Autobiography Of A Face, By Lucy Grealy

2564 words - 10 pages

In her memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy tells the story of how the deformities caused by her cancer forced her into a life of isolation, cruel insults, and unhappiness. Grealy clearly demonstrates how a society that excessively emphasizes female beauty can negatively affect a young girl, especially one with a deformity. Most interpret this story as a way for Grealy to express the pain that she endured because she did not measure up to society’s definition of female beauty, a standard that forces girls into unhealthy habits, plastic surgery, and serious depression. In the afterword of the memoir, Grealy’s friend, Ann Patchett, tries to change this interpretation by saying that Grealy never meant for it to be a story of the hardships she faced as a young girl with a deformity; she simply wished it to be viewed “as a piece of literature.” (232). However, this short passage takes away from the important message that Grealy expresses in her memoir: that the unattainable standards of female beauty in society can destroy the joy and livelihood of young girls. Grealy understandably denied this as her reason for writing because, to her, admitting that the story of her life was dominated by her deformity would be like admitting that she had never lived. She frequently explains in her memoir that she longed for physical beauty so that she could finally live without isolation and dejection. To label her memoir a story of loneliness and sorrow would be admitting that she never reached this sense of beauty she so strongly desired. Despite Ann Patchett’s interpretation of the memoir, it should still be seen as a story demonstrating how society’s unreachable standards of beauty can deprecate the lives of young girls, as it did for Lucy Grealy.
Throughout her entire memoir, Grealy focuses on the idea of beauty and the acknowledgement that she does not meet society’s standards; this is the fear and regret that defines Grealy’s personality. She writes that she was “too horrible to look at,” that she “wasn’t worthy of being looked at,” and that her “ugliness was equal to a great personal failure” (185). Grealy tries to emphasize how her feeling of unattractiveness made her feel unworthy and inferior; this feeling comes from society’s impractical expectations of female beauty. Girls with deformities are not alone under the restrictions of these vicious norms. All females experience “dissatisfaction with themselves after exposure to unrealistically thin and beautiful female models and actors” (Graydon). This quotation explains that the reason why so many young women are unsatisfied with their physical appearances is because they compare themselves to those who are payed to look perfect. Society puts strains on young females so that, as Grealy describes in her interview with Charlie Rose, a girl’s identity is defined not just by herself, but also by the way others perceive and look at her. (“A Conversation with Lucy Grealy”). Empowering other...

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