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Looking at Chang and Eng, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 455

Essay

The visual spectre of conjoined twins has meanings which range from the practical to the philosophical, while also raising important questions about the nature of voyeurism and the risk of sensationalizing difference.  Chang and Eng Bunker were, as Stefany Anne Golberg states, the “original” (Golberg) Siamese twins, and their photographs provide a public face to a physical disability that few people ever experience (or witness) in real life.  Through their example, Chang and Eng provide us with a way to understand how people overcome adversity and the manner in which our intimate relationships make us the individuals that we are.

Looking is different than staring or gawking, an important distinction for Siamese twins who, as a group of individuals, were historically relegated to freak shows and institutions.  It is vital to look at them closely so as to better understand the nature of sibling relationships and a level of intimacy that, for the non-conjoined, is as difficult to conceive as “living in a two-dimensional universe” (Golberg).  The beautiful thing about the relationship between Chang and Eng, and the reason why the viewing of their photograph should be prerequisite to anyone attempting to understand human development and human psychology, is that they created separate and unique lives for themselves, complete with wives, children, and careers, despite their physical conditions.

The mutually-dependent existence of Chang and Eng acts as a powerful metaphor for the manner in which our closest relationships can both aid and undermine us.  With numerous shared organs, to separate one brother from the other would have meant the certain death of at least one of them.  Their dependency also meant that the more negative aspects of their individual personalities, such as Chang’s “frequent drunken rages” (Golberg) left Eng both physically and emotionally at his brother’s mercy.  Stefany Anne Golberg refers to their remarkable lives as an “impossible situation” (Golberg), and yet the photograph in which they stand with the aloof dignity often found in pictures from that era shows this to be untrue.

Chang and Eng serve to illustrate the strangely human desire to survive against all odds, and to turn unavoidable hardships into opportunities for personal growth.  Rather than choosing “early death” (Golberg), a reaction Golberg suggests her modern readers might have opted for rather than to live their lives conjoined, Chang and Eng sought to better understand their condition while still undertaking a rich existence in which they were gentlemen farmers who fathered twenty-one children between them.  These are not the actions of men who have given up on life; rather, their behaviors demonstrate that adversity is entirely relative.

Works Cited

Golberg, Stefany Anne. “Double Trouble: How Do We Make Sense of Conjoined Twins?” The    Smart Set. Drexel University, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.

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