Obfuscating Disability / Literature

  • Deliberately invoked in Encyclopedia Brown: the real thief made sandals out of cement-filled garden gloves to make it look like the guy in the chair had walked on his hands.
    • Another case had a fake blind guy as the culprit.
  • The recruiter in the novel of Starship Troopers deliberately left his prosthetics off when working to scare away gutless applicants. In the film, the actor cast in the role of the recruiter is a genuine double amputee.
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society, the main villain Ledroptha Curtain travels in a souped-up wheelchair, so it comes as quite a shock to the protagonists when, during the climax, he unstraps himself from the wheelchair and lunges for them. He has no problems walking, but actually uses the wheelchair (as well as goggles) to hide the fact that he has narcolepsy. He uses the same trick to great effect again in the second book in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, this time to fool the police.
  • Lisl in the Young Bond novel By Royal Command pretends to be incapacitated by drugs and needing a wheelchair while she waits for an opportunity to escape her captors.
  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series.
    • In Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, Agatha Christie's last novel starring the Belgian detective, the aged Poirot pretends to be wheelchair-bound, but is in fact still able to walk.
    • In Death on the Nile, a major suspect is ruled out because he had just been shot in the foot a few minutes before the murder and in no way could have limped all the way from the clinic to the murder scene and back in the time he was left unwatched. In fact, he faked being shot, rushed off to kill the victim and ran back, then shot his own foot for real to keep up the ruse.
  • In two points of the X-Wing Series, Wedge Antilles disguises himself as Colonel Roat, an Imperial pilot who was badly wounded and given clumsy, poorly-functioning prosthetics. Imperials are biased against cyborgs, generally thinking that only someone very clumsy or unlucky can be injured so badly as to need cybernetics, and so no one managed to connect him to the second most famous Rebel pilot.
  • In later Mistborn books, the heroine consistently suspects that an enemy warlord is using this. Not without reason, as they live in a society where nobles and criminals alike regularly hide their magical abilities and feign weakness to appear less dangerous (she herself had done this in the previous book). Ultimately subverted though, as the warlord in question really is paraplegic.
  • The killer in John Dickson Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell novel The Problem of the Wire Cage uses his recent car accident, and its attendant injuries, to pull off a murder he seemingly couldn't have physically committed. Unfortunately, circumstances turn it into a murder NO ONE could've committed.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Live", Salome tossed the head of a murdered man to a deaf beggar — who proves to be Valerius, who heard that the true queen is prisoner there.
  • Although he has significant mental problems, Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is not "deaf and dumb." He got so used to people disregarding him that he gave up trying to communicate with them, and finds that being considered a deaf-mute has the advantage that staff are careless about what they discuss when he's around. He throws off the charade partway through the book and - aside from McMurphy - none of the patients notice because they never paid much attention to him in the first place.
  • Claudius exaggerated his stutter, limp and general clumsiness in I, Claudius. This barely kept him alive when he had to work for The Caligula.
  • In the romance novel A Proper Taming, Lady Doncaster is crippled when she falls from a horse. She takes advantage of this to get companions and hopefully find one her son will marry. She also made a full recovery a full year before the story takes place.
  • Chiron from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. We first see him as Mr. Brunner, Percy's wheelchair-bound Latin teacher. Turns out he's a centaur, and the wheelchair is a Hammerspace Hideaway for his horse legs.
  • Stephen King seems to like this one in his later works:
    • Norman Daniels in Rose Madder. While hunting for his runaway wife, he shaves his head and pretends to be a paraplegic, to avoid being recognized by the (many) people on the lookout for him.
    • Brady Hartsfield in Mr. Mercedes borrows the Daniels technique to get into a boy-band concert without attracting the suspicion that would normally attach to a man showing up solo at an event whose primary audience is tween-age girls. He plans to blow up the venue, but is stopped in time and earns a real disability, in the form of brain injury, in the process.
  • The tactic of a famous magician (Ching Ling Foo) in The Prestige that inspired Borden and is used as a literary device to describe his methods without actually revealing them.
    Borden's Memoir: My deception rules my life, informs every decision I make, regulates my every movement... everything in this account represents the shuffling walk of a fit man.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Free Bards novel The Robin and the Kestrel, the church of the city that the heroes are visiting uses this, among other techniques, in order to enact "miraculous healings."
  • Harry Potter:
    • "P-p-p-poor s-s-stuttering Professor Quirrell!"
    • Barty Crouch Jr., who was impersonating the genuinely one-eyed and one-legged Mad-Eye Moody. But since he was using the Polyjuice Potion, which actually gave him Moody's body, he didn't have a real eye or leg when he was Moody.
  • In The Lawmen of Rockabye County by J.T. Edson, escaped felon 'Crazy Doc' Christopher wears a prosthetic hand over his still functional right hand.
  • In the Nancy Drew book Captive Witness, the plot centers around a plan to rescue 10 children from then-Communist Hungary. The ringleaders of the rescue mission are an elderly professor and his wheelchair bound nephew. It's soon revealed that the young man is not paralyzed and that the rescue plans were hidden in the seat of his chair, knowing that customs officials would not search it.
  • In the Alex Cross novel London Bridges, Geoffrey Shafer uses a wheelchair he does not need as part of his disguise.
  • In ''Michael Strogoff the titular character acts as if he was effectively blinded by the Tartars until he appears in front of the Grand-Duke.
  • A mild version in the Discworld books after Men at Arms. Vetinari walks with a cane because he was shot with the Gonne in that book, but he may not need it as much as he appears to. Being Vetinari, he's found the advantage in people thinking he's weaker than he actually is.
  • SmallGods: Vorbis pulls an absolutely chilling example of this as he and Brutha are almost out of the desert.
  • 87th Precinct: While the Deaf Man wears a hearing aid, it's suggested on various occasions (including by the Deaf Man himself, in The Heckler) that it may just be a prop.
  • Alex Rider: The main character has been kidnapped and several agencies are looking for him. The bad guys need to get him through an airport without arousing suspicion. How do they do it? They drug him to make him look like a disabled person, they note that no one looks twice at a disabled person, working this to their advantage.
  • After the destruction of his eidetic memory chip and medical retirement from ImpSec in Memory, Simon Illyan makes a point of playing up the damage done to his mind when it seems useful or convenient. His short-to-medium-term memory is spotty enough that the PDA/voice recorder/GPS unit he wears on his belt is anything but a prop, but by every other cognitive measure he remains solidly in the 'dangerously brilliant' area.
  • Joe Pickett: In Endangered, Nate pretends to be in a coma until an opportunity to escape presents itself.
  • In Railsea by China Miéville, Captain Naphi has disguised her uninjured arm as a prosthetic to replace a missing one. It's the subject of an Unrobotic Reveal. This was because her culture expects anyone in her social role to have lost a body part.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ObfuscatingDisability/Literature