Susan Sontag Illness At A Metaphor Analysis

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Illness as Metaphor Illness at a Metaphor by Susan Sontag discusses how metaphors complicate diseases or syndromes of multiple or unknown causes. Sontag says that the most truthful way to describe illnesses is without any influence of metaphors, to keep it as pure and scientific as possible (Sontag 3). However, metaphors are a part of everyday life and it is nearly impossible to escape the use of metaphors to describe illnesses. Tuberculosis and cancer are two diseases that Sontag focuses on throughout the pages we read. These two diseases are related because they are both regarded as an ominous incurable disease. Tuberculosis was deemed so mysterious and contagious that even uttering the word could cause the person to catch the fatal disease.…show more content…
The word Cancer originally comes from a Greek word that means, “a growth, lump, or protuberance” (Sontag 10). Tuberculosis comes from a Latin word that means, “a morbid swelling, protuberance, projection or growth,” (Sontag 10). Both diseases were regarded as diseases that consumed the body however, tuberculosis is a disease that affected the lungs, while cancer can affect any part of the body. Although both have had similar metaphors used, tuberculosis and cancer are almost complete opposites. Tuberculosis has visible symptoms, such as coughing and fevers, while cancer symptoms are typically undetectable until it is in the later stages. One example that Sontag uses to describe the difference between the two diseases is that while patients affected by Tuberculosis can often see their X-rays concluding they have tuberculosis, cancer patients are unable to examine their…show more content…
Meanwhile, those sick with tuberculosis had an increased appetite but had no way to satisfy their hunger. This made people see those with cancer as the more fortunate, even though both diseases are terrible. Tuberculosis was also thought to be helped by a change of scenery, by moving from a damp city to a dry place. But cancer could not be helped by changing the environment because it is the body’s cells becoming malignant. Therefore, if cancer would be cured, it would have to be fought inside the body with no help from the environment. Cancer is also a disease that is extremely painful to have. Tuberculosis was seen as a disease that gave a person a beautiful and peaceful death. Both diseases are painful and terrible. Although romanticized, tuberculosis was not as beautiful as it seemed; many people infected with tuberculosis died painful deaths. Cancer is also not always painful. Some cancer patients pass away feeling little pain or discomfort. Both diseases have misconceptions about them. The reason these misconceptions exist is because both diseases have been associated with death (Sontag 18). However, cancer is still associated with death and it is impossible to try and romanticize cancer like tuberculosis was

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