor to the growth of the fallacy that attracted most of the people in London. This was a contraption made by a desperate and the poor woman to make it in life without having to work as hard as she was accustomed to in the normal day. However, this easy part was ruled out of the question by the assurance that the members of the public got from the presumably enlightened doctors.
The developments surrounding the claim started going wrong when more professionals were questioning the grounds of the rabbit births. The moment called for an intervention that would protect the proponents of the fraud from any dangers that would face the culprits. This called for the development of an idea that would suit the people and the medical practitioners. The medical profession at that time believed in the now redundant theory of maternal impression (Manningham, 3). This theory was conjured by the famous elephant man who claimed that the deformities that he was suffering from were a result of a stampede which frightened his mother while she was pregnant. This theory made him assume some features that made him look like an elephant in that he was extraordinarily strong. The doctors in Mary Toft case were of the opinion that the extraordinary formation of the normal human fetus in the womb of the woman was a result of the frightening experience that she had experienced while she was pregnant. However, this claim was not ideally correct since the woman had miscarried the real baby and the deformity could no longer affect her. Therefore, the linkage with the theory was a fallacy.
The single frightening experience with the rabbit in the field must have been sufficient for the woman to keep on producing rabbits. The figures themselves pointed out the inconsistencies that were present in this claim. The discovery of the trick that the woman was employing to sustain the charade was the realization that all the information that the press had been feeding the public was based on a hoax construed by a simple uneducated village girl in collaboration with the enlightened members of the society (Costen 15). The lack of adequate training is among the reasons behind the increased belief that the impossible aspect was actually possible. The ramifications of this case included the loss of the career by St. Andre and a trial for the woman. Attempts made by St. Andre to absolve him from the guilt were futile which led to his death as a poor man.
Costen, Edward. The several depositions of Edward Costen. London: Printed for J. Pemberton, at the Buck in Fleet-Street, over-against St. Dunstan's Church, 1727. Print.
Manningham, Richard. An exact diary of what was observ'd during a close attendance upon Mary Toft, the pretended Rabbet-Breeder of Godalming in Surrey, from Monday Nov. 28, to Wednesday Dec. 7 following. London: Printed for Fletcher Gyles over-against Grays-Inn in Holborn, and sold by J. Roberts at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, 1726. Print.
Toft, Mary. A philosophical enquiry into the wonderful Coney-Warren, lately discovered at Godalmin near Guildford, ... being an account of the birth of seventeen rabbits born of a woman [Mary Toft] at several times, and who still continues in strong labour, at the Bagnio in Leicester Fields. London: 1726. Print.
Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was born on June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia and met her death on March 6, 1973, at the age of 81. She is also known by her Chinese name, Sai Zhenzhu, and she was an American novelist and writer. Born to Southern Presbyterian missionary parents, Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker, she spent quite a part of her life in China, up until 1934 (Conn 44). The family relocated to China when she was of a very tender age of three months. Her father spent months away from home traversing the massive lands of China looking for Christian converts. Her mother, on the other hand, spent most of the time in a dispensary she had set up in the local area the family had set a home.
Pearl learnt how to speak English and Chinese during her childhood years and this way after her mother taught her (Liao 78). She also had a Chinese tutor, Mr. Kung who administered Chinese to her. In 1900, there was a Boxer uprising which forced Caroline and her daughter to flee back to United States while still waiting to hear from Absalom. In 1910, Pearl joined Randolph Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and she successfully graduated from college in 1914. Pearl however went back to China against her will forced by the fact that she had learned that her mother was not feeling so well.
In 1915, Pearl met a young agricultural economist, John Lossing Buck, and they held a marriage ceremony in 1917. The now married couple relocated to Nanxuzhou in rural Anhui province, and it was in this community that Pearl got the content that she would use later when writing The Good Earth and other stories of China (Buck 156). Their first child, Carol, was born on 1921 under quite a number of complications, one of them being mentally retarded. Pearl underwent a hysterectomy, and this was because of the discovery of a uterine tumor discovered during delivery. In 1925, the couple made the decision to adopt a baby girl, Janice.
Between 1920 and 1933, the couple had their home at Nanking University where they both had teaching positions. Pearl’s mother died in 1921, and her father later on moved in with the couple. Their troubles did not seem to end, and in 1927, there was violence known as the “Nanking Incident”. The battle involved communists, assorted warlords and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops. The family spent the day in hiding, but American gunboats came to their rescue. The family travelled to Shanghai on their way to Unzen, Japan where they spent the next year. At the end of the year, they relocated to Nanking, despite the situation there being quite dangerous and unsafe.
In 1920, Pearl began to publish stories in magazines like The Chinese Recorder, Asia and Nation. Her first book East wind, West Wind, was published by Richard Walsh, John Day Company’s publisher in 1930. The man, Richard Walsh, would end up being Pearl’s second husband after both divorcing their partners in 1935. In 1931, the same company, John Day, published her second novel, Good Earth. The book was quite successful on the year of its release and the next year. It won the Pulitzer Price, Howells Medal in 1935 and also the book was adapted as a major MGM film in 1937 (Buck 279). This was the beginning of her career, and later on, more fiction publications followed.
In 1938, a few years after a whole decade devoted to writing, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in literature (Conn 71). This booked her into the history books being the first American woman to win the prize. As a result of the conditions in China, Pearl moved back to the States in 1934 in order to achieve two things. The first being to get closer to her daughter Carol who was in an institution, in New Jersey, and the other to be near to Richard Walsh. She purchased an old farmhouse in Bucks County, PA by the name of Green Hills Farm. With her newlywed husband, Richard Walsh, the two adopted six children. The Green Hills Farm is one of the History books now and receives fifteen thousand people per year.
After moving back to the US, Pearl was more involved in women rights activities and American Civil Rights. In 1942, Pearl and her husband founded East and west association with the mandate of conducting cultural exchange and understanding between the West and Asia. She was also very upset by the fact that adoption agencies considered Asian and children of mixed races to be unavailable for adoption (Liao 120). In 1949, as a result of her anger and disappointment she established the Welcome House. This was the first of its kind international and interracial adoption agency which did not discriminate children of Asian or mixed race origin. She also established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation that provides sponsorship for thousands of children in need in Asian nations.
Pearl passed away in 1973, just two months before she could celebrate her eighty-first birthday. AT the time of her death, she had written over seventy books, which consisted of; novels, biography and autobiography, drama, children literature, translations from Chinese and collections of stories. She was buried in her Green Hills Farm. She lived a successful life and at the time of her passing away, she was quite settled and contented with what she had done during her time.
Conn, Peter. Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print. Pg 44, 71.
Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012. Internet resource. Pg 156, 279.
Liao, Kang. Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge Across the Pacific. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 1997. Print. Pg 78, 120.
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