Dennis Covington is an American writer of fiction whose stories give a realistic version of the world through the lives of the fictitious characters. He did his education in fiction writing and got BA degree from the University of Virginia. He married second time to Vicki Covington in 1977 and also taught at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. (Alabama Center for the Book and Auburn University, 2008) Lizard is his commendable story of a deformed young teenage boy, Lucius Sims, whose deformity gets him a nickname Lizard.
The whole story revolves around this boy, his anguish as he is abused and laughed at by other children and even though not mentally retarded yet is admitted in the asylum of mentally retarded children. Lucius Sims has a disfigured face and looks completely different from others and similar to a reptile. This makes him an object of ridicule and insults. He is often insulted and called “Turd Head” (Covington, 1991, p. 10) by the boys, and nurse refers him as “that boy with squashed head” (Covington, 1991, p. 28). He is also admitted in Leesville State School for mentally handicapped boys by a woman named Miss Colley with whom he was staying.
From this place onwards his troubles and problems actually start. There is no sign or even evidence of his being mentally handicapped still he is forced to stay with these children which prove nothing less than a torture for him. His sending him off to the school of mental retarded children is just a means to get rid of him, so that Miss Colley could marry without having to face burden of taking care of him. Lucius is burdened of having to face not only these children but also adults so he decides to escape. Soon he gets an opportunity when he is helped by a young actress and an actor to flee from school.
He takes this chance to escape into the new profound freedom. They take him into the acting company where he plays a role of Caliban in one of the organized Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. In course of his journey, he comes across range of people- orphaned brother and sister whom he finds staying in a dirty swamp, a museum curator, a black artist, and finally again Miss Cooley whom he finds to be his own mother. On this journey he has to face many situations and circumstances which are both tragic as well as comic like interstate chase, acting debut, unreciprocated love, his acting career and many more adventures.
“While performing in the play, Lizard becomes a specifically American Caliban who finds through the culturally-authoritative voice of Shakespeare, language to speak the trauma of self and nation crystallized by the extreme political history of 1963. ” (Hateley, 2009, p. 158) Plot moves very slowly in the beginning but becomes more mesmerizing as it moves forward. Whole text appears to be very loosely connected with again plot appearing to be like turning here and there and twisting. In some places, rough language has also been used which has very little or no relevance to the plot.
Many people have been described in the book that gives a nice view about the present society as a whole and the difficulties it faces. It is a self narrative with an autobiographical touch as this whole story has been told by Lizard himself and from his perspective. Through this story, we could not stop but admire him for the way he shows courage and strength in dealing with the circumstances and the people around him. All other characters are also very intriguing allowing us to have a good grasp of the society and its ways.
Lizard is Covington’s first work of fiction as he produced originality while espousing the social themes and the worldly affairs with great dexterity and as a keen watcher. This novel is more recommended for young aged between 14 to 16 who should adopt the attitude of love and tolerance towards these “other” unconventional children. It is also a novel of hope and optimism as in this odd world, a body with disfigured face wants to make his place. Through the eyes of this young boy nicknamed Lizard, writer allows us to show great wisdom, and love for all.
It is also a way to remove the undaunted fear of adolescence. While reading the novel, it appears writer has achieved what he wanted with no doubt through the confused, tormented and on some occasions violent while other funny escapades of main the protagonist Lizard. Reference List Alabama Center for the Book and Auburn University. (2008). Dennis Covington. Retrieved on May 2, 2010 from W. W. W: http://www. alabamaliterarymap. org/author. cfm? AuthorID=134 Covington, D. (1991). Lizard. New York, N. Y: Bantam Doubleday Dell. Hateley, E. (2009)
Shakespeare in children’s literature: gender and cultural capital. New York, NY: Routledge. Perantoni, C. (2003) First One I and Then the Other, in Reimagining Shakespeare for children and young adults edited by Naomi J. Miller. New York, NY: Routledge. Polette, N. & Ebbesmeyer, J. (2002). Literature lures: using picture books and novels to motivate middle school readers. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited. Ward, M. (2006). Voices from the Margins: An Annotated Bibliography of Fiction of Disabilities and Differences for Young People. IAP.