Michele Rivkin-Fish and Jane Thrailkill
ENGL 264/ANTH 272
26 January 2020
Reading Response: A Fortunate Man
A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor by John Berger has many elements of chaos and disorder, which is accentuated by the style of narration and use of dramatic irony.
The narration in the story is somewhat unusual; the flow is constantly broken as the narrator cuts in by speaking about something that will happen as it pertains to the situation before going back to the present events. This is seen throughout the text, like when Berger writes, “The man would tell the story many times, and the first would be tonight in the village. But it was not yet a story” (p. 17-18). This interruption of the story as future events are referenced breaks the flow but also correlates to the theme of injury. Just as accidents and disability disrupt the normal flow of one’s life, the way it’s written is reminiscent of this as it continuously interrupts the usual flow of the story.
Berger also utilizes dramatic irony, which is when the author and audience have knowledge that characters in the story don’t. In this case, it’s that the man will eventually lose his leg despite best efforts. On page 18, the narrator states that he worked on “the leg the fourth of them would lose.” However, toward the end, the doctor tells Harry that he’ll keep it. This is at odds with the sentence referenced earlier; this incongruence between the doctor’s optimistic prognosis and what actually happens shows the volatility and unpredictability of injuries. Even if all the correct actions are taken, you cannot ensure a certain outcome; the worst can still occur despite best preventions. This is a common theme throughout stories of disability and affliction, and the text highlights this by contrasting the doctor’s prediction with the loss of the man’s leg.
Berger, John, and Jean Mohr. A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor. Vintage Books, 1967, pp. 17-19.