Essay on Autobiography of a face

Essay on Autobiography of a face

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Lucy Grealy tells a story about not fitting in, unbearable pain that takes up residence in one’s head as loneliness and confusion, questioning what things mean, being scared and lost in your family, enduring intense physical pain, and most importantly, figuring out who you are. Lucy had no idea she might die, even though the survival rate for Ewing’s sarcoma was only five percent. She does not present her parents as overly afraid for her life, either. Her autobiography is not a story about the fear of death, but about such courage and anguish. Lucy shows how she falls under the spell of her disability, allowing it to control her life and dictate her future to a greater extent than it would otherwise. Having a disability means that sometimes you have to say "I'm disabled, therefore I can't...", but as Lucy finally learns, it also means sometimes saying "I'm disabled, but I can!” Through her traumatic tale of misfortune, she has sifted out truths about beauty, the public, and self-concept.
Lucy’s description of her early disease is particularly upsetting. Her family, overwhelmed by financial and emotional turmoil because of the stress of her illness, is not as visible as the part they actually played. Lucy’s mother was a somewhat blurred figure who seemed to disappear by the middle of the book and portrayed her father as a particularly vague individual. However, the day-to-day trappings of illness force her to rely on her mother, whose relationship is one of the most disturbed, and moving. Early on she comments that when she was a child she didn't understand that her mother's anger was caused by depression, but she never elaborates on this observation. Her mother compares being brave with being good, and says: "At a time when everything in my family was unpredictable and dysfunctional… here I had been supplied with a formula of behavior for gaining acceptance and, I believed, love. All I had to do was perform heroically and I could personally save my entire family.” Her words to Lucy to be brave, not to cry and not to give in to suffering and pain, only added to Lucy's burdens. Yet, one feels deeply sad for her simply because she is a mother with five children, a job, and constant money problems. She was a victim of depression even before Lucy's illness, driving into the city five days a week for Lucy's chemotherapy and radiation treatmen...


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...sfigured face. The book's title portrays that it was just her face that suffered, but in all actuality her body also took a pounding to her years of chemotherapy and the numerous facial surgeries. Whether it was years of chemo making her ill to the point that she never fully grew, or her hair falling out, she was undoubtedly self-conscious about her physical flaws. The multiple operations used skin grafts taken from her back, legs and stomach, and bone grafts from her hips. All of the transplanted tissue always dissolved away completely in her face, so she experienced pain and accumulated scars for nothing. On contrary, Lucy went on and did well at college and gained a reputation for being a great poet, but one last chance operation comes up near the end of the book and her response is moving, she says, "How could I pass up this chance…to fix my face, fix my life, my soul?" This statement alone reveals the belief that the extent of an illness can change ones life forever. All in all, I believe that Lucy Grealy did finally understand and learn to accept herself for who she is with confidence, but not without buying into the popular cultural belief of beauty and happiness.

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