Bad Eyes

Bad Eyes

Humans express emotions and feelings through various outlets. We are born with senses that allow us to feel and express a wide arraignment of emotions. When one of these senses fail we are automatically disabled, but many find alternatives to express these emotions. Erin McGraw in “Bad Eyes” learns to express her emotions through the use of extensive metaphors that allow the reader to feel what she is writing. The metaphors create a bridge that helps us to understand what McGraw faces throughout her life.

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The reader gains insight to her troubles, fears, and growth, which creates a deep understanding of the text. Erin McGraw’s extensive use of metaphors, gives the reader access to her mind that would otherwise have been closed off. As you read her story, you are told from the beginning that her metaphors are to be taken literally; however this is often difficult to do. But you come to realize that the reason for her extensive use of metaphors has to do with her vision disability.

McGraw gives a tremendous amount of description not only to draw the reader but also to help them see through her eyes because she has become accustomed to such descriptions, “My eyeballs aren’t round, like marbles or baseballs, but are oblong, like little footballs. This awkward shape puts so much strain on the retinas that a rip has developed in my left one, where the tissue gave out like exhausted cloth” (pg. 372 ). She has been told on numerous occasions that her eyes are “bad” but only a description filled with such imagery helps her to understand the severity.

She hears these metaphors every day of her life from the mouths of those that surround her. “Even when it finally collapsed, its flimsy walls giving way under disappointment, disillusion, and broken promises on both sides, I still couldn’t make sense of the ruin, or understand why it had happened”(pg. 379) It feels as if she almost forgets that the reader has the ability to see well enough, yet these metaphors are a great resource to the reader. Each metaphor emphasizes the pain, fear and confusion that she has suffered her whole life. Each eye felt as though a hair had been coiled precisely on top of it, and hot, outraged tears poured out. Although the optometrist kept telling me to look up so that he could take measurements, I couldn’t keep my eyes from snapping shut. Light was like a blade”(pg. 375) Each metaphor gives the reader an insight and feel of what McGraw wants the reader to see. You understand that her eyes are abnormal and that not only are they hurting her mentally, they are also causing her excruciating pain that she has no choice but to accept. It is human nature to seek security and escape fear.

Once security is attained, we blanket ourselves with the stability and fear the loss of something so comfortable. At one point in her life, Erin McGraw, no longer made an attempt to see on her own but began to rely on the people around her. She uses their narrations as a means to visualize what her eyes could not “I started asking the people around me what words were written on the blackboard, what images were flickering by on the screen, and people told me. I was a person who had trouble seeing enough, or correctly, so they filled me in on the nuances I would miss on my own” (pg. 378 ).

She became dependant on the eyes of others because her mind was filled with haze and created a sense of helplessness. Her dependency caused her to rely on the minds of others and to take their descriptions as well as interpretations as her own. This was detrimental to her mental growth because she would be unable to form her own opinions. McGraw states, “I was being given not only facts, but also interpretations. Those who could see sharply gave me shadow as well as object, context in addition to text. Did I resent all of these explanations and asides, pronounced slowly as if for the dimwitted?

Not on your life. Friends and family were making things easy for me” (pg. 378 ). Not only did she no longer see herself, she now could not think on her own. McGraw accepted her disability rather then attempting to strengthen different senses. Due to her failed eyes, she lost faith in herself as well as her mind. She felt comfortable in the judgment of others and trusted them over hers. “I drew other people’s opinions over me like a blanket. Sight, it seemed, blended right into insight, and to perceive anything was to make a judgment call.

Since the people around me had the first kind of sight, I was willing to grant that they had the second. And then the corollary: since I lacked the one, I surely lacked the other. ”(pg378. ) She had created a safety net that she could no longer break free from. This net caused her to belief that because she lacked proper eyesight, her mind to had failed her. McGraw’s greatest fear was to be caught helpless and blind, “Nevertheless, my heart was whapping now, hurting me. I was foolish to stand so publicly, blinking and helpless, right in the middle of the sidewalk.

Anyone could have sneaked up, knocked me to the ground”. She was terrified of the fact that she could easily become a target to bullies and would have little to no defense if that were to happen, , “I was constantly aware that my next breath might leave me marooned, half-blind, vulnerable. The fact that no one ever treated me with anything but solicitude – often strangers got down on their hands and knees with me – did nothing to soften my fear” (pg. 376). However, instead of conquering this fear she seems to embody it. McGraw allows her fear and disability to engulf her.

As her marriage falls apart she tells her therapist that she could not see, to which her therapist replies that she needs to look harder. McGraw’s fear and weakness causes her to seek pity unknowingly, “I refused invitations to parties and shopping trips because I had to put my contacts in and take them out, in and out, none of which would have happened if I had had reasonable eyes to begin with” (pg. 377). Her inability to judge character does not arise from her disability but from her lack of trying to use her senses to see what her eyes cannot. It becomes apparent that it is no longer her eyes that cripple her senses; it is fear.

Towards the end of story Erin McGraw learns that she has the ability to see little details. Though, these details are not beautiful, they are details nonetheless. The images that McGraw is capable of seeing towards the end are generally bad. She states that, “bad eyes pick out the bad” (pg. ). She is able to conquer her fear of seeing the bad things in life and being unable to see the beautiful, “How can I even see those tiny things? I can spot an errant sprig of clover from halfway across the yard, but can’t make out the face of a good friend five rows down in an auditorium She has learned look, and to pay attention.

But she still can’t see the picture itself, or the happy accidents it might contain” (pg. ) She learns to cope with the lack of beauty that her vision allows and accepts that she will always have to bear in mind that her eyes are not perfect. Fear causes many irrational decisions that we cannot help but to make. Erin McGraw’s fear causes me to think about my life and how there are many decisions that I have made out of fear. Fear is crippling and often holds one back from enjoying life. As McGraw hid behind her disability and heltered herself from the world, she missed tremendous experiences. The thought of fear holding a person back is troublesome. I feel that once fear is embodied, it will create a permanent home within. McGraw accepted her fear of being helpless and began to see things she thought were impossible to be seen. Once you conquer your fear, you will truly be able to live. Sangeeta Bhola Professor Hecklinger English 102 D September 16 2009 Works Cited McGraw, Erin. “Bad Eyes”. Making Sense: Essays on Art, Science, and Culture. Patricia A. Caryell


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