“Doctor in the House” by Richard Gordon
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The text under analysis is an extract from the book “Doctor in the House”. It’s written by Richard Gordon who has been an anesthetist, a ship’s surgeon and an assistant editor of the British Medical Journal. Then he left medical practice and started writing his “Doctor” series. “Doctor in the House” is one of Gordon’s 12 “Doctor” books and it’s noted for witty description of a medical student’s years of professional training. In the extract under study the author tells us about student preparation for the final exams at the medical college, he conveys the atmosphere of the procedure and impressions after the exams. The text under analysis is a first person narration with descriptive passages and humorous portrayal of students. The prevailing mood of the text is emotional, sometimes gloomy and in other parts cheerful. The text under analysis can be divided into 5 logically complete parts. “The Days Before”
In the introductory part Richard Gordon tells us about students’ conditions before the final exams at the medical college. Passing these exams is not an easy thing to do and in order to underline the candidates’ anxiety the narrator compares the event with death. This means that the finals are an inevitable. That is he uses such stylistic device as simile. The author metaphorically sees a student as a prize-fighter, who has to fight and win several rounds one after another without having a rest in order to achieve the long-awaited goal. During the academic year one of the students discovers that Mr. Maxworth is going to be the representative on the examining committee and thenceforward students attended all his ward rounds gazing at him like impressionable music enthusiasts at the solo violinist. In this part Richard Gordon uses simile to make the reader imagine students’ look on their faces and show what their thoughts and feelings are.
Then the author describes students’ preparation for the exams – they tick the days off the calendar, swot up the spot questions and run a final breathless sprint down the well trodden paths of medicine. Actually the students didn’t run the paths; Gordon metaphorically compares the lack of time for the exam preparation with a short distance that a sportsman should run as fast as possible and as a result he is breathless. There is one more metaphor in the part – well-trodden paths of medicine. Well-trodden in its plain meaning is something walked on by many people for a long time, so we can interpret the phrase as these medical students are neither the first nor the last ones who pass the final exams. In this part Richard Gordon gives metaphorical and comparative description of the way the students feel and behave before their exams. “The Written Papers”
In this part Richard Gordon depicts the procedure of the written examination. We cannot but feel the author’s ironic attitude to the event which reflects in the use of grandiloquent words such as gown, hood and uniformed porters. Richard Gordon glorifies an invigilator who sits on a raised platform to keep an eye open for flagrant cheating. He was helped by two or three uniformed porters who stood by the door and looked dispassionately down the poor victims, like the policemen that flank the dock at the Old Bailey. The prominence should be given to word dispassionately which means making fair judgments or decisions that are not influenced by personal feelings. The word belongs to bookish vocabulary what again proves the presence of solemn atmosphere. While the writer resorts to high-flown words to describe the examiners, he ironically portrays the students as poor victims, which unwittingly makes the reader realize the gap between the statuses of the examination participants.
Also Richard Gordon compares the porters with the policemen at the Old Bailey, whose work is to guard heavily the Central Criminal Court in England. This emphasizes the idea that there is no escape from the final examinations which was noted in the previous part. Three hours were allowed for the papers. As it usually happens the students are frightened of their exams, and these medical candidates are not an exception. To attach significance to their feelings the author calls them anonymous because of the anxiety they couldn’t recognize each other and only after an hour and a half they began to differentiate themselves. Some of them strode up for an extra answer book, with an awkward expression of self-consciousness and superiority in their faces. According to the dictionary the word “awkward” means not comfortable, relaxed, or confident. Perhaps the writer meant that some of the students were relaxed and comfortable as they knew perfectly well the answer to the question and were not frightened anymore; and some of the students looked confident as they tried not to lose their nerves. Richard Gordon skillfully combines all the physical and mental conditions of the students in one simple word.
