Chapter 24 reinforces, to the reader, the entirety of Paul Farmer’s character. While most doctors probably view their profession as integral to their sense of identity, Farmer appears to value being a doctor as his entire identity. He spends little time with his family, instead spending almost all of his time trying to help his patients. This chapter provides an interesting climax to the character of Farmer. Throughout the book, Kidder portrays him as a man who should be looked up to. However, despite his doubtless heroic attitude towards patients, his attitude towards his family is less desirable. Farmer’s tunnel vision regarding people suffering from poverty causes him to overlook other important elements of life. Reading this section made me wonder about the emphasis we place on ‘goodness’ relating to work. It is arguable that we don’t give enough credit to people who are ‘good’ to their family, friends and local community.
Chapter 25 sees Kidder finally questioning whether Farmer’s struggle to change medical care for the poor is, in fact, futile. I think Kidder is right to a certain degree as, at least for our lifetimes, there will always be poor people suffering and with little access to healthcare. Even if Farmer could treat a million people, there would still be another million suffering just as badly. It will take more than one man to change the world. Farmer has good intentions, but his ambition is too high, and this results in an apparent failure of his mission.
In the final chapter, Kidder appears to come to a similar conclusion. Here we learn that Farmer is a man who has lived his life as a long defeat. However, he is comfortable with this. He has tried to change the world, and the attempt is what he considers important. I agree with the sentiment that trying is more important and, of course, Farmer did manage to change many lives for the better. What struck me, however, was the negative slant on the notion; the long defeat seems a backward way of viewing the incredible improvements Farmer did make.
Kidder, T. Mountains Beyond Mountains. New York: Library of Congress. 2009 print.