In Nancy Mair’s essay about being crippled, she uses rhetorical features such as tone, diction, and word choice to express her feelings towards her disability. These features also allow Mair to achieve her purpose of providing insight on her life as a “cripple”, while offering and explanation of the word.
Throughout Mair’s essay, she sets a certain tone of seriousness. Her seriousness, however, can be some what viewed as harshness to a certain level. As the reader explores the essay they would notice that she exhibits a variety of shifts in tone, reflecting the shifts in her feelings towards being a cripple. She begins the essay with “I am a cripple. I choose this word to name me.” (L.1). By starting the essay of with this statement, Mair already sets a serious and straight forward tone by her choice of words. In LL. 15-20, Mair explains views on the word cripple. Here her tone is more happy and upbeat, as she describes how she thinks the word is actually appropriate. She also says “I certainly do not like ‘handicapped’, which implies that I have deliberately been put to a disadvantage…” (LL. 22-24), Mair’s tone quickly returns to the seriously harsh one as in the first few lines of her essay. She expresses her views on how she doesn’t want to be viewed as less of a normal person just because of her multiple sclerosis. She also continues this harsh and serious tone in LL. 37-49, where she argues the misuse of language in world today. This non pleasant tone that is displayed through the entire essay is directly derived from the term “cripple”.
By reading a little more into the essay, Mair now has the reader asking why she would use this harsh word to express herself. The term “cripple” as Mair describes it “seems to me a clean word, straightforward and precise. It has an honorable history…” (LL. 15-17). She unashamedly chooses this word in describing herself not so as to seem crude and bitter, but as she puts it, to be accurate and to better portray the truth of her way of life. She understands the fact that the word is not the typical choice, and she knows how people will react to it. “Perhaps I want them to wince” (L.10), she says, describing why she uses the word to depict herself. Mair wants readers to see her as a hard and tough person, and she wants them to quiver at this word as she uses it. She says that this is the only word that can describe her condition, and she doesn’t believe that any other word could. She states that words such as “‘Disabled’” (L. 21), “‘handicapped’” (LL. 22-23), or “‘differently abled’” (L. 29-30) makes her feel undermined, as if she were to be considered weaker or incompetent in some way. Mair analysis on today’s society is that they confuse the truth by adding labels and misusing language. Even though she argues against being called something other than crippled, at the end of the essay she states that people can call her anything they please, but cripple is the term she’ll always use to name herself and only herself.
Mair uses these rhetorical devices in order to express her purpose of informing the reader about how life is like as a “cripple”. She wants to provide insight on exactly how what it means to have multiple sclerosis. “These words seem to me to be moving away from my condition…the gap between word and reality.”(LL. 26-28). Here Mair is telling the reader that the appearance that her condition has left her in, allows people to generalize and label her as “underdeveloped” (L. 32). Just because she may not be physically normal to the average person, she wants the reader to realize that her disease, does not affect her ability to think. Referencing “Harrison Bergeron” by Vonnegut, she believes that her God is not a “Handicapper General” (L. 25), and that he wouldn’t but her in a disadvantage. Her views on being labeled, however, change during the course of the essay.
Towards the end of Mair’s essay she starts to become vaguely concerned about the names or labels she has been called. “Whatever you call me, I remain crippled. But I don’t care what you call me…” (LL. 36-38). She is now want the reader to understand that she doesn’t care about these labels, because on the inside she knows what she is, and she knows that she can over come her limitations. Mair’s usage of emotional appeal to persuade the reader in to seeing what she sees is very evident in LL. 36-55. She explains how she agrees with George Orwell’s thesis in LL. 41-42, and how she “refuses to participate in the degeneration of the language…” (L.43). Here she wants the reader to understand that the world has mistreated the English language by adding their own definitions to the terms used to describe someone who is “disabled”. She wants the reader to appreciate the fact that just because they are “disabled”, doesn’t mean that they deserve to be treated differently in any way. Mair goes on to say in LL. 48-55, that theses other words are just words and she has grown very accustom to them over the years. She believes that “Society is no readier to accept crippledness than to accept death, war, sex, sweat, or wrinkles.” (LL.52-53). Mair accepts the fact that the word is not ready to understand the reasons behind why she labels her self a cripple, and that they may never be ready, but by writing this essay, she hopes to shine a little light on the matter at hand.

Crippled 8.9 of 10 on the basis of 2541 Review.