Tag Archives: Literary Vignettes

Consider the nails of the hand, how they grow (William Bean)

  In the days when the Archives of Internal Medicine was one of the greatest general medicals journal in America, William Bean was its famed editor. Born in 1909 in Manila, he had studied at the University of Charlottesville in Virginia, served in World War II, became professor of medicine in Iowa city, and during […]

Henrik Ibsen’s diagnosis of the conscience

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, United States   Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the protagonist in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, An Enemy of the People, thought he had finally landed the ideal position as physician for an idyllic Norwegian resort town. He was well-paid and well-connected; his brother was even the mayor. Life and livelihood centered on the […]

“The Grasshopper” by Chekhov: folly and regrets

Diphtheria in the days of writers such as Chekhov and Goncharov was a common disease that spread death and devastation across the wide expanse of the Russian Empire. It could kill its victims by its toxic effects on the heart but more often suffocated them with a grayish white membrane in their throat and nasal […]

Plato on free and slave doctors

Athenian: And have you further observed that there are slaves as well as free men among the patients in our communities. The slaves are generally treated by slave doctors, who pay them a hurried visit or wait for them in the dispensaries. A physician of this kind never speaks to his patient individually or lets […]

Mean dudes and mean deeds: Tarantino’s vision

Bernardo Ng San Diego, California, United States     Cinema as an educational method for psychiatric trainees, medical students, and other mental health specialists has been successfully used for decades. Films portray mental illness and mental health problems in a variety of ways. Watching a film can be useful when learning to examine a patient, […]

The illusion of rainbows

Bryant Phan Palo Alto, California, United States   The street lamps in my neighborhood flicker in Technicolor before shutting off. A glimmer of orange surrounding the houses outside the window catches my eye. The outline of each house turns grey before imprinting a series of geometrical shapes in the back of my mind. My father […]

The doctor’s revenge in Jules Verne’s Mathias Sandorf

Mathias Sandorf Illustrated by Léon Benett Dr. Antekirtt is immensely clever and immensely rich. He owns an island off the coast of Libya and has surrounded it with tall ramparts to make it impregnable. He employs a large retinue of attendants and has agents and spies in many countries. His fast electric ships crisscross the […]

Edgar Allen Poe and The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death by Abigail Larson The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with […]

The real Monte Cristo

Général Alexandre Dumas, XIXesiècle Olivier Pichat Musée Alexandre Dumas, Villers-Cotterëts The father of Alexandre Dumas (Père), famous author of The Count of Monte Cristo and of The Three Musketeers, was the son of a French nobleman and a black Caribbean slave. During the turmoil of the French Revolution, Alex Dumas, for that was the name […]

Gulliver’s visit to the Academy of Lagado

When Lemuel Gulliver left his beloved wife and children in August 1706 to undertake a sea voyage to the East Indies, his ship was boarded by pirates who set him adrift in a small canoe with only four days’ provisions. By skillful navigation he managed to land in the country of Balnibarbi and was able […]