Just today, while browsing through some books in the library, I came across a condensed version of The Citadel, a novel by A.J. Cronin. Incidentally, the lesson "Birth", appearing in the literature textbook, Vistas is an extract that has been taken from The Citadel. What makes 'The Birth' such a powerful and touching lesson with such a strong human interest element, is that it is based on the actual life of A.J. Cronin as a young doctor. On digging deeper into Cronin's biography it one realises that Andrew Manson and Cronin are one and the same!
A.J. Cronin fell back on his experiences of medical practice in Welsh Mining towns. It is this first hand experience that gives life to the characters of Mr. Morgan, his wife, his mother in law and the midwife. The extract taken from The Citadel describes the disappointment, frustration, and sense of hopelessness that a young doctor feels when he lands up in a small town of miners with little or no facilities. To make matters worse is the fact that the man under whom he has to serve has suffered from a stroke that has left him paralysed in one side of his body. The surgery itself is "a ramshackle" erection at the entrance to Page's drive." Page, incidentally was the principal under whom he was to serve. The cynical comments made by the people he comes across suggests that Andrew has probably come to the wrong place, this gives rise to a nagging doubt in his heart about the appropriateness of the decision to start work in a small Welsh mining town. Old Thomas tells him that, "Last assistant went ten days ago. Mostly they don't stop."
In spite of all the discouragement that Dr.Andrew Manson receives from the people, he stays on in Drineffy, a small mining town in Wales. What makes the extract 'Birth' worth reading and thereby 'The Citadel' a must read, is the interesting autobiographical descriptions of how the his experiences in this small town made him a better person, not just emotionally but also professionally. The whole novel, and the extract have as their basis the near impossible moment when Dr Andrew Manson was able revive a still-born child born to the Morgan family. This was a miracle, a high point in this young Doctor's life as aprofessional. It was a reaffirmation of his skills as a doctor! In many ways, his remembering a similar instance of asphyxia pallida and how it was treated is a strong example how to be successful in life sometimes requires going beyond the textbook!
Dr. Andrew Manson was overwhelmed by the dilemma of whether to revive the baby first, o the mother. Fortunately he made the correct decision, and the success that he got out of this gave him even more reason to rejoice being a doctor in a small town with little or no facilities. One very important lesson that Andrew Manson learns from this incident, and through him the reader is that professional satisfaction is dependant on a feeling of worth, and this feeling of worth comes from realising that you did your level best and came out with flying colours in spite of the odds. A feeling of self worth can also be achieved when you are working in a small village with little or no facilities, and what really matters is not glitz and glamour of working for a hi fi organisation, but rather is is about knowing that you have made a valuable contribution to the society, knowing that you have brought joy and happiness to someone.
The Morgan's wanted the baby very badly, they had been waiting for this baby for many years. They had placed great hope on the Doctor, if he failed then how much more disappointed and broken they would all be! The miracle that took that night changed the lives of many people, it changed the lives of the Morgans, it changed Andrew Manson's outlook towards life, he woul not have felt depressed or disappointed about having to work in a small, little known mining town in Wales. What mattered was that he had done something great and he felt great about it!