Critique of “The Pain Scale” an essay by Eula Bliss

For my last semester of my senior year, I am not only taking a media criticism class, but I am also taking a non-fiction creative writing class and I am thoroughly enjoying both of them.

As a journalism major, I find that the two of these taken together will make my work as a writer so much better, and they will blend so nicely, as one class will help my writing in the other.

This is a review of an essay I read for my creative writing class, and I think a lot of how it came out was due to the past few lectures I’ve had in my media criticism class.

For the first time, I am actually considering keeping a class textbook– the “Touchstone Anthology for Creative Non-Fiction”. It is an awesome book just filled with incredible essays that are so inspiring and written in ways I had never even thought of. This review is about one of those essays.

Health systems across the world use the universal language of the pain scale to help patients determine their level of discomfort. Illustrated in The Pain Scale, by Eula Bliss, the pain scale is a list of numbers and faces to accompany them, to help compare the way one feels with the corresponding face that is being expressed. When I think of the pain scale, I think of how they are used for young children in emergency rooms who have trouble articulating the pain they are feeling. Bliss uses this unit of measurement not only to express different stages of pain throughout the course of not only her personal life, but the lives of all who suffer simply from the human condition as well.

Bliss writes about the levels of pain, in sections, from zero all the way to ten through stories about her and her father, along with the ideas of death and other philosophical movements.

There was that philosophical tone but it also has a journal or blog-like feel, which made the essay much more approachable and understandable for a larger audience. Although, it still managed to get deep into the subject.

While each “level” has their own unique ideals, they all seem to connect seamlessly through repeated themes such as stories from her father, Dante’s Inferno, God, and the act of burning. With these in mind, this essay makes for a pretty dark piece, with the strange contrast of family and her childhood to accompany the darkness. Eula Bliss cleverly connects the normality of experiencing pain, mentally and physically during one’s life, with the inevitable form of darkness that comes with it.

I really enjoyed reading about that connection between life and pain, how necessary that connection really is, and no matter what level of pain you are in, there will always be a balance.

Read “The Pain Scale” here


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