The experience of illness and injury in Berger’s A Fortunate Man reflects a state of panic and confusion inherent in emergency treatment as seen in the fallen tree event. The scene begins in media res as characters and setting are largely unknown, the only exception being a bystander named Harry. The repeated usage of ‘He’ as a stand-in for characters exemplified a state of strangeness to the viewpoint, as though it were merely an example of the immaterial whirlwind of healthcare in a setting where a doctor is poorly equipped to treat their patients and merely serves as an “accomplice of disaster” ( Berger and Mohr 19), unable to take any direct role in healing.
Nonetheless, the doctor is imagined as a powerful force, capable of bringing understanding and giving an injured man “the courage to be quieter” (Berger and Mohr 18). Nearby characters look to the doctor for understanding, as the doctor insists that the injured man will not lose his leg while others had previously merely accepted this loss, showcasing a struggle between modern and premodern medical forces in a setting without a large biomedical influence. Yet, the image of a man waving behind mist provides powerful imagery to this scene, in both direct imagery and its relation to “trying to wipe clean a vast steamed-up window” (Berger and Mohr 17). In both cases, the individual attempts to compete with immaterial natural forces of mist and steam, concealing and providing confusion. Although temporary relief may be found as the mist and fog is cleared up, neither case will provide permanent improvement. Healthcare in this unknown rural area will continue to stagnate, the area will once more be covered with mist, and the ‘vast window’ will once more fog up. This state of confusion and ambiguity thus gives symbolic meaning to the falling of the tree, showcasing typical emergency treatment in this medically isolated countryside.
Berger, John and Jean Mohr. A fortunate Man: Story of a Country Doctor. Random House, 1967.