Rhetorical Analysis of Being a Cripple

Someone who is crippled often receives pity and sympathy from others, but do cripples always want this? In this passage entitled “On Being a Cripple,” Nancy Mairs uses interesting word choice, repetition, and a sarcastic tone to touch upon a subject that most mature non-crippled Americans are not entirely comfortable with; using the so widely feared word “cripple” instead of the common “handicapped” or “disabled” to be polite or politically correct.

Elaborating to a society, so infatuated with being politically correct, that using a word considered derogatory to most may be necessary according to exact definition is Mairs’s purpose in writing this passage. From the very first sentence of her passage, Mairs’s use of the word “cripple” instantly shows how comfortable she is with a word that many people would never even contemplate saying aloud. She immediately draws attention to her passage by using this overlooked word in a short bold statement.

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She takes this word and makes it known to the audience that the use of it in her presence is not only okay, but it’s her preference that it be used to describe her. Mairs states “As a cripple, I swagger.

” This powerful statement gives the audience a sense that she is not afraid, embarrassed, or ashamed of what she is. Instead, she accepts her condition, makes the most of it, and wears the title on her back with pride. She also says “Perhaps I want them to wince,” showing the audience that she purposely uses the word cripple knowing people will look at her as if she was using an offensive term.By her saying this, it can be depicted that she doesn’t mind, and wants, to stand out in her own unique way. When Mairs says “It has an honorable history,” she offers a different perspective of a word often thought of as something unfortunate. She does this in order to show the audience it isn’t abrupt to use this word, and it should be more commonly used. Mairs’s repetitive use of the word “cripple” fulfils her purpose of the passage – to shock and capture her audience and get across the point that if the word was more commonly used then it would not be so demeaning.

She uses the word, or a form of the word, “cripple” eight times in the three paragraphs of her essay and with every use it becomes increasingly less shocking.

She does this because she wants the audience to see that with repetition comes acceptance. Mairs’s second to last use of the word comes in the second sentence of the last paragraph when she states “Whatever you call me, I remain crippled. ” Because she used the word so many times previous to this statement, the audience now accepts and respects it as what she truly is. Therefore, her purpose has been achieved.

Although her passage wraps around using the word “cripple,” she also very frequently talks about the words “handicapped” and “disabled.

” Instead of talking about them in the way that society today would, she talks about how degrading they are. In her second paragraph she talks about how disabled and handicapped do not fit her condition according to exact definition. Her purpose in this is to get across the point that “cripple” is the only word with a true definition that fits her condition and is should not make individuals feel uncomfertable.

Nancy Mairs uses sarcasm and tolerant statements throughout her passage to develop a tone that keeps the audience comfortable with a problematic subject. In Mairs’s second paragraph, for example, she states “And I certainly don’t like “handicapped. ” which implies that I have deliberately been put at a disadvantage, by whom I can’t imagine.

.. ,” this adapts a sarcastic tone, but it still gets across the point that “handicapped” cannot properly describe her condition.

An accepting statement she uses is in the third paragraph when she makes a point, but doesn’t attempt to control the audience. She says “But call me “disabled” or ‘handicapped” if you like.

” Here she gives a tone of tolerance by accepting people’s fear of the word “cripple,” and how they want to replace it with a more widely used term. Mairs does this to show that, even if she’d like it to happen, she knows the world won’t change the way they see things, and she accepts this. Still, Nancy Mairs effectively uses rhetorical devices to execute her purpose of making a misinterpreted word become an accepted word for her condition.