Analysis of "On Being a Cripple" by Nancy Mairs

The descriptive essay, “On Being A Cripple,” by Nancy Mairs demonstrates a purpose to postulate the way society has brainwashed people to judge others incorrectly in order to expose the true thoughts of a person living beneath the glamorized world. Mairs strongly feels that “[she has not] lost anything in the course of this calamitous disease” (37), known as Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that deteriorates the nerves and interferes with brain and body communication because the immune system has eaten away the protective covering on the nerve cells.

To assert her confidence, Mairs initiates her essay with a strong, simple term to define herself: “a cripple” (37). She wants society to “wince” (37) in order to portray that candy coated euphemisms have made society weak. Mairs does not want her readers to feel sympathy, but to see the perspective of a person with the disease. Towards the end of the essay, Mairs is reflects back on society’s ways by comparing herself to other women who have the same disease and by declating she is “not a disease” (43) magnifies what this condition is to her on a more personal level.

This disease is not just a besetment, it is a part of her life. Mairs exemplifies her suggested use of “cripple” by alluding to the “Lindsfarne Gospel” (37), which contains the first use of the word “cripple. ” Mairs uses this to allow the audience to view the world in a more formal way. Therefore, a gospel might put on a different view of “cripple” rather than an impolite slang term.

Her goal is to create an acceptance and understanding of the word and her condition to the society and the people who are living with the condition as well. Mairs points out numerous times that she has as learned to live through her disease in which she compares herself to many others who have MS yet gave up on trying to live their life; Mairs sees herself “like fat people, who are expected to be jolly,” (41) but states “cripples must bear their lot meekly and cheerfully,” (41) creating a comparison for herself.

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Subsequently, Mairs has added on more pressure for herself. Although she claims that she is against society’s ways, she cares about the expectations they give her, later adding “this is a class act” (41). Trying to please society and herself at the same time is difficult for Mairs as she “[winds] up feeling like Tiny Tim, peering over the edge of the table…waving [her] crutch” (41), but prefers to be a “Caliban, a most scurvy monster” (42).

When she feels like “Tiny Tim” (41), she is viewing herself how the world views her, a person who is disabled. Mairs would rather classify herself as a “Caliban” (42) or a “cripple” to evoke society to “wince” (37) at her and see her as the strong woman that she truly is. Nancy Mairs’ purpose is to leave an effect on her readers to help them understand her feelings about the pressure society has established and how it has changed her and the rest of humanity in order to prove them wrong.

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