Throughout the book Autobiography of a face



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Sample Essay 1

Petting Zoo

Throughout the book Autobiography of a face there are a few passages that initially seem irrelevant. However, everything in the story is important to understand who Lucy is as a character, and how her illness has affected her everyday life. The passage where Lucy explains her trip to the “petting zoo” seems unimportant at the time, but if it was removed readers would not be able to get a full sense of the fact that Lucy was an normal curious child, and wouldn’t be able to connect the feelings of the animals as similar to Lucy’s feelings about her own life.

The story of the so called “petting zoo” takes place when Lucy is about nine-years-old and at one of her many hospital stays. When describing that day Lucy states, “this was the adventure I’d been waiting for all my life”(page 46). Lucy and her friend Derek trick a new candy striper into taking them to the building that uses animals to test out new ways to help people. The children were expecting to see happy animals like at a petting zoo, but were overwhelmed with sad tortured animals.

Initially this passage seems like it has no importance to the rest of the book. However, this passages helps us better understand that Lucy was as curious, and adventurous as any other normal nine-year-old girl. She didn’t let her cancer stop her from exploring. It also showed us the real Lucy Grealy, instead of us just thinking of her as the innocent child who suffered from cancer. We were able to see her rebellious side by the way she tricked the candy striper into taking them to the animals. Grealy admits, “Finally we were able to dupe a recently arrived teenaged candy striper into taking us. Artfully making sure she didn’t spill the beans to the nurses, who surely would have forbidden such an expedition” (page 47). We are also able to see Lucy’s bravery by the way she walks in the front of the children as if she isn’t scared, and the way she lets the dogs lick her hand after the candy striper warns her to stay away, and the dog growls at her.

This passage also introduces us to the theme of courage, which is important throughout the entire book. The book explains Lucy’s courage through her whole life dealing with cancer. She is able to get through chemotherapy, teasing, and her insecurities. Even though this passage doesn’t completely relate to her courage towards cancer, it shows that she has courage towards any obstacle.

The placement of this passage is very important. Lucy’s adventure to the “petting zoo” takes place when she is nine-years-old. At this time in her life she is spending most of her time stuck in the hospital. She doesn’t completely understand her diseases, but she knows that she is trapped inside a hospital, which isn’t common for most children her age. The passage shows us that the animals are a representation of what Lucy views her life as throughout her whole life.

The first room that the children enter is a room that holds the sheep. Lucy recalls, “As the sheep paced around I noticed that patches of fleece had been shaved away” (Page 50). I feel as though the she sheep are a representation of Lucy when chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair.

She also remembers, “Desperation saturated the room in those loud, whining cries pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.” (page 51) I believe this is another representation Lucy because while the animals are stuck pacing back and fourth in their cages, Lucy is stuck either in her house or the hospital and never really gets to have a social life for most of her childhood. It also represents that no matter how many times the animals pace back and forth they never go anywhere, which is a metaphor for Lucy’s surgeries. No matter how many operations Lucy has in order to fix her face nothing changes. The graft always sinks back into her face and she is back to where she started.

The last room that they entered was a room that cages a bunch of soundless cats. Lucy explains, “As we got closer, some of them came up to the bars of their cages and rubbed, opening their mouths soundlessly. Years later I learned that it is not uncommon to cut the vocal cords of laboratory cats” (page 51). When Lucy woke up from a major surgeries she wasn’t able to talk unless she put her hand over her throat. I think that is what is being represented from these cats. Both Lucy and the cats were robbed of their ability to speak against their will. Lucy didn’t know what her voice was going to be taken away for a little while, just like the cats. Another way that the cats represent Lucy is when she explains; “ a number of the cats had matchbox-size rectangles with electrical wires implanted in their skulls. The skin on their shaved scalps was crusty and red where it joined the metal”(page 51). Like the cats Lucy becomes deformed with artificial objects in her head. Grafts are put into Lucy’s face in order to fix her face, while wires are put into these cats’ heads.



When the group finally leaves the animals they are all silent because they are thinking about how horrible the animals they just saw looked. They feel sorry for the animals and think that they look pathetic. This is what Lucy thinks people see when they look at her because her face is deformed, and they think she is ugly and pity her.


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