I’m choosing to look at a section of the introduction of Damon Tweedy’s Black Man in a White Coat. Tweedy recounts a black man who suffered from a stroke, and the conversation that this situation sparked: “In suffering a crippling stroke at age thirty-nine, Jim had become another casualty of inequality, a fresh case that Dr. Wilson could use to illustrate the health burden of being black,” (4).
I found this quote interesting for a number of reasons. For starters, Tweedy uses diction that seems to contrast each other. At the beginning of the sentence, he uses words like “suffering,” “crippling,” and “casualty.” These are words that indicate pain and destruction that have life-altering consequences. However, the last half of the sentence uses words such as “fresh case,” “illustrate,” and “health burden.” In contrast to the previous words, these retain a sense of clinical detachment. They strip away the pain of Jim’s experience in order to relate it to science and medical practices.
I also found the phrase “health burden of being black” very interesting. Pairing the words “health” and “burden” together suggests that not only can health be a burden in terms of illness, but also the very experience of dealing with one’s health is burdensome. The fact that this health burden results from “being black” seems to suggest that African Americans are inherently more likely to experience these health burdens. However, we can see that this is not Tweedy’s intention because he mentions the “casualty of inequality,” which furthers the idea that the inequalities African Americans face results in these health burdens.
Professors Rivkin-Fish & Thrailkill
March 4, 2020
Reading Response 2
The text I chose to examine was Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Revisiting the memoir after reading it several weeks ago, I was able to see the ways that different kinds of narratives are expressed. Specifically, I wanted to focus on how Bauby uses the chaos narrative within his memoir.
Bauby seems to employ the chaos narrative when explaining his emotional and mental wellbeing after becoming paralyzed. One aspect of this narrative he draws on is the paradoxical nature of illness narratives, in that they are stories that cannot truly be told. In the Prologue he says, “Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move,” (Bauby 4). In a literal sense, Bauby cannot physically speak to tell his story. He also says, “There are no words to express it. My condition is monstrous, iniquitous, revolting, horrible,” (Bauby 71). His situation is so overwhelming and painful that, even though he is in fact telling us about it, he feels as if his words are not accurately capturing the distress he is experiencing. When describing himself and the other paralyzed patients in the hospital, he refers to them as “broken-winged birds, voiceless parrots, ravens of doom,” (Bauby 32). The paradoxical language serves as a metaphor for how Bauby views his body as a detachment from his mind and voice. All of these quotations from the memoir reveal the features of a chaos narrative – the inability to actually tell an illness story, and the physical body being devoid of a voice.
Professors Rivkin-Fish & Thrailkill
January 26, 2020
Reading Response 1
I chose to examine a paragraph from one of the stories from “A Fortunate Man.” This part of the story is striking to me because it reflects on the nature of stories. A man tells the doctor how the injured man is “suffering something terrible,” (Berger and Mohr 17). This man’s account is acknowledged by the third-person narrator to be a story; “The man would tell the story many times,” (Berger and Mohr 17). My first reaction to this was the question, what makes a story? This seems to be a significant question to consider, especially for our class. However, we get another piece of information about the nature of stories. The text says, “But it was not yet a story. The advent of the doctor brought the conclusion much nearer, but the accident was not yet over: the wounded man was still screaming…” (Berger and Mohr 18). There are many interesting things to unpack from these sentences. First, we learn that a story must have some sort of end or conclusion. We also learn that the injured man’s expression of pain is an indicator that the accident has not stopped, and therefore no conclusion has been reached. My interpretation of these points is that a person’s active suffering cannot be classified as a story, because it has not yet reached a conclusion. Another important aspect is the diction, specifically “advent” to describe the doctor’s arrival – the word means, according to Google dictionary, “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” He is not just present in the scene, but is an important force in moving toward the conclusion of this story. Based on these interpretations, I see this scene as a “modern” or “expert” view of suffering, where the medical professional is the bringer of healing and stories of suffering.
Berger, John, and Jean Mohr. A Fortunate Man. Granata Books, 1989.