A label can be a powerful thing and this is something explored in detail in the final part of Graeme Simsion’s Rosie trilogy, The Rosie Result. There are the labels others impose on us, and those which we choose. There is a world of difference between them but they can be equally influencing on our lives and how others interact with us.
While many may have assumed protagonist Don Tillerman was on
the spectrum for autism based on a number of traits, the previous two books
avoided boxing him in. Don’s obsession with order and his efforts to categorise
his own and others behaviours continue to be a source of gentle humour and
learning for him and the reader. In the conclusion to the trilogy, social
awkwardness is a source of trouble for both Don and his son Hudson.
Labelled by the world
Key to the plot are two misunderstandings seeing father and
son separately treated as pariahs. Don’s effort to educate his students in a
creative way sees him labelled a racist and required to take leave of absence
from work. Hudson’s desire to impress others and prove himself sees him
labelled an animal murderer.
Society is fast to heap blame on each. Don’s error features
in newspapers and social media, and his wife and son are quick to receive
secondary blame as relatives of a racist. Hudson’s error sees him suspended
from school and other students are banned from socializing with him. Secondary
to these labels, the university (Don’s employer) and Hudson’s school are swift
and forceful in their efforts to label Don and Hudson.
The fury of the mob
It is an artful reminder of the mob mentality dominating our
lives at the moment and a gentle reminder that these are real people with their
own intents and emotions who suffer from society’s onslaught. Is our
desperation to be seen as politically correct, ‘woke’ and tolerant actually
making us cruel and intolerant? Simsion suggests it is. We would all benefit
from taking a step back from time to time to find a different way of educating.
Or perhaps by utilising the true grace of forgiveness.
This is demonstrated beautifully a number of times, such as in
Don’s compassionate approach to the anti-vaxer parents of one of Hudson’s
friends or both Don and Hudson’s responses to great wrongs done to them by
The labels we choose
The labels and reactions set off a life-changing series of
events as Don makes Hudson his latest ‘project’, fearing his son will suffer
the same social setbacks in life as he did. Don has spent his life trying to ‘fit
in’ and his plan is to teach Hudson how to do the same. The project is a
resounding success, but only if you ignore Don’s initial goals and see it as an
exercise for both father and son in learning about themselves and from each other.
While the labels chosen for them are a source of pain, the
labels Hudson and Don choose for themselves bring out the best in each. Hudson
makes friends who can celebrate him for his differences, while Don finds
himself relaxing and genuinely happy for the first time in his life.
In a world where we try so hard to blend in, where being Instagram-worthy
(and ergo, project a particular perfect brand) is to be valuable, it is lovely
to be reminded that true happiness comes from just being yourself. In that way,
you will find your ‘tribe’ and they will find you.
The Rosie Result offers the conclusion every fan needed and didn’t know they wanted – Don Tillerman, socially awkward professor, truly has it all. We have watched him find love, family and friendship. Finally, we see him find himself and see that he is someone worth celebrating too.