Reading Response #1 – On “A Fortunate Man”

Sam Whitfield

Julio Villa-Palomino

ANTH 272

January 25th, 2020

I chose to examine a section of the second vignette of Berger’s “A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor.”. This story recounts the slow decline of a woman throughout the years, despite the doctor’s attempts to diagnose and cure her. He pursues many routes of diagnosis, ranging from x-rays and allergy tests, but everything comes back inconclusive, leaving the doctor without any potential treatment. Over time he learns what is causing the illness, and realizes it is too late to treat her, shown when the narrator describes that “She now survives on steroids.” (Berger and Mohr 23). The rest of vignette further describes the impact of the illness on the woman, and ends with a paragraph describing a river. This is a stark contrast to the story told immediately before it, where the doctor was confidently able to save a man whose leg was crushed under a fallen tree. In this way, the story of the woman can be seen as a failed restitution narrative, as the woman was unable to receive a cure, or get better. It is interesting how the author explores how the doctor feels about failing in this key moment of the narrative, as generally stories of suffering and illness focus on the feelings of the patient. The doctors feelings on this are best exemplified in the lines “And afterwards the shallows, clear but constantly disturbed, endlessly irritated by their very shallowness as though by an allergy. There is a bend in the river which often reminds the doctor of his failure.” (Berger and Mohr 23). The river being clear, but being constantly disturbed exemplifies the condition of the woman, where she is stable and living, but her condition leaves her with constant problems. The bend in the river exemplifies how, even though he failed in his task, the doctor must learn from his experiences, move on, and continue trying to heal others.

Works Cited

Berger, John, and Jean Mohr. A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor. Vintage Books, 1967.