Being a Cripple
What Does It Mean to Be Cripple
Rhetorical Analysis Essay
“On being a Cripple” is an essay written by Nancy Mairs about the experience of living as a cripple. Nancy Mairs autobiographical work is began when she owns her state of being crippled and identifies herself as such. The essay reminds the audience of the diagnosis and the lifelong effects of the author’s multiple sclerosis as she writes about the physical effects the condition has had on her. She however spends much time rejoicing about the abilities she has retained. By analyzing the work of Nancy Mairs, the audience can understand the consequences of being crippled in women and how the audience can define themselves in relation to their bodies and the surrounding world.
The essay is written to inspire those who take part in the learning process in the medical humanities classrooms. The instructors and students of medical humanity are, therefore, the audience of the essay because of the twists and turns that the author includes in her description of living with the unpredictable disease. Even as she is crippled, she notes in her essay that she has proceeded with her daily life without interruptions. Her explanation of how she has continued to put into details all the skilled and family roles is an inspiration to medical humanities students. She expresses the kind of depressions that she goes through and the kind of activities that she can no longer perform because of her medical condition. The essay is useful in bringing the theory at classroom into real life for medical students and instructors. For instance, she writes “how she hates MS. “Analyzing the classroom theory in relation with real life situation defines how the lives of those suffering from the illness are affected physically and psychologically (Cohen 262).
The essay purposes to show the impact of multiple sclerosis condition on the life of a feminist writer who interacts with the entire world. In her description of her crippled self, she notes that she faces the reality of her life changing since the diagnosis if her illness. By noting the extent of the impact to her well-being, the author writes of how she is fortunate to have a loving people around her who can help her out. She comes out as a writer who faces the brutal truth of her existence because of the illness that has taken her. Mairs notes that “She is in a dilemma that people are kind to her because of the health condition” Her sentiment sends a message to the whole world on how she undergoes some difficulty living with the reality of the illness (Cohen 264).
In her essay, Mairs brings out the message that her fellow disabled people should take responsibility of their lives and happiness. Taking about the progression of MS throughout her life, the author gives several examples of different groups of people who are afflicted. She also gives the different ways in which she reacts to the afflicted. In her work, she gives an example of “two older women to another friend, Michael, “hence providing readers with a variety of people to identify with when analyzing the impact of the illness (Cohen 269).
Mairs speaks honestly and blatantly about her health condition, discussing how she has continued with her life and working around her illness. Her description of her experiences is significant in the sympathies of her audience who clearly notes that she hates having MS. However, the author declines any pity from her audiences as she prefers to remain active in her activities.
The Autobiography of Disabled Woman in Being a Cripple
Disability is a condition that causes an individual to have restrictions. There are many different types of disabilities. For example, there’s mental disability, physical disability, learning disability and socializing disability. People with disabilities have the same rights a-typical person would, but society has failed to recognize disability rights. In Nancy Mairs’ Waist High in the World and Simi Linton’s My Body Politic, both authors portray disability to the audience. Although the able body and disabled body may not always function the same, many people tend to discriminate against the disabled. Nancy Mairs was born July 23, 1943. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was only 28 years young. She is the author of, ‘On Being a Cripple,’ ‘Sex and the Gimpy Girl,’ and the memoir Waist High in the World. Mairs’ writing is a composition of her own life experiences as a disable woman. In her previous books, she talks about what she likes to be labeled as. ‘Cripple’ is her chosen word being she feels that if she were to be labeled as “disabled”, a whole different meaning to her condition is put into place. Many people attempt to hide their disability due to societal shaming, but Mairs is not ashamed of her disability. She wears her disability with pride and is thankful because if it wasn’t for her disability, she would have a different view of the world. She believes that she can achieve anything she wants as long as she sets her mind to it. Her perception on disability sets a tone of pettiness. But if you look closely at the reading, you will realize that she wants to rearrange the reader’s awareness on disability.
