Literature Annotations

Bradbury, Ray
The Dwarf

Genre Short Story (11 pp.)
KeywordsBody Self-Image, Disability, Human Worth

Aimee and Ralph work at a carnival, Ralph collecting tickets at the Mirror Maze where uneven mirrors reflect distorted images. A dwarf named Mr. Bigelow comes to the maze; Ralph takes Aimee in to spy on the dwarf as he goes into a mirror room which reflects him as tall and slender. Ralph enjoys sneering at the dwarf, but Aimee feels sad and also feels very attracted to him. She investigates, learns he's a writer, wants to help him.

She decides to buy a mirror like one in the maze that reflects him as normal. Ralph, out of spite and perhaps some jealousy, replaces the enlarging mirror with one that makes people seem tiny. The dwarf "shrieking hysterically and sobbing" runs out of the maze. Aimee feels desperately sad and guilty, because Ralph would not have played that trick if he weren't irritated by her interest in Mr. Bigelow.

CommentaryThis story takes several ironic twists, beginning with the dwarf looking in the distorting mirror so he can look normal. The reversal of that comes in the last scene when Ralph sees himself in a mirror as "a horrid, ugly little man, two feet high"--a reflection symbolic of his character. Aimee, whose name suggests love, feels for the dwarf and tries to help him, though her kind efforts ironically lead to pain for the dwarf and anguish for herself. The dwarf's story, part of which Aimee reads to Ralph, not only puts us in his perspective but also prefigures action he may take at the end of the story.
SourceThe October Country
Place PublishedNew York
Alternate SourceThe Tyranny of the Normal
Alternate PublisherKent State Univ. Press
Alternate Edition1996
Alternate EditorsCarol Donley & Sheryl Buckley
Place PublishedKent, Ohio
Annotated by Donley, Carol
Date of Entry 04/16/96
Last Revised 01/31/97