Analysis of On Being a Cripple by Nancy Mairs


Nancy Mairs dives into her life with Multiple Sclerosis in her article “On Being Cripple”. She describes the effect it has on her daily life and what it can do to a person on a mental and emotional level. One particular topic is how she portrays herself with words to describe her state. Mairs presents herself as intelligent and strong. She challenges the audience to look deeper into the selective words that society uses to describe “crippledness”.  

Mairs’ intelligence is displayed in her use of impressive vocabulary and complex sentence structures: “Most remote is the recently coined euphemism ‘differently abled,’ which partakes of the same semantic hopefulness. . .” A sentence like this could not have been written by a person who is not bright-minded, Mairs even admits to being a “lover of words.” Whether it be about her condition or life in general, Mairs knows what she’s talking about. She is not afraid to speak her mind and share her thoughts. She does so unapologetically and fiercely, in a way that one could only dream and hope to have her knowledge. However; this unyielding intelligence comes with a price, the price of her life slowly deteriorating into an almost nothingness. Mairs gained experience and knowledge through her Multiple Sclerosis, but at the same time, her body is wasting away. The fact she acknowledges this every day is more than enough to prove that Mairs is also “a tough customer”.

Mairs is incredibly strong in the way she takes her condition in stride and her attitude towards it. “I want them to see me as a tough customer, one to whom the fates /gods /viruses have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence squarely”. She knows that being in denial and trying to separate herself from her disease won’t make anything easier or better. Mairs also is truthful to her audience and herself, “I like the accuracy with which it describes my condition: I have lost the full use of my limbs”. Someone who was either embarrassed or uncomfortable with a condition like this would not be able to state something like that so simple. She is blunt and straightforward, does not sugarcoat anything. Hence why she likes the word cripple to present and describe herself, “ “Cripple” seems to me a clean word, straightforward and precise”.  

Mairs is intelligent and strong. She battles through every day and even does so with a laugh. She takes her Multiple Sclerosis in hand and continues with life. The way she presents herself with her condition is no less than clever. She shows strength through her bluntness and straightforwardness. Mairs makes sure to live her life in such a way that she can still enjoy it and be herself.

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