In what way do the horses Lucy Grealy cares for, books she reads, and the writing to which she is committed provide a refuge for her, as shown in Autobiography of a Face?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In her autobiography, titled Autobiography of a Face, author Lucy Grealy details the hardships she endured throughout her young life of failing to be accepted and, most importantly, of failing to accept herself after treatment for cancer in her jaw during her childhood left her disfigured. The greatest hardships she endured concerned people's cruelty, and she used caring for horses, reading, and writing as both a means of escaping cruelty and isolation and of escaping self-rejection.

One point of significance about her undertaking of caring for and working with horses is that she used relationships with horses to substitute the relationships she longed to have with people. One example of her close, practically intimate, relationships with horses can be seen in her relationship with her horse Swinger. As she phrases it, she spent all of her spare time with Swinger, "with whom [she] was conducting nothing less than a romantic relationship" (p. 158). She continues to describe the pleasure she felt at touching him, learning his personality, telling him how much she loved him, and spending time with him--all things she really wished others would do with her. Hence, through her relationship with her horse, she projected onto her horse all of the things she longed for in human companionship, and one reason why horses replaced her relationships with people was because she knew horses to be far more accepting than people.

Similarly, she used reading and writing to as a means of losing herself, as a means of quieting her mind from all of the pain she felt, as evidenced in the fact that, while recovering from her final cosmetic surgery, she says she "wrote for hours and hours each day and lost [herself] in reading everything from Kafka to Jackie Collins" (p. 218).

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