The Little Locksmith

The Little Locksmith

by Katharine Butler Hathaway

The Little Locksmith, Katharine Butler Hathaway's luminous memoir of disability, faith, and transformation, is a critically acclaimed but largely forgotten literary classic brought back into print for the first time in thirty years.

The Little Locksmith begins in 1895 when a specialist straps five-year-old Katharine, then suffering from spinal tuberculosis, to a board with halters and pulleys in a failed attempt to prevent her being a "hunchback." Her mother says that she should be thankful that her parents are able to have her cared for by a famous surgeon; otherwise, she would grow up to be like the "little locksmith," who does jobs at their home; he has a "strange, awful peak in his back." Forced to endure "a horizontal life of night and day," Katharine remains immobile until age fifteen, only to find that she, too, has a hunched back and is "no larger than a ten-year-old child." The Little Locksmith charts Katharine's struggle to transcend physical limitations and embrace her life, her body and herself in the face of debilitating bouts of frustration and shame.

The Little Locksmith stands as a testimony to Katharine's aspirations and desires-for independence, for love, and for the pursuit of her art."We tend to forget nowadays that there is more than one variety of hero (and heroine).

Katharine Butler Hathaway, who died last Christmas Eve, was the kind of heroine whose deeds are rarely chronicled.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Autobiography
  • Rating: 3.65
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: July 1st 2000 by The Feminist Press at CUNY
  • Isbn10: 1558612394
  • Isbn13: 9781558612396

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Strangely, I had just read Margaret Atwood's book about being a writer NEGOTIATING WITH THE DEAD and I found Butler agonizing over the same troubles that Atwood described. This time I found Butler, who begins the tale of THE LITLE LOCKSMITH in 1895, a little dramatic, but her story also resonated with another book I had just read called THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FACE by Lucy Grealy. Butler is a lavish writer. To me, this means that she lavishs her attention upon the things that she loves and details their meaningfulness to her.

Next admiration leads to gratitude, next, gratitude leads to humility, for the person who receives much feels grateful and then humble, because he wonders how he can have deserved such an extravagant kindness. In recognition of what they have seen, admired, and received, they finish the sequence, they put themselves and their lives into God's hands to do as He will with them.

They didn't seem like real living people. They were not real people, surely, but just large meaningless objects that had got into my room by mistake and were very much in the way there. It is extraordinarily valuable to have a record of a child rejecting the pitying glances of self serving adults and obnoxious children, for the bullying in the schoolyard is always handed down via the sins of the parents, and the only way to humanize disabled/mentally ill children is to rid the world of disability porn and other related ilk which those parents consume. The moment one believes people exist for the society, not the other way around, is the moment one sells one's soul to the deep. Hathaway's emotional turmoils are harrowing, but her life is one of triumph largely in thanks to emotional as well as financial confidence, and I am likely to add her cumulative letters and other writings just to read of the multiple transatlantic crossings and interactions, as well as to see whether her disappointingly racist views with regards to Japanese people, especially Japanese women, have any underlying context. Unless you yourself go out of your way to listen to disabled/mentally ill folk, you're participating in their annihilation, as no individual exists in a vacuum, and a world that continues to herald "Me Before You" is a field of war for any person who refuses to fit the mold of human sacrifice for the sake of able others.

This book was not first published in 1980.

There was some really beautiful language and imagery.

Because the awakenings of the author are told with the sincerity of someone who still has their eyes wide open to them they invite introspection in the reader.

The failings of the book are generally just the failings of people; she goes on and on in beautiful prose about her complicated relationships with her family and friends, and at times she shows great insight but other times are woefully hypocritical. Overall, great book, compelling narrative, and brilliant writing. I wish she had lived long enough to write the sequel, so I could find out all about her life in her "island" house.

That being said, it was an insightful book, interesting look into the author's mind, and the mindset of the early 1900's. Favorite quote: When the author was debating about buying a house,, a HUGE deal for a single woman at that period of time, she writes: "I discovered that my decision was only a question of whether I preferred to be governed by fear or by a creative feeling, and although I was very frightened, I knew I could not choose fear." She used that argument for future decisions, she would look at all sides and see which belong to fear and which belonged to creativeness, and all things being equal, she would make the decision based on where the larger number of creative reasons stood. It would have been interesting to read more of her life.