The Misfortune of a Fortunate Man

A Fortunate Man: the Story of a Country Doctor is a memoir that follows a doctor and his experiences with two of his patients. A dynamic character, he is only referred to as ‘the doctor’ but gains merit through his actions. He swiftly conjures up a stretcher out of a door and rushes to save a patient trapped under a tree. He also psychoanalyzes a young woman and is able to help her deal with her pain. Despite these endearing elements, he is technically a flat character as he remains stable throughout the work. “He speaks for himself” and puts his patients first.

The second half of the excerpt is characterized by the doctor’s infatuation with a woman “of about thirty-seven.” Her persona, described as “slow and maternal” lends to the doctor’s timid description of her illness. It progresses from “a cold, cough, and [feeling] weak” to “insomnia and then asthma (…) [and] the result of extreme emotional stress.” By chance he finds the true cause of her suffering and realizes that she “very seldom leaves [her] cottage” because of trauma from being assaulted. He goes on to compare her to the moon and deep water full of mystery. After her trauma, “[her] shallows [are] endlessly irritated by their [own] shallowness as though by an allergy” and she lost all airs of being a schoolgirl. The doctor closes his memoir by relating back to her illness and timid nature by referencing “a bend in the river which often reminds [him] of his failure” to discover the true cause of her suffering sooner.


*from John Berger and Jean Mohr’s A Fortunate Man: the Story of a Country Doctor, 1st ed. New York, NY: Random House, 1967.