by Marissa Meyer

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488

As a work of science fiction, Cinder pays serious attention to technological progress. Some are of these advances in technology, science, and medicine are plausible future developments, while others are more closely associated with the realities of early twenty-first-century life. In many ways, Cinder's struggles as a cyborg parallel the real-life stigma and discrimination faced by individuals with disabilities. This idea is explored throughout the book, particularly through Cinder's internalized attitude toward her physical abilities.

A world of bionically altered beings possessing extraordinary physical or mental strength might seem far-fetched, but in some ways, the unique technology that gives Cinder her abilities is already being developed. Most artificial limbs used today are mechanically controlled, but recently, developments in prostheses have resulted in limbs that can be moved through mental stimulation. People wearing these limbs direct the movement of their artificial limbs with their brains and nerves by means of implanted sensors or electrodes. These interactions between brain and prostheses allow the artificial limb to be integrated to the body, functioning similarly to some of the prostheses that Cinder and her fellow cyborgs possess.

Along with the other cyborgs in her society, Cinder experiences severe discrimination and exploitation. Even as the members of the dominant society look down on cyborgs as different—difference being a trait they generally associate with inferiority—they also recognize that cyborgs have certain superior abilities. This only serves to further alienate cyborgs, whose heightened abilities are often viewed with suspicion. Though paradoxical, the socially enforced "inferior" status of those with enhanced physical and intellectual ability is at the core of Cinder's society. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents certain types of discrimination against people with disabilities, particularly in the workplace. Those who violate this law are subject to legal action. By contrast, Cinder’s society lacks such protections; the second-class status of cyborgs in New Beijing is both institutionally and legally enforced—as seen through the government's "cyborg draft."

Though she is undoubtably affected by the stigma surrounding cyborgs, Cinder does her best to resist internalizing the prejudices of her society. Her crush on the handsome Prince Kai, however, brings her insecurities to the forefront, and she develops a heightened awareness of their numerous physical differences (which she then attempts to conceal). Cinder tries to obscure her differences in a variety of ways, including using gloves and other clothing to hide her robotic limbs from observation. This desire for physical concealment is but one manifestation of the ways that the dominant society has imposed its standards on her. In our modern context, such attitudes toward one’s physical condition usually manifest as ableism. Cinder seems to suffer from internalized criticism that stems from her mainstream society’s ableist attitudes: those around her perceive her differences as a sign of inferiority, and she, in turn, feels herself to be lesser, believing that these differences will prevent people from caring about her.

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