Other students rose to their feet, handed in the papers and left. Whether these people were so brilliant they were able to complete the examination in an hour and a half or whether this was the time required for them to set down unhurriedly their entire knowledge of medicine was never apparent from the nonchalant air with which they left the room. Then the invigilator tapped the bell half an hour before the time; the last question was rushed through and the porters began tearing away the papers from gentlemen dissatisfied with the period allowed for the exam. The narrator contrasts the behavior of the porters (describing how roughly they hand in the papers) and the students (he ironically name them gentlemen, what proves their calm, polite and honest demeanor /dɪˈmiːnə(r)/). After the exam the narrator was so mush exhausted that he compared his feelings with ones that a boxer had after an eight-round fight.
This SD serviced to provide the text with additional emphases. Outside Richard found his friend Grimsdyke and asked him how he had got on. Grimsdyke answered that he was not worried about the results and he was sure that the papers were never read. Then he told his friend about the way the marks are given at Cambridge. The night before the results come out the old don totters back from hall and chucks the papers down the staircase. The higher the work lands, the better mark the student is given. Surely, this is some kind of a student joke which lends the story a humorous ring. To sum it up we can’t but mention the vocabulary used in the text – don, invigilator, tripos; the writer makes use of special vocabulary to help us imagine or remember the spirit of the examination. He skillfully creates the so-called effect of the presence. “The Viva”
The unpopular oral examination was held a week after the papers. The author calls it unpopular because in comparison with written papers it is more difficult for the student to live through it. He explains it as following: the written answers have certain remoteness about them, and mistakes and omissions, like those of life, can be made without threat of immediate punishment. The viva is a judgment day, which is the last day of existing the world and at that day all people are judged by the God. Speaking about the event and the examiner’s reaction to a wrong answer Richard Gordon turns to the Bible and involves using of allusion into the text. After a false answer the god’s brow threatens like imminent thunderstorm. The writer exalts the examiner and portrays him as Zeus, who is the “Father of Gods and men”. If a candidate loses his nerve in front of this terrible displeasure he is finished: confusion breeds confusion and he will come to the end of the interrogation struggling like a cow in a bog. As we can see the story-teller includes such stylistic device as peculiar use of set expressions. The original proverb sounds in the following way – familiarity breeds contempt.
Gordon again mentions the difference between the statuses of the exam participants, the examiner is a god and the examinee is a cow, who tries to get out of the wrong answer, which the narrator metaphorically compares to the bog. Then the narrator described the waiting room he sat in, it was furnished with hard chairs, a wooden table and windows that wouldn’t open, like the condemned cell. The writer again returns to the theme of criminality and pictures the students as prisoners. There were six other candidates, who illustrated the types fairly common seen in viva waiting rooms. Using such SD as antonomasia he depicts their characters and their appearance. There was the Nonchalant, lolling back on the rear legs of the chair with his feet on the table. Next to him, a man of the Frankly Worried class sat on the edge of his chair tearing little bits off his invitation card.
There was the Crammer, fondling the pages of his battered textbook in a desperate farewell embrace and his opposite, the Old Stager, who treated the whole thing with the familiarity of a photographer at a wedding. Richard Gordon metaphorically portrays the Old stager as a wedding photographer to underline the inner state of that student. The exam is compared with a wedding which is one of the most significant events in our life, but the photographer is involved in it only partially, he presents there but doesn’t play the main role, moreover he’s been to many weddings before and is not terrified of it. The same we can say about the student: he had obviously failed the examination so often that he looked upon the viva simply as another engagement to be fitted into his day. The other occupant of the room was a woman. The attractive women students are under disadvantage in oral examinations. The male examiners are so afraid of being prejudiced favorably by their sex they usually adopt towards them an attitude of undeserved sternness.
