Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

 

    Horace Miner writes about the strange rituals that people in this “tribe” perform.  The title is “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”, which may sound like a tribe, but with careful reading the real meaning can be found.  The first thing that is noticed is the word “Nacirema”.  It is described throughout as a tribe, but after reading the story it becomes clear that it is the American people that are being talked about. 

            Even if the title isn’t an obvious indicator that it is American backwards, there are indicators in the story that help reveal the topic that is being discussed.  Starting with a brief history of how the nation became the way it is, with Notgnishaw cutting down the cherry tree.  Even to young children this idea of cutting down the tree may seem familiar, and it should because it is really Washington that cut the tree down.  As with the title Washington was spelled backwards to add an interesting twist to this story.  Many people do not realize that words are backward; this idea gives readers the sense that this may actually be a tribe.

            After leaving a hint about America, with the Washington statement, there are several more examples throughout the story.  The events that take place in our everyday lives are described as rituals.  These rituals that are talked about are made to sound like the culture that partakes in such things is crazy.  It starts with the ritual of getting ready in the morning, as a long drawn out process.  The story then moves to talk about how American people have cabinets full of medications that supposedly make us better.  However, most the medications are used once or twice, but then left in the cabinet.  Along with the amount of medications, there are the trips to the hospital that most people find necessary.  Most adults are not afraid to go to the doctor for an illness, which only leads to more medications, but children have a fear of the people in white coats. 

            These are only a few examples of the rituals of American people, but it is clear that Miner was trying to illustrate an obsession.  It is true that American lives revolve around self-image.  That is why people spend so much time getting ready in the morning, buy so many medications for every illness, and run to the doctor for stronger medications.  Everything the Americans do is to improve our looks, and out way of life. 

http://www.msu.edu/~gaddiedo/nac.htm

http://www.msu.edu/~caterrus/Nacirema1.htm

 

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