Conundrum is a true story of Jan Morris hitherto known as James Morris. This transsexual realized that he was not meant to be a man. She says, “I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl” (1).
James Morris; the man, underwent surgery to become Jan Morris; the woman. On the other hand, Twelfth Night is a movie based on Shakespeare’s play by the same name. In this play, Viola a woman masquerades as a man, Cesario to enter in a service that she really wanted to get involved. This is only a play.
Twelfth Night compares strongly to a Conundrum. Both are stories of gender change. In Conundrum, James Morris realized that, even though he had been born as a boy, he felt like a woman from deep within. Genetically and phenotypically, James was male; however, he knew that he was a female.
He says, “To me gender is not physical at all, but is altogether insubstantial; it is soul, perhaps, it is talent it is the essentialness of oneself” (25). After consulting with many medical doctors, his dream finally came true and after a successful surgery, James Morris became Jan Morris, a female. This did not stop her from pursuing her dreams and today she is a successful journalist.
On the other side, Twelfth Night talks of a woman, Viola acting as Cesario who masquerades as a man. She fools many people in the play that she is a man until the final stages of the movie when she reveals her identity. Throughout the play, viola is only known as a man; actually, Olivia falls in love with her.
Both Conundrum and Twelfth Night talk about the same thing, change of gender. In both cases, there is change of gender from either male to female or female to male.
Even though these two stories major on the issue of gender change, there are outstanding differences between them. First, in Conundrum, a man changes permanently into a woman; that is, James Morris becomes Jan Morris. On the other hand, in Twelfth Night, a woman disguises to be a man and people believe it for a long time. While in Twelfth Night gender change is temporal, in Conundrum this change is permanent.
Twelfth Night is fiction but Conundrum is a reality. The motives behind the change of gender in these two stories are different. While Viola masquerades as a man for protection and to enter Dukes service, James Morris undergoes operation to become a female because he knows that he was born a woman.
The role of these stories in society is profound. Starting with the fiction part of it, it is educative and entertaining. It appreciates the fact that there are situations when a woman can disguise as a man to achieve a certain purpose. On its part, Conundrum, a real story, is an awakening call.
It plays a main role in letting those people who feel that they were born in the wrong body to come out in public, say it and take the necessary steps towards self-realization and freedom. Just like James Morris, such people yearning for, “liberation, or reconciliation–to live as myself, to clothe myself in a more proper body, and achieve Identity at last” (104) can finally have it.
Gorrie, John, “Twelfth Night.” DVD. Buena Vista International. 1980.
Morris, Jay. “Conundrum.” New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.