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Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

By Horace Miner

Genre: Satire
Satire: makes fun of peoples weaknesses, mistakes, foolishness, and wrong behavior. The effect of satire is social criticism. In other words, a satire criticizes the way people do things. Satire is trying to make society better by pointing out where it is wrong in a funny way.

Authors Purpose

Miners overall purpose is to make common American behaviors and beliefs seem magical and silly by describing them as if they were tribal behaviors.

Society is wrong..
In the way we look at other cultures as if they were so strange and exotic. Really, all cultures can be understood as trying to accomplish many of the same things..(examples?)

The mystery
The reader is supposed to read the article not knowing who the Nacirema are, and be surprised by how mysterious everything sounds. The confusing vocabulary makes it hard to guess who the article is talking about.

How the author confuses the reader:

Thesis: (Last sentence in opening paragraph)


The magical beliefs and practices of the

Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go.

How the author confuses the reader: Examples of behavior


Belief in ugliness of human body (Truth: we spend much time and money on our appearance) Shrine devoted to body ritual (Truth: our medicine cabinets are often filled with too much stuffespecially old medicines that should be thrown out

How the author confuses the reader: Examples of behavior, continued:


Practitioners who require gifts (Truth: the health industry makes quite a bit of money, and medicine is also expensive) Listener who deals with bewitched people (Truth: Many psychologists believe that personal problems are caused by early experiences in life, especially in the ways parents treat us and teach us about taking care of ourselves)

Clues to the truth


The name Nacirema The spelling of latipso (hospital) Location: between Canada and Mexico characterized by highly developed market economy

Specific references

Shrine: bathroom
wealthier families have more than one Rituals that happen there are private and secret Charm box (medicine cabinet)

Specific references, continued:


Font: sink (holy water) A ritual ablution of the mouth for children which is supposed to improve their moral fiber --washing mouth out with soap really doesnt happen any more Mouth rite: brushing ones teeth Seek out a holy mouth-manvisiting the dentist

Specific references, continued:


Imposing temple, latipso: hospital Vestal maidens: nurses (no longer have distinctive costume and headdress) Rich gift: payment for services Listener: psychologist Ritual fasts: diets Rites (paragraph 18):Plastic surgery Magical materials: birth control

Specific references, continued:


Pregnant women dress.to hide their condition (Not any longer) Birth takes place in secretnot any longer Majority of women do not nursenot any longer