Mary Catherine Farris
25 January 2019
“On Being a Cripple” by Nancy Mairs
Close Reading Assignment #1
From the moment you begin Nancy Mairs’ essay, it is no secret that her words are not written for the faint of heart. Though she remains sensitive to a modern society based on political correctness, the title alone of her essay reveals her true feelings toward the ideals of inclusiveness. In particular, an ideal of inclusiveness that manages to include everyone, and yet no one at all. Through a series of metaphors and similes in order to describe the condition she has been forced into, Mairs has managed to tell the life story of an MS patient hoping to see her unfortunate circumstance with the glass half full. When describing her condition, she keeps it short and simple. “I am a cripple.” However, when she speaks of the long line of diagnosis, struggle, societal expectation, and so forth, her words are deeper and long-winded. By doing this, Mairs has expressed her disease in a similar way in which she looks at it: Mairs is a woman who has been diagnosed with an incurable disease. And to her, life goes on.
Throughout the essay, Mairs has a fairly consistent ratio of the best moments in her life, occasionally interrupted by the hardships the reader, she is aware of, likely cannot even imagine. She includes long lists of “I cans” followed by short stops of “I cannot.” This a parallel to her life as a “cripple.” She speaks of her identity being stripped of her, such as in her inability to even wear the clothes she oftentimes prefers, but still emphasizes just how much she refuses her disease to be who and what she is a human being. She fears people faking being nice to her, something everyone has related to at some point in their lives. By relating to her audience, Mairs includes her audience in her story, proving she is as human and “normal” as those unaffected. She uses humor—the thing she finds hardest to hold onto – in order to express that though she has been handed some of the worst struggles, she is strong enough to overcome anything. By joking about her disease, in addition to admitting failures and defeats, Mairs manages to remain as an inspiration for anyone with major setbacks; setbacks that refuse the “ideal woman” image, but accelerate a life working towards much more.