Jerome K. Jerome “A Victim to One Hundred and Seven Fatal Maladies”
The text is written by an English writer and humorist Jerome K. Jerome, best known for the comic travelogue “Three Men in a Boat”. The story is about one young healthy men who thought he became “a victim to one hundred and seven fatal maladies”. The story is written by a humorist, that’s why it contains a lot of different funny moments and special stylistic devises. The first one we met already in the name of the story “A victim to one hundred and seven fatal maladies”. This phrase has an ironical tone. We understand that one man can’t have one hundred and seven fatal maladies at once.
The title let us to understand that something will be wrong with the main character, but probably the author will just ridicule certain type of people. So, one man after reading some medical books decided that he had all of fatal diseases at once, and came to the doctor to tell about his trouble. The doctor said nothing but wrote a prescription, which helped the patient to recover, despite it didn’t contain any medicaments. The story can be divided into 3 logical parts – story proper, climax and denouement.
The story has no exposition, because it begins directly with activity of the main character, who was sitting in the library and reading a book about diseases. In the story proper we knew the whole information about the central character of the story. Generally, the text is built around such human character trait as hypochondria. The author chose an interesting way to describe this mental instability – the whole text is written with irony. We can feel it already in the beginning of the story: “I sat for a while frozen with horror; and than in despair I again turned over the pages.
I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever – began to get interested in my case, and so started alphabetically… and the only disease I had not got was housemaid’s knee”. After these words we understand what kind of man is the main person and may be smb. found himself in it. It’s very funny to read about the man who thought he had all the diseases of the world, but honestly speaking if I was on his place I would be scary because of all these diseases.
The main person impressed me because in spite of such number of diseases he didn’t cry, shout or go into hysteric, conversely he apples to himself with irony. We can feel it in his thoughts and statements: “I sat and thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view. Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals” if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma” or during the conversation with the doctor “I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the matter with me.
Life is short and you might pass away before I had finished. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. Everything else, however, I have got”. I think that hypochondria of the main personage is in a bad case, because he had not only all the symptoms of the diseases he had read in the book, but even thought up several complications. To describe this the author used antithesis: “I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all.
Then, all of sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a 100 and 47 to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating”. The climax of irony and self-irony of the story, I think, is in these 2 phrases – “I had walked into the reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a miserable wreck”. It’s very funny and very sad simultaneous, because we understand that the only disease this man had was his mental instability.
And the main character itself understood that he was absolutely happy and healthy man before he read about the diseases, but after it he felt totally ill, even though he understood nothing in medicine and he could not determine if he had those symptoms or not. The denouement of the story comes gradually from the visiting of the doctor through the situation in the chemist’s up to recovery of the main person. The key role here played the doctor. He knew our personage for a long time and was his old chum, that is why he immediately understood what was going on and what was the matter with the patient.
The doctor knew an approach to this person. He wrote such a funny prescription, because he knew that suspicious people like to treat themselves and he knew that the patient would follow each word he wrote in the prescription. And the focus succeeded – the man ate 1 pound beefsteak and drank 1 pint bear every 6 hours, made 1 ten-mile walk every morning, and took 1 bed at 11 every night, and, lo and behold, – “I followed the directions with the happy result that my life was preserved and is still going on”.
Happy end ? So, the story is over, but I think it is the end only for one part of the whole story, I mean the story of the personage’s life. I think it is not the end, because the question is the difficult mental trouble and one funny prescription can’t solve this seriously problem. I think that man would be happy and healthy until he read one more book or article or watched a TV-show about a new fatal disease. People with such problems must consult not with subject matter experts but with mental specialists, and only in this case they will have chance to become really happy and healthy.