The story-teller suggested that this girl had given care to her preparations. He gives a descriptive passage of her appearance using parallel constructions: her suit was neat but not smart, her hair tidy but not striking, she wore enough make-up to look attractive. The author was sure she would get through. Then the narrator was called to table four. The author has not been acquainted with the examiners and he gives their description. One demonstrated unfriendly attitude and a lack of humor to the situation, the author compares him with a retired prize fighter; and the other examiner was the opposite, he expressed complete indifference to the occasion being invisible as he was occupied in reading a newspaper.
The examiner asked Richard how he would treat a case of tetanus and the narrator’s heart leaped hopefully as it was something that he knew. He began his answer in a secret manner of speaking; Richard Gordon implies that under the word “confidentially” which means to tell someone in secret, trusting that they will not tell anyone else. He began reeling out the lines of treatment he felt much better. But suddenly the examiner cut him short. Perhaps, the examiner wanted to plough the student and impatiently asker him another question: a girl of 20 came to him complaining of gaining weight, what he would do in that case. The writer rallied his thoughts and stumbled through the answer. In this part of the story we may see how skillfully Richard Gordon compares the situation which took place in his life with alliterations and uses epithets, which makes the reader empathize the heroes. “The Days after”
This part is about the students’ physical and mental state after all the exams. Usually to describe something not very well in English blue colors are used, but the narrator heightens the feeling of discouragement and calls the days after the exams black ones. He also compares it with severe accident, because in such situations most of the time people experience shock. And the author conveys his condition after the event – he was numbed for the first few hours and was unable to realize what had hit him. Then he reasons whether he has passed the exam and is he going to make a recovery. Some of his friends tried to make him feel happier and more hopeful by describing equally situations they experienced themselves just recently but still they had passed the finals.
After these words the author finds hope and luck which is depicted like long thin pieces of success that weaved themselves into triumphal garland, which is the symbol of fame, victory and peace and which was given to the winner in Pythian |’pazian| games. And the narrator’s friend Grimsdyke tried to cheer him up by explaining that students never fail the exams, giving instances that prove the examiners’ fault and reluctance to let students pass. He also believes to speak of falling is bad taste exemplifying his point of view with death, he considers that it’s better to say “to die” instead of using such euphemisms as “to pass away” or “to go above”. All the students had known that the exam results were to be published at noon. In conclusion of the part we may notice that the author makes use of common colloquial vocabulary, what suggests that these are situations of everyday life, which we could experience ourselves. “Pass or Failed”
The last part under the title “Pass or Failed” tells us about how the medical students get their final examination results. On this very day they were going to learn whether they would be great students who had successful years of studying at university and overcoming the difficulties of the finals had become great doctors or their fate would be worse than death. And breaking the grammar rules not because of the lack of the knowledge but to place great importance on the occasion the story-teller writes that the students arrived in the examination building in order to find other student there who at that period of time looked like a subdued muttering crowd, making an impression of a home team supporters who had just been beaten in a cup tie. Obviously, the things that made the students and the supporters akin to each other were disappointment and frustration: students were disappointed, probably, ahead of the time, as they depicted shame with which they would look into their parents’ and fellows’ eye, they would be sorry for the wasted time and knowledge during the academic year and they just would be at their wits’ end having no notion what to do with their further life.
They talked in a quiet voice as they were apprehensive and tried to keep their hair on. The previous exams also have influenced their mood; perhaps the students still have been fretting. The students knew exactly every step of the procedure of calling the results. And Richard Gordon describes it using rather high-flown vocabulary and again turning to the theme of the Almighty. Precisely at midday the Secretary of the committee, the most important person of the event would go down the stairs like gods descend from the heaven. He would be flanked by two uniformed porters, who on that day played the role of archangels. Under the secretary’s arm would be a thick book, covered in leather as being the most important book containing the examination results, for some students that would be invitations to join the Supreme community or, for the other, that would be the ban and a sign that their life would be like hell on earth. Describing the next step of the procedure the writer comes back to the legal theme. One of the porters would carry a list of candidates’ not even names but numbers like those of the prisoners’ and would call them out, one after the other.
The candidates would step up closely to the man who on that day was given the highest power to judge and he would just pronounce one word of the two “pass or failed”. Successful men would go upstairs to join the supreme community, receive their congratulations and the failures feeling extremely miserable and frustrated would go out of the building slowly and quietly so that their fellows and teachers couldn’t notice them and would try to seek the way that would help them to abstract from reality, the opiate oblivion. One minute left till the students would know their fates. Using the complex of Stylistic Devices the author conveys the atmosphere of suspense. To describe the quiescence /kwiˈes(ə)ns/ reined in the building he uses alliteration, the repetition of sound “s” let us remember that we pronounce this very sound when we want to calm somebody down or to make him stop talking.
So the room came to a frightening, silence and stillness like an unexploded bomb. Using such SD as simile Richard Gordon compares the students’ mental and physical state with that which usually people have at seeing the bomb, understanding the danger to their life they try not to make any movement being afraid to make it blow up. The clock striking 12 made such a noise as people usually hear in their ears being extremely tense. In most cases when man worries about something his palms are damp, but to heighten the feeling of excitement the narrator tells that his palms have been as wet as sponges. Hush was so striking that when somebody coughed in the room Richard expected the windows to rattle. The candidates could hear slow scraping feet of the Secretary and his porters before they appeared. It seemed to them that they walked slowly as being suspended time had always appeared to flow very slowly. And in their opinion the feet were scraping as in complete silence every sound seemed to be deafening. When the secretary and the porters took their places the elder porter raised his voice and began calling the numbers of the prisoners of the final exams.
The narrator was so much stressed that when his number was called he either misheard it or forgot that it was his number. But his friend Grimsdyke brought him to life having punched him hard into the ribs. Grimsdyke hissed that it was Richard’s number. The author underlines the student’s tense condition, because if people hiss they say something in low and angry voice. Richard very quickly rose to his feet and tried hard to go through the crowd of other candidates, who were unable to keep still because they were nervous. The writer used parallel constructions and exaggerated the significance of actions to emphasize growing atmosphere of suspense. The pulse had shot in his ears. His face had been burning hot and he felt his stomach had suddenly plucked from his body. All of a sudden he realized that he stood on the top of the secretary. Without looking up from the book the Secretary asked the number of the student and his name. Richard answered the question speaking in low rough voice as if having sore throat but in fact being very much scared of hearing the result.
At the culminating point using parallel constructions the narrator depicts the situation in which the whole world has tried to empathize and support the student. The traffic stopped, the plants ceased growing, men were paralyzed, the clouds hang in the air the winds dropped, the tides disappeared, the sun halted in the sky. Every movement of the people and nature stopped as if they also were looking forward to hear the results. The secretary pronounced that very word after which Richard Gordon was extremely shocked and compared his feelings with a man who had just been hit by a blackjack, with difficulty walked upstairs to join the supreme community and receive the congratulations and handshakes. In conclusion we can’t but mention the author’s great ability to work with 2 aspects: the form and the content.
He has his own special writing style, resorts to use of common and high flown vocabulary, skillfully makes use of idioms and employs peculiar use of set expressions, interweaving all these means with variety of Stylistic Devices. Speaking about the content we should notice Richard’s capability of creating the plausibility to the narrated events, which makes the reader believe that the occasions have actually taken place in real life. Sometimes the author makes us empathize the students who sat their final exams. As for me, the reading, translating and the analyzing the text brought great pleasure to myself. Most of all the moment of calling the results appealed to me, the author had skillfully depicted the atmosphere of suspense, which made me feel as if I myself sat the exam. After reading the extract I remembered one of my first exams at the institute, I was so much petrified that I couldn’t say a word. I would recommend everyone, especially the students, not only medical faculty, or the faculty of foreign languages, to read this story. Everyone will find a couple of lines which will describe exactly their inner state of physical behavior before, during or after the exams.