Being a Cripple

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A variety of words can be used in the act of describing someone who is physically impaired; society today chooses to use words such as disabled, handicapped, or differently able. Nancy Mairs, who is physically impaired with multiple sclerosis, chooses the word “cripple” to describe herself. In her piece “On Being a Cripple,” Mairs relays to her audience how she accepts being crippled, and she brings attention to her interpretation of the language used by society.

Mairs portrays how she feels by setting different tones within her essay. At the start of her writing, Mairs puts off a confident, bold, and defiant feel to her essay. Mairs represents herself as someone who is bold and confident by being very forthright about her opinion. “Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me as a tough customer...” The tone then shifts into being contemplative, and she reveals to us how she responds to words such as “handicapped” or “disabled.” In the conclusion of her piece, Mairs conveys a tone that is apathetic. “But call me 'disabled' or 'handicapped' if you like. I have long since grown accustom to them...” here Mairs puts forth that she feels more accepting of the manner in which others may refer to her and her condition. In addition, throughout the whole piece Mairs inserts small amounts of caustic and ironic humor. For example, Mairs says, “As a cripple, I swagger” which portrays irony because of the sense that the “swagger” she may show in the way she walks is caused by her disability. She also inputs “my God is not a Handicapper General” which is another instance of a more sarcastic, dry humor.

While writing, Mairs also conveys an image of herself and her condition by her choice of words.Throughout the piece, she uses words that are both straightforward, and incisive. One major part of the diction of the essay is the syntactical repetition of the word cripple. Cripple is as Mairs says “a clean word, straightforward, and precise.” The emphasis Mairs places...
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