Mairs is characterized as a strong woman. Although she is disabled, her condition does not appear to barricade her or be an obstacle in her life. Mairs disability created her into a strong fearless woman. “For years after I began to have symptoms of MS, I used language to avoid owning them…I have schooled myself to speak of “my” hands, “my” eyes, thereby taking responsibilities of them”( 43). Mairs tries to explain how she dealt with her disability. From what it seems, depression played a main part in her life before she realized she should embrace her condition instead of being ashamed of it. Mairs depicts and explains to the audience the hardships that come along with being disabled in general but with being disabled with MS. Although she sheds light on the challenges, she makes emphasis that being disabled does not necessarily limit one or prevent one from the things they strive to do. You should never treat someone differently because of their disability. All human beings deserve the same respect that nondisabled people get. Every individual in this world to a certain extent, will be considered disabled at one point in their life. As humans, we tend to favor the able body. Not everyone’s disability is apparent before birth. In “freeing choices”, Nancy Mairs talks about whether children with disabilities have the right to live or die. Mairs says, “The phrase “right to die” is shorthand, of course, and seems considerably less reductive when spelled out: what is generally being called for by right-to-die advocates so the protection of one’s own death and to receive assistance from willing accomplices if necessary” (113). Mairs explains that she herself, has tried to die by suicide in the past and that anyone who is in favor of pro-ending a life due to being disabled, will be considered in favor and a part of murdering someone. In the chapter, “Young and Disabled”, Maris discusses what it is like to live as a disabled teen. She dwells on the hardships and the realities that accompany young disabled beings.
With being disabled, comes the fear of being judged and ridiculed by society. The unfortunate reality that we as a society have created, instills in the mind of the disabled to fear doing even the most simplistic thing in public due to the potential of being ridiculed and judged. In “young and disabled” she talks about what it is like to live being young but also disabled. Society has created disabled people to fear being judged. “Regardless of when their disabled lives began or what pattern they have followed, all the respondents confronted the same issues in the “cooperative human endeavor” known as life as did their nondisabled peers” (135). We live in a society where a person with a disability is usually belittled. They are known to be limited to what they can or can’t do. Many people with a disability are afraid to embrace it. Although it is not obvious whether a person will come out disabled or not, the ones that do and proceed with their lives don’t have an easy life – part being due to society. The minute a disabled person walks into a place with able being or nondisabled people, the disabled person typically gets flooded with pity and sorrow. Like Mairs memoir, Waist High in the World, Simi Linton’s memoir, “ My body politic” also represents disability through the eyes of a disabled person. Simi Linton is an American author born July 29, 1947. The study of disabilities is her focus.Thememoir,“ MyBodyPolitic”byS imiLintonintroducesherdisability.Lintondoesnot have the ability to use her legs, and has lost all function in her legs. Her husband, John was killed in the Vietnam war. Her best friend, Carol passed away first, then followed John who had been in a coma for quite some time. She explains that prior to the war, she and John had been planning to escape Canada to avoid the war draft. Their plan was to help those who had been drafted into the war without wanting to be, escape. Unfortunately, John ended up injuring his knee and no longer had the ability to execute his role in their initial plan. In the second chapter of the book, Linton talks about the realities of getting accustomed to the new life and world she was now facing post injury. She had to get used to wheelchairs and being cripple. She also discussed the renovations that took place in their home, the help they now needed and how drastically their lives had been changed.
The most significant change being the category and label she would now be a part of. At the age of 27, Linton eventually moved in with her mother and again her world completely shifted and changed. She no longer had the privacy she was once privileged to have and had a cloud of pity surrounding her. She ended up moving to New York, where she was much more comfortable and believed she could lead a better life as a disabled woman. Linton further discussed the difficulties she faced opening up about her disability and telling her story. “She learns, in this story, to “absorb disability,” to pilot a new and interest- ing body and uncover a fresh perspective on her life. This perspective is not one of loss but of wonder, a discovery of her body’s pleasures, hungers, surprises, hurts, strengths, limits, and uses, a new discovery of a body we characteristically think of as disabled” (Garland -Thomson 119 ). The acceptance of a disability in many occasions is a complex concept for many to grasp – just like it was for Linton and Mairs. Her peers and environment allowed her to accept and move towards security within herself and her new reality. During the time period discussed in the text, the Disability Rights Movement was being recognized. This made it easier to find support groups and have resources allocated towards people with a disability. For Linton this was a big help and essentially a break through. She was surrounding herself with others who were faced with similar challenges and from this experience and expression she soon was able to feel comfortable in her own skin once again. As Linton explains, “ I have become a disabled woman over time. I certainly would have rejected such a title in the beginning…. It took many people to bring me into the fold. To help me move toward disability…. My advancement was due to other disabled people….This new cadre of disabled people has come out of those special rooms set aside just for us. Casting off our drab institutional garb, we now do garments tailored for work and play, love and sport. Indeed, as an indicator of our new social standing, the high-toned among us even appear in television commercials wearing such finery. While many of us have obvious disabilities— we wield that white cane or ride that wheelchair or limp that limp—we don’t all necessarily, as I didn’t in my early years, ally with the group. And all the others, those whose characteristics are more easily masked, come to the surface even more gradually, determining how, when, and to whom to declare their member- ship’ (Garland -Thomson 119 ). With any trauma comes the hardships of finding a career or getting back on track. For Linton, she expressed the feeling of losing track of her disability and having no opportunities being pointed in her direction career wise. It was frustrating and demeaning. But eventually an opportunity found its way towards her. May 1990, she saw an announcement about the SDS annual conference in California and went straight for it. She also discusses how to overcome and deal with sexual harassment. “The term sexual harassment was not widely used at that time, and even if it had been, this incident spoke to a different power relationship, a different set of rules. An authority that gave him license to touch me”.
