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MonkeyNotes-Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson-Free Study Guide
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STORY 5 - 'THE PHILOSOPHER'

SETTING

The setting is the town of Winesburg. Bill Carter's lunchroom, opposite the railroad station has been described where the main characters of the story would meet and talk.

CHARACTER LIST

Doctor Parcival - A large man with a yellow moustache, he likes George Willard and often regales him with stories from his young days and philosophizes. He depicts an antisocial personality, who has suffered due to the society.

George Willard - The young boy who gets to listen to the doctor's tales.

The Doctor's brother - A railroad painter, who treated his family callously, yet he gave them money to spend.


CONFLICT

Protagonist - Doctor Parcival is the protagonist, as the story revolves around his life, and his confused character.

Antagonist - For Doctor Parcival, his brother is his antagonist, as the doctor has always been envious of him and hates him for his callousness.

Climax - The climax takes place when an accident takes place outside the doctor' office, which fills him with dread. The doctor does not go to help the injured person, though the reader comes to know later that his presence would have been of no use.

Outcome - This shirking of his responsibility fills the doctor with dread and he imagines his crucifixion. The doctor's bitterness is seen, as he compares himself to Christ.

THEMES

The main theme is the wearing down of the human mind, due to adolescent events and the final bitterness on human existence itself. The minor theme is the intense sibling rivalry between the brothers.

MOOD

The mood is serious in the story. The doctor's past evokes nostalgic as well as mean thoughts. The accident shows a sad ending of human life, while the doctor's refusal to attend to the body is mean and against human rights.

STORY SUMMARY

George Willard is an assistant to Will Henderson, owner and editor of the 'Eagle'. In the afternoons Will Henderson goes over to Tom Willy's saloon for a drink. Immediately after the departure of Will Henderson, Doctor Parcival appears at George's office to talk to him. The Doctor usually launches into long tales mostly concerning himself. He claims that he too was once a reporter, like George. His brother was a railroad painter and would come home covered in a nasty orange color. On paydays, he would get drunk, lay all his money on the table, and shout at anybody who tried to touch the money. After he was gone, groceries and other things would begin arriving in the house. This was his way of showing that he cared for his family and didn't mind spending money on his family.

Doctor Parcival spoke about George's attitude towards men and would goad him to feel hatred and contempt for others, in order to become a superior being and to substantiate his lectures he always gave the example of his own brother.

One day, an accident took place outside the doctor's office a little girl had been thrown from a buggy and killed. Three practitioners had reached the spot but had found the child dead. Doctor Parcival too had been briefly summoned but had refused to come and help.

And belatedly he felt anxious for his act and began to believe that he is going to be executed for his conduct. His fright was so great that he called George over and entreated him to complete the book he had been working on. The idea, which should be emphasized, is that everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified, is what the doctor tried to convey.

Notes

George Willard reappears in this story, but this time along with a new character, Doctor Parcival. Doctor Parcival, though a doctor by profession admits openly to have very few patients. Whenever possible, he voices his opinions to George, who is a quiet listener.

The doctor's relation with his brother and his indignation about his mother loving his brother more seems to have made him the man that he is. His outward picture of studying to be a minister and praying jars with his petty thefts shows the pseudo- respectability that he has formed. This is even seen when he goes to see his dead father at the asylum and blesses his father with the words "let peace brood over this carcass." Even then he wonders what his brother would have said to this.

Doctor Parcival even wishes to transfer his notions on to George. His ideas about superiority and contempt towards fellow beings is baseless and is only a notion gathered out of his relationship with his brother.

The doctor's unbalanced dread over his refusal to see the dead child manifests itself into bitterness. His words to George about the crucifixion of Christ, shows his bitterness about human existence. He feels that everyone like Christ, is forsaken and he wishes that George should never forget this.

The doctor's philosophies are without strength and base. He himself has been living under the shadow of his brother and has never managed to emerge out of it. Parcival has become warped by his own ideas and philosophies and at the moment of truth, he is unable to handle his emotions.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Doctor Parcival - He has been depicted as a man scarred by his own past. He is unable to shake off the pressures brought on him by his brother's behavior. He likes to spout forth his theories and philosophize to young George, who is an avid listener. Doctor Parcival's closeness with his brother is an understandable emotion. The obvious love for the brother who so callously treat's the family has hurt the doctor, and the scars remain. At the same time he wishes to fill the young George's head with feelings of superiority "I want to fill you with hatred and contempt so that you will be a superior being". Probably, his wish is to see in George, what he himself always wanted to acquire, but never did. Doctor Parcival is projected as a misfit in the society and also a self claimed ‘philosopher.’

The Brother - The brother has only been described through the doctor's words though he is a part of his past. This brother earned more money than anybody in the family, and never failed to point it out. Yet he shared the money with them, which endeared him to his mother. Doctor Parcival hates him and is relieved of his anus on his mind only after his death.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The story begins with the present, reverts to the doctor's past, and then swings back to the present. The earlier present and the past in the form of flashback are mere descriptions with no notable incidents. But the final part of the story shows an ugly accident and the doctor's reaction to it as an outcome.

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The major theme of the story is the untoward hatred that is fostered between the two brothers and tainted by the happenings of the past. The theme also is the psychology of the mind, which is tainted by the happenings of the past. Doctor Parcival is unable to shake off his prejudices over his brother. It is obvious that these prejudices are a creation of the Doctor Parcival’s negative aspects. The brother's money hurts him, as he himself doesn't have that much of it. The past has warped his mind and shows its evilness later too.

His need to teach superiority to George is again typical. What he never could be, he wishes George to become.

Minor Theme

The minor theme of sibling rivalry has also been explicitly described. The doctor looks down upon his brother's paint - covered clothes and his rude behavior with the family members. But inwardly he is jealous of his brother’s ability to bring home more money than he can and also his mother's obvious love for his brother. He even describes his own Goodness and regular behavior, as against his brothers regular disorderly conduct, induced by a night of drinking.

QUESTION

How has Doctor Parcival been tainted by his past?

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