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Autobiography of a Face Essay

Example 1

Autobiography of a Face jpeg 16 Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy As everyday people, one is used to seeing faces that are regularly proportioned. But what happens when one stumbles upon one that different from the status quo? They stop and stare or may talk about the person. Lucy Grealy experienced both of these and even more after her surgery. Removed one-third of her jaw.

The encounters and troubles that she faced are recorded in her autobiography, Autobiography of a Face (1994). Lucy Grealy was born in Dublin, Ireland on June A, 1963.

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At the age of tour, she and her family (which consisted of her mother, father, two brothers, twin sister, and older sister) moved to Spring Valley, New York. Autobiography of a Face tracks Grealy’s life from the time that she was diagnosed through her treatments of cancer whose treatment offered a five percent survival rate. In her autobiography, she describes the cruelty of others, what one suffers from being physically different, and discusses the importance of inner beauty. At the age of nine, she was diagnosed With Fwinrs sarcoma.

Treatment for this would include removing parts of her jaw and reconstructing the bone. Throughout Greays life, her treatment required numerous visits to the hospital for chemotherapy, surgery, checkups and evaluations, etc. While in the hospital, Grealy had various adventures with the other children she met; one of which included on test animals in the basement of a hospital Grealy described the encounter as “quire scary” on discovering cats without voice boxes and hormone-injected animals. Lucy felt safe and accepted in the hospital.

When he was outside of the hospital, she would have to endure the stares and brutality from other people including schoolmates and even a beggar. While walking the streets one day, a man came up behind Grealy and demanded that she give him money. upon seeing her, the beggar gives her a dollar and walks away.

This book discusses many relevant topics that many people face in regards to personal beauty, self-esteem and appreciation, and encourages the acceptance of anyone despite any differences that one may have. recommend this book to anyone willing to accept the challenge of accepting others.


Example 2 – Personal Experience In Autobiography Of A Face

Lucy Grealy’s “Autobiography of a Face” is the personal autobiographical story of her tragic experiences with Ewing’s sarcoma of the jaw, a rare form of cancer. The book was published in 1994 and reprinted in 2003 with an afterword by her friend, author Ann Patchett. Lucy Grealy had immigrated to America from Ireland at the age of four with her family and was diagnosed with the disease when she just a child of nine. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and did her master’s at the University of Iowa.

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She was a published poet and author of many works.


Lucy spends her childhood years as a patient where her face is just considered as an object of medical treatment. Her first kiss from Derek on Ward 10 makes her feel good about herself and her self-image remains good within the walls of the hospital. However, when she starts losing many of her friends she begins to feel lonely and is torn between wanting to be loved for the person she is and secretly wishing to have the perfect face.

Her quest for truth and beauty bring her true friendships in college, introduction to the power of poetry, opening to her sexuality and then she begins a series of cosmetic operations. Grealy’s narration of her tragic story is one that is both bold and witty.

Physical Impact

Lucy Grealy describes the story of her own obsessive pursuit of a normal face. As a child, she first realizes that she is somewhat alone in the world when her schoolmates begin to comment negatively on her altered appearance.

She realizes that her face is the key to her self-image and her personal identity. She tells herself over and over, when my face is fixed, I’ll start living. The book underlines the fact that many people are stuck with physical criteria in their definition for beauty and take many things for granted.

Further, Grealy also points out that physical impact also has a psychological impact. She declares, “my face, my ‘self”‘ (170). Grealy’s disfigured jaw lives on as a badge of sickness, marking her as abnormal. Grealy’s face denies her the sense of legitimate individuality that a normal face would have provided. Psychosocial Impact: The disfigured face has a direct influence on her mind as well as on her social life. The deepest wounds were self-inflicted, and salted with self-blame, with a conviction “that my ugliness was equal to a great personal failure” (Mojtabai, 1994).

Regarding the social side of her life, Grealy writes: “When I tried to imagine being beautiful, I could only imagine living without the perpetual fear of being alone, without the great burden of isolation, which is what feeling ugly felt like. ” Describing waking up from her fourth operation–the one that removed the tumour from her jaw–and limping across her hospital room, Grealy writes that “the body is a connected thing” (56). This shows how weak and disfigured she felt internal because of her weak body condition and disfigured face. She was also socially isolated by her disfigured face.