In 1984, Linton began to look into teaching positions. She was presented an offer to teach a course on sexuality within a school. She decided to take on this opportunity and proceeded with accepting the position. She was very well welcomed. She described him to be respectful and very welcoming until he decided to take things to the next level and disrespect her. He disrespected her by putting his hands on her and touching her inner thigh. “Given the possibility that I might want to teach the course and the peculiarity of the situation, I did not blurt out, “Take your hands off me.” Of course, I like to think I would do that now.” For Linton, going through that situation made her second guess herself. She thought about how any one could be put in a similar situation that she was sadly faced with, especially young teens which ultimately led her to continue considering the position. She beleived she would have been doing something good, brining awareness to sexuality and providing sex educuation so that situaitons like the one she faced could be limited or all together be avoided. But, the next day she decided to decline the offer. She further explains how sexual harassment was not a topic of relevance and how it had different rules revolving around it then it does now. This was her motive to teach the topic but understandably did not due to the situation she was confronted with. “Linton’s is a story not about tragedy, pity, and suffer- ing but about a “robust and excitable” young woman’s transition from “the walking world” into the unfamiliar world of disability” (Garland Thomson 118). This memoir portrays a message of security, making the disabled and abled body feel like being disabled it’s not so bad. Everyone’s reality is different. Many people tend to discriminate against the disabled based on their abilities. Society has categorized the disabled as weak, to hide their own disabilities. Mairs’ and Linton’s representation on disability are very comparable. That being that their views are very similar but their means of expression are different.
Discrimination in Stranger in the Village and on Being a Cripple
Since the beginning of time, people were born different; everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, but some flaws are seen worse than others; discrimination, therefore, becomes a common occurrence. In the essays, “Stranger in the Village” and “On Being a Cripple”, two types of discrimination have been mentioned.
Stranger in the Village
“Stranger in the Village” was an essay written by James Baldwin. It was included in Notes of a Native Son in 1955. The main discussion was about racial discrimination. Baldwin was an African-American author who wrote about his experience visiting a small Swiss village, Leukerbad in the year 1951. The village had a small population of merely six hundred people, all of them Catholic; mountains surround the whole place with snow and ice covering all exposed surfaces. Being in such a conservative area gave him, the first dark-skinned man to visit, a rather special experience.
The physical appearance of Baldwin sparked the Leukerbad villagers’ curiosity, since images are the first thing people judge each other by. He discussed this topic saying, “All of the physical characteristics of the Negro which had caused me, in America, a very different and almost forgotten pain were nothing less than miraculous—or infernal—in the eyes of the village people.” Back in America, the whites see dark-skinned people on a daily basis, therefore, would not think to stop and stare; in the small village, however, they would think they had just spotted a different species walking pass them, which the author had to get used to all over again. About the clueless whites’ assumption on his smile, he wrote, “My smile was simply another unheard-of phenomenon which allowed them to see my teeth”, he then explained further, “they did not, really, see my smile and I began to think that, should I take to snarling, no one would notice any difference.” With this quote, it’s obvious he knows what they think of him—a wild animal that, probably, needs to be tamed; it also hints that he finds no reason to smile when he was barely treated like an individual. About his hair, they would compare it to wire or cotton, and even went up to him on a sunny day to stroke the strands, just to see if they would get electrified. They would also touch his hand to see if the color was removable.
