Is the Maid a Symbol of Autism?

The novel The Maid by Nita Prose raises questions and interesting discussions about neurodivergence, particularly autism. This guide aims to delve into these discussions to bring clarity to the topic.

The Maid: An Overview

The Main character in the novel, Molly Gray, is characterized as socially awkward, different, and naive. She grows up under the guidance of her grandmother, and following her grandmother’s demise, has to navigate through life independently. As a character, Molly is depicted as loving and passionate about her work as a maid in a luxurious hotel.

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Molly’s Characterization

Molly’s depiction suggests a neurodivergent character who doesn’t read social cues or understand others’ intentions easily. However, the book never explicitly states that she has autism. Rather, she describes herself as ‘different,’ and struggles with understanding facial expressions and social interactions. There’s a clear emphasis on her unique behavior and mannerisms, and her adherence to strict rules and routines—a portrayal that aligns with traits commonly associated with autism.

Controversy and Criticism

The way Prose avoids openly labeling Molly as autistic, and yet heavily leans on autistic stereotypes to build and define her character, has sparked contradicting views. Some readers believe Prose should have attributed her portrayal officially to neurodivergence or autism, as some of the traits are very specific to this spectrum. The avoidance to acknowledge it directly has led to a sense of unease and sparked debates surrounding the charactization.

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Misunderstandings and Stereotypes

  • Lack of empathy: Characters around Molly often ridicule her for her ‘different’ behavior, failing to acknowledge her difficulties and misreading her intentions. This highlights a common issue: autistic individuals are frequently misunderstood or underestimated due to their social interactions.
  • Character portrayal: The book portrays Molly as naive, potentially using her character to provide comedic elements to the plot. This depiction can perpetuate harmful stereotypes about neurodivergent individuals being clueless or lacking common sense.

Impact on Readers

Despite the controversies, Molly has struck a chord with readers, many of who see themselves reflected in her experiences. This reaction represents the powerful potential impact of literature in fostering empathy, promoting understanding, and raising awareness about neurodivergence and autism.

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While “The Maid” remains silent on the exact nature of Molly’s neurodivergence, her characterization certainly hints towards the traits of autism. The controversy underlines the importance of mindful representation of neurodivergence, fostering meaningful conversation about autistic characters appearing in mainstream literature.

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