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An Essay on "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife"

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An Essay on ”The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife”

By Ernest Hemingway

Seemingly, masculinity is a big part of men’s identity. Masculinity is usually associated with courage, independence, and assertiveness, and if a man’s pride is discriminated or somehow threatened, he will often do whatever is necessary to regain his pride. Thus, this might result in unethical behaviour. This is dealt with in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Doctor and the Doctor’s wife” from 1925 where masculinity is an overall theme and where he uses contrast and his iceberg technique to get his message across. Good intro (but remember to put two writing devices in)

As stated, Hemingway illustrates the importance of masculinity for men’s identity in this short story. Firstly, Hemingway employs the importance of pride in male-to-male relationships by focusing on the interaction between the Doctor and the American Indian Dick Boulton. Secondly, Hemingway shows that a man’s pride comes above all, since the Doctor is dishonest to his wife regarding why he had a conflict with Boulton. Lastly, the use of contrast, e.g. the Doctor’s dishonesty as mentioned earlier, between the sexes empathize how masculinity is important to men, and this is what the following essay will be examining through the character of Nick’s father, the Doctor.
In the beginning of the short story, the Doctor has hired three American Indians to cut some logs that broke free from a steamer and drifted on the beach. The three American Indians Dick Boulton, his son Eddy, and another Indian, Billy Tabeshaw are teasing the Doctor because they are aware that the logs are stolen. Somehow it all adds up to become an intense situation, and Hemingway succeeds in creating a penetrating setting by using shorter sentences: “Now, Doc-”
“Take your Stuff and get out.”
“Listen Doc.”
(Line 7-9, Page 13).
Especially between the Doctor and Boulton the situation gets intense. To begin with, Boulton is from another social class than the Doctor. Even though Boulton works for the Doctor he allows himself to command and talk down to the Doctor: ““Wash it off. Clean off the sand on account of the saw. I want to see who it belongs to”. (Line 23-24, Page 13).” This is very embarrassing to the Doctor, and this creates an intense situation where the positions of power change. The Doctor who is supposed to be in charge gets his position and therefore his masculinity threatened. Also the Doctor feels offended with the accusations that Boulton makes, though the Doctor knows that the logs are stolen. The doctor is deeply embarrassed and angry about these accusations. Therefore the Doctor threatens Dick: “I’ll knock your eye teeth down your throat.” (Line 9-10, Page 13), but the Doctor and the three Indian men are all aware that the Doctor is not in any position to beat Boulton in a fight. Boulton is much bigger and enjoys getting into to fights: “Dick was a big man…He liked to get into fights.” (Line 11-13, Page 13). Boulton is somehow a contrast to the Doctor since he is not a hypocrite or a coward, but instead a very brave and strong man. In stead of fighting Boulton, the Doctor asks the three men to leave if they don’t believe him, and afterwards the Doctor walks back to the house. By walking away the Doctor avoids the conflict, but in a way he behaves like a coward, and when the men laugh at the Doctor, Hemingway empathizes with the fact that the doctor’s masculinity just failed. When the three men leaves, Boulton doesn’t close the gate, which could symbolize that the conflict isn’t over yet, and that Boulton might will return. We could assume this, since Hemingway often uses the iceberg theory in his short stories. The iceberg theory is characterized by minimalism and that there is more under the surface. Therefore it’s not just a coincidence that Boulton leaves the gate open. Also this whole situation is not just about the Doctor who is caught in a lie, but that he doesn’t meet the expectations that come with being a masculine male. He fails to be a man. The title “The doctor and the Doctors Wife” therefore makes great sense, since Nick’s father is nothing but a doctor, and the wife is nothing but a wife. The doctor sees his wife as nothing but a wife, since he doesn’t respect her point of view on Christian values by stealing the logs. The Doctors masculinity comes before his relationship with his wife, since he is dishonest to her and right after goes out hunting. In this story the reader gets another point of view on the doctor compared to Nick (the Doctors son) who is still a young boy that idolizes his father. Nick sees his father, as the perfect man’s man, who is omniscient, knows how to hunt and much more. This is further shown in the short story Indian Camp, where the Doctor made sure that the Indian woman could give birth to her child, since she had been in labour for two days. However, in this short story the reader gets an insight of the Doctor as a person who acts like a coward, and afterwards lies to his own wife. After the Doctor returns to his wife, he knows that she will not understand. First of all, she wouldn’t accept the fact that the Doctor steals since she is very religious and devoted to the holy Bible. Second of all, she doesn’t want him to be aggressive in any way, though his pride just has been distinguished. Therefore there is a great contrast between the Doctor and his wife. The doctor leaves right after his wife has lectured him with her tenet and wants to go hunting. By doing this extremely masculine thing, we can assume that the Doctor wants to redeem his masculinity, which has just been discriminated, and once again Hemingway uses the iceberg theory. When the Doctor finds his son reading under a tree, Nick wants to join him instead of going back to the house where Nick’s mother had asked for him to come. By deciding to go with his father, Nick is showing an interest in male-to-male interaction over male-to-female interaction. Once again Hemingway shows the importance of masculinity for males. Overall, this short story revolves around the importance of masculinity as a great part of men’s identity. This is shown through the character the Doctor, who fails his masculine side and by using the contrast between the Doctor and his wife Hemingway shows that to a man masculinity comes above all, thus this can make a man dishonest like the Doctor. In this short story it is obvious that the Doctor gets offended, and since Hemingway uses the iceberg technique, we can assume that’s why the Doctor chooses to go out hunting in the end of the short story. By doing this masculine thing, the Doctor hopes to regain his masculinity, but whether he achieves this or not is uncertain.

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