The native Swiss living in the small village naturally had their naiveté when it came to racism; their unknowingly offensive actions could not be blamed, but Baldwin still felt intense waves of uncomfortableness and shock. The ignorance that the villagers treated him with, especially the younger ones, made him take a step back to think about the various ways he had been treated by different people. The children in the village would shout “Neger! Neger!”. This disgraceful word was, and still is, considered a critical racial slur that would have been triggering to everyone, including whites, in the States. He never thought he would be addressed so directly by the unethical terminology. Baldwin said, “The children who shout Neger! have no way of knowing the echoes this sound raises in me”, knowing that they did not have the intention to offend anyone.
Objectification was another problem Baldwin pointed out in this essay; another side of racial discrimination that people needed to face. There was a custom in Leukerbad to “buy” African natives in order to convert them to Christianity. Although this type of action was common in the past, it violates the principle of human rights. The villagers thought, naturally, that because the skin color is different, they’re suddenly not human, but creatures who had to obey their commands and think the same way. People were “bought” at unreasonable prices, to be brainwashed and treated horribly. Baldwin realized that no matter the justice or injustice, white people refuse to face the reality because they want to keep their superiority and privilege. He also went ahead to talk about his own father’s experience of Christianity conversion, and how he never forgave “the white world” for it.
Coming from the United States to a small village in Switzerland, Baldwin compared the two ordeals and used them to reflect each other. Leukerbad was quite the contrast from New York, especially the people’s knowledge on races. Toward the previously mentioned situation where children called him Neger! or Nigger!, he said, “I am a stranger here. But I am not a stranger in America and the same syllable riding on the American air expresses the war my presence has occasioned in the American soul.” With this, he is stating the different approaches he had received from the two sides of the pond. Judging the American and European history, he pointed out that the Europeans lack the African-American portion. It was impossible for the villagers to know what can be said and not said, done and not done, without the education Americans receive.
The fairness between the two races — whites and blacks — was undeniably a crucial issue. Baldwin wrote paragraphs after paragraphs noting his thoughts of it. One line said, “There is a great difference between being the first white man to be seen by Africans and being the first black man to be seen by whites.” The mentioned “difference” indicates the disrespectfulness he felt when he arrived at the small Swiss village. He felt as though he was not treated as a “stranger”, but something not even human; as though he was an exotic creature, alienated from those around him. In another one of James Baldwin’s books, The Fire Next Time, he said that he believes “people can renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives”, meaning that people from anywhere, with any skin color and backgrounds will eventually come to an understanding; to finally end racial discrimination.
On Being a Cripple
Other than discrimination of the races, another big topic is the respects toward the “disabled”. In Nancy Mairs “On Being a Cripple”, this was the main issue she discussed. Nancy Mairs woman who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) before she hit her thirties. It caused the left side of her body to weaken to the point she has to walk with a cane in order to stay standing. She cherishes the time which she has lived since she found out about the brain tumor; she has taken the days as gifts. With this disease affecting her life, she calls herself a “cripple”.
At the very start of the essay, she very clearly pointed out that she gave her the word “cripple” to name herself; the only word she considers precise enough to describe her condition. She despises the more common words used to describe people like her, such as “disabled” or “handicapped”. They give her the feeling that she has something worse than MS; perhaps a mental problem or put at a disadvantage. About this, she said, “Some realities do not obey the dictates of language.”, because to her, the wrongly used words widen the gap between their definitions and reality.
As someone who was diagnosed, Mairs says she hates it. She hates that she cannot have the energy she used to have, instead, she wakes up feeling fatigue. She can’t walk, run, play the piano, do her hair, pick up babies, do fine stitchery anymore. Understandably, being a cripple is not easy; it requires strength and acceptance. The thought of committing suicide has haunted her before and she knew that one day, she would be unable to do so due to physical weakness. As the time goes by, she gradually overcame the darker thoughts; knowing that the present Nancy cannot make decisions to live or not for future Nancy. After years of her incapability being part of her, Mairs has accepted her clumsiness. She said that compared to others, she finds it easier to amuse herself and acknowledge the amusement of those around her. She wrote, “What I hate is not me but a disease. I am not a disease.”, and adds, “A disease is not—at least not singlehandedly—going to determine who I am, though at first it seemed to be going to.” This quote shows that she does not blame herself for having to live the way she does; it is the disease that has to be blamed.
One thing that Mairs is always grateful is her family: her husband and children. The extra work, dismay, and burden of having a cripple as a partner or parent is hard, but the people she loves, nevertheless, loves her back. To show her gratitude, she mentioned that the society that we live in often link fun with physical performances, which in return, offers little encouragement to the crippled and those around them. Speaking of society, there are a few aspects that she is not satisfied with. One of them being “faking”; she is afraid that people act differently just because she is different. Her mother once said, “We all have to make allowances for you, of course, because of the way you are.”, while seeing red. This line hurt Mairs badly and has left a scar ever since, for she does not want others to fake fondness in front of her while silently putting up with her diversity. Another one being “expectation”. She compared cripples to overweight people; fat people are expected to be happy and bubbly, while cripples should remain cheerful, both in spite of their insecurities.
At the end of the essay, Mairs said that she might have suffered a lot, but she would not dare have it any other way. Because she knew that if she was not the one with the disease, nobody else would want to be put in her place anyway. She concluded by saying, “I might as well do the job myself. Now that I’m getting the hang of it.” Despite the discrimination that comes with the pain, she has squared up and gotten used to it.
The Power of Language Misused in Politics and English Language and on Being Cripple
In Orwell’s “Politics and English Language” argues about the use of vague language in political speeches as a mean to brain wash or confuse people. This is done in order to gain peoples trust, by using vague language and difficult words people assume that great must be coming out. In Nancy Mars’s “On Being Cripple” describes about the way society has brainwashed people to judge others to expose the true thoughts of a person living beneath the glamorized world.
Although the education system needs to offer non-English classes where most of the people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it.
Politics and English Language
In “Politics and English Language” the author says the decline of the English language is a reflection of the state of society and politics that this degeneration is inevitable and that its hopeless to resist it. This kind of language overly fraught with large words without conveying significant meaning is exceptionally susceptible to being used in propaganda. The author believes this type of speech is inherently insincere and that is why it is so useful in propaganda. In this essay he presents a list of corrupting habits that causes the writers to think poorly and thus write poorly. The list includes list of metaphors, pretentious diction and meaningless language. When a person becomes lazy, they allow their language to think for them. In this way, political writers end up following a party line. By using set phrases, they pantomime ideology without thinking. Independent thinking is necessary for a healthy political life. It demonstrates the deceptive effect of various political terms, showing how elevated, complex and abstract language actively disguises ugly and violent concrete realities. In this way, abstract language becomes a means for political writers to “justify unjustifiable.” It presents a list of tools that can be used to resist dishonest language. The author sees the use of honest language as political act in itself, a form of resistance against insidious and widespread manipulation of rhetorical structures. One of the most interesting actions he takes in this essay is to translate a passage from the Biblical text of Ecclesiastes. Known for its poignancy and illustrative metaphor, he reduces the Ecclesiastical passage to a baffling convolution of words that seems to barely mean the same thing as the original. By adding in larger, more flexible words and removing all the imagery, he removes all the clarity from the work and makes it much harder to understand all under the guise of updating the language. In the end of the essay he describes the faults in the five passages looked at the beginning and he also states how a writer should ask themselves certain questions to avoid having cloudy language and lists a few rules to follow in order to avoid the using of vague language.
On Being Cripple
Mair’s believes that crippled is a more proper definition for her condition than other words like disabled, handicapped, or differently abled. These euphemisms for her condition cause people to view her as something she isn’t. Mair’s believes that these words describe no one because ‘Society is no readier to accept crimplenes than to accept death, war, sweat, or wrinkles.’ She continues her story of multiple sclerosis and the hardships she endured. Mair’s goes into detail about how her life has changed since her diagnosis and how she has coped with the disease. She includes her need for help by the people around her but also delves into the fact that she can still teach and perform arduous tasks. She talks about her dependence on her family and how good her family treated her. She says she is scared ‘that people are kind to me only because I’m a cripple.’ Mair’s hates that our society is obsessed with physical appearance and normality. She states that, ‘anyone who deviates from the norm better find some way to compensate.’ This shows that she believes that American society has high expectations. She ends the essay by stating how she is getting used to having MS and how she isn’t sorry anymore that she is a cripple. Mair’s is thankful for what she has and the people who help her in her life. Overall, she is proud of herself and has recognized that life is what one makes it to be.
Both Orwell and Nancy Mair’s imply that the power of language can be misused and miss lead people by using vague language. The authors gave various examples on how language can be vague, since it lacks imagery and meaning.