Reading Response 3

Right away, this article addresses one of the main things that makes living in quarantine a struggle—the uncertainty. The quote they provided from the CDC source does little to quell worries regarding uncertainty, as it is a vague estimation (“many people in the US will at some point…get exposed to the virus). Even though it’s not possible to predict the exact outcome of the virus, it is certain that if we don’t follow protective measures, our healthcare system will be overwhelmed. 

Early on, when the coronavirus hadn’t hit the U.S and it seemed like a faraway topic of conversation, there were some things said about it that doesn’t ring true anymore. Two of the big ones I heard were “Oh it’s just like the flu” and “It’s only been affecting elderly people so far”. These initial conceptions have caused young people to not take social distancing precautions as seriously. This showed in a major way over spring break, with thousands of college students traveling and gathering in large groups. 

However, this article focuses more on the numbers regarding the capacity of the healthcare system, which is scary. In class and on the news, there have been parallels drawn to other pandemics, notably the Spanish flu in 1918. Thinking about a pandemic in 1918, I initially thought how great it is that we have the resources and are better equipped to handle a pandemic now. But, as this article shows, that isn’t entirely the case.

I hope there will be some big, across the board changes when life is able to resume again.

 

Barclay, Eliza, and Dylan Scott. “How Canceled Events and Self-Quarantines Save Lives, in One Chart.” Vox, Vox, 10 Mar. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation.

Frank’s frameworks in My Degneration

Dunlap-Shohl’s account has elements of Frank’s quest narrative, but is an example of the failure of the restitution narrative and contrasts the chaos narrative. 

Frank’s quest narrative is closely tied to the notion of a journey. He writes “the idea that illness has been a journey emerges…the journey is taken in order to find out what sort of journey one has been taking” (117). Dunlap-Shohl’s use of metaphors closely compares with this notion of a journey. For example, on page 67 he traces a journey from the “mountains of denial” to the “sea of acceptance”, stating that “I’ve come further than I thought possible in adapting to Parkinson’s disease” (67). Furthermore, he illustrates himself in a boat on the sea, washed up on the shore, and then climbing a mountain. These illustrations conform to Frank’s quest narrative, which depicts illness as a journey. The final page of My Degeneration depicts Dunlap-Shohl riding a bike victoriously along a path with crashed cars and scary monsters. The narration in these final pages is addressed to the readers (“you”) which conforms with Frank’s notion that “Quest stories of illness imply that the teller has been given something by the experience, usually some insight that must be passed on to others.” (118) By illustrating a literal journey, Dunlap-Shohl aligns his account with the characteristics of Frank’s quest narrative. 

According to Frank, “restitution stories no longer work when…impairment will remain chronic” (94). Parkinson’s disease is disabling, progressive, and incurable, automatically causing the restitution narrative to fail. However, this does not dishearten Dunlap-Shohl, as he listens to the Spandex angel to “move it or lose it” (13). Thus, the failure of the restitution narrative causes Dunlap-Shohl to turn to the quest narrative and share his journey of learning to live with Parkinson’s. 

For Frank, “the person living the chaos story has no distance from her life and no reflective grasp on it” (98). Dunlap-Shohl is writing this book several years after he got diagnosed and is able to reflect upon it and even share his experiences with humor. He has a reflective grasp and the very act of telling his story contrasts the conditions of a chaos narrative.

Frank, Arthur. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Dunlap-Shohl, Peter. My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.

Language and Illness

One of my favorite readings thus far has been the excerpt from “My Life as a Cripple” because it was an example and application of what we had previously been talking about in class. Nancy Mairs’s blunt and straightforward tone made me feel surprised at first. The opening image she gives her readers is one of her in a bathroom stall; she is honest and uncensored when it comes to expressing how she experiences life with MS. This view of her illness is reflected in the language she uses to describe herself; she opts to call herself a cripple as opposed to handicapped or disabled. 

The fact that people wince at the word cripple exposes how we tend to obscure the illness with the desire to make everything seem nice and politically correct. This desire has led to the usage of ‘differently abled’, a word that, according to Mairs, describes both anyone and no one (Mairs 1). Thus, using these vague terms distances what is said from how Mairs experiences MS. I thought it was interesting that, while she calls herself a cripple, Mairs would never refer to anyone else as a cripple. Language has the power to shape how we view the world and ourselves which is why semantics is important when it comes to expressing illness. Certain words, like a cripple, are steeped in societal implications. How individuals use and understand language is influenced by the society and culture they live in but also their own individual experiences, like in Mairs’s account.

Mairs, Nancy. “On Being a Cripple.” University of Arizona Press, 1986, 1-10.

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