Mary’s mother did not evidently bother about Mary’s “daftness”. She did recognise that her daughter had a problem with her learning but did not pay much attention to this aspect of her life, putting it down to Mary’s supposed laziness at school and stupidity: “She’s lazy, ye mean”, “Ma mammy thoat ah wis daft”. She allowed Mary to continue carrying out practical tasks that she was able to complete without having to read or write: “Ma mammy knew ah could go the messages an dae stuff roond the hoose and talk tae folk, ah wis jist daft at school subjects”.
Eventually Mary found herself in an isolated situation, with nobody understanding the problems she had and the way she felt. The lack of understanding she experiences from the adults around her creates pity for Mary: “but neabdy ever asked me whit wis gaun oan in ma heid. So ah never tellt them”. The simile, “Ah mind they were birlin and dancing roond like big black spiders”, refers to the way in which Mary perceives the words she is trying to read.
This is effective because it provides an image of the words being alive and moving about the page, resembling the confusing way in which Mary sees the letters. The letters are particularly described as spiders as the circles and lines that form letters bear a resemblance to spiders, this evokes a fear of language. At Primary School Mary was given tests to assess her reading and writing age: “ah hud a reading age of 6. 4 and a spelling age of 5. 7”. This causes the reader to feel sad for Mary because of the way she was categorised and humiliated.
Mary is helpless and alone because she has no one to talk to and she receives no understanding from her school, as mentioned before. The standardised tests make things much harder for Mary and she feels even more ‘different’ from her other classmates. The school do not realise the affect the tests have had on her and do not grasp that they are not going to help anyone in any way. When Mary goes to High School matters begin to get even harder for her.
Not all teachers understood her difficulties and a few have no sympathy for her at all: “French teacher took wan look at the dug’s dinner ah wis producing an tellt me no tae bother”. Her teachers did not know how to deal with her. In history her teacher, Miss Niven, allowed Mary to continue to draw hieroglyphics when the others in the class were progressing with the next topic: “and the rest ae the class moved on tae the Second World War but ah stayed in Ancient Egypt, stuck in a coarner a the room wi a pile a librybooks round me, drawing they wee sideways people”.
This did not help Mary whatsoever and by separating her from her classmates her sociability could have been affected and her education would also suffer from missing parts of the course. In other cases the teachers are not so understanding and sympathetic towards Mary. For instance, Mr Kelly was completely intolerant of Mary and had no thought for her feelings: “What point is there in writing something which is utterly unintelligible? “