Grealy tries to have a bond with the horses to replace the friendships that she had lost through her ugliness. As a college student, she fervently reaches out to have physical affairs to reaffirm her worthiness to receive love. Ultimately she confesses that most of her battle involved getting rid of the image of herself as an ugly person and it was only in her later years that she understood that getting a new face will not help her in this regard. Grealy “blamed my face for everything,” the “tangible element of what was wrong with my life and with me” (127).

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Thus we find that her psychosocial life was truly affected by her face. Career/professional choices and behaviors: People who are successful in their careers are often those who have discovered a way of converting their problems into opportunities. Lucy Greasly was driven to a life of introspection and reflection due to her illness and social isolation. She reflects on questions that are deeply moving: “Why had my soul chosen this particular life, I asked myself; what was there to learn from a face as ugly as mine?

At the age of sixteen, I decided it was all about desire and love” (180). Her sensitive and introspective nature proved to be a huge asset as she launched her career as a poet and writer. Economic issues faced by the individual with cancer and/or their family: Treatment of cancer involves a lot of money. Greasly said that during her treatment phase, there were continual economic difficulties, for which she felt responsible. “Cancer is an obscenely expensive illness,” she notes. “I saw the bills. “

Relevance and usefulness of the book to cancer education

Due to the detailed account of her life as a cancer patient, this book provides useful insights to both healthcare professionals and cancer patients. Lucy Grealy undergoes cancer treatment under Dr. Woolf. When she first meets her doctor, she is very scared because of his gruff and rude manner: “The first time he examined me I could only flinch at his roughness as his large fingers pressed hard into my abdomen, pried open my still stiff mouth…. He scared me”. (6) Here, the need for more sensitivity of the doctor is highly stressed.

Moreover, the accounts of her radiological and chemotherapy treatments can provide valuable information to the new cancer patient. Her introspective questions can soothe the turbulent spirit of the suffering cancer patient. Recommendation to others: I feel that this book is very strong on feelings. I liked the introspective way in which Grealy tries to analyze the events of her life. The book also underlines the futility of going for cosmetic surgery just to feel good by looking good. As Grealy rightly points out one can feel good only by dealing with their own self-image and not by external features.

It is a must-read for all human beings of all ages as it provides deep insights for people of all ages from all walks of life. The book brings a glimpse of the world through the eyes of a child who is terribly sick. Thus the book is intertwined with both a child’s perspective and the author’s adult perspective as she accounts her past. The book revolves around the quest for self and happiness and discusses the relation between beauty, body and mind and how such relationships are influenced by society and culture.


Example 3

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…

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With all her suffering, Lucy was awakened to all the glories of living to which we remain unaware of so much of the time. Lucy also exhibits a sensible, mature understanding of her father. She realizes he left her alone during her terrifying and traumatizing treatments with a completely heartless and hateful physician only because of his own inability to deal with and accept the type of pain his own daughter was experiencing. Through these extraordinary events, the family, overwhelmed by shock and shame, abandoned Lucy emotionally.

The cruelty of children is something we all can relate to, but under the circumstances, Lucy was experiencing, it was outright inexcusable. From the boys in the lunchroom to the drunken men in the railroad dining car, and the " how’d you get so ugly" these instances contributed directly to Lucy’s self-perception.

At school her disfigurement causes her to be constantly harassed and she is forced to eat her lunch alone in the career guidance counsellor’s office. "I felt safe and secure in that office, but I also felt lonely, and for the very first time I definitively identified the source of my unhappiness as being ugly.” Once after one of her many operations, she has a conversation with a woman who is having a mastectomy. At first, Lucy felt unsympathetic because she saw a breast more hidden than a face.


What are some of the important phrases of “Autobiography of a Face” by Lucy Grealy and why are they important?

“Sometimes the briefest moments capture us, force us to take them in, and demand that we live the rest of our lives in reference to them.” (p.78, Autobiography of A Face)

Hopefully, we have all had moments like this, that have created great change in our lives…quantum changes that come from epiphanies and powerful insights.

In these troubled times, it is increasingly imperative for each individual to grow in awareness and be part of bringing forth harmony and well being in their personal lives and in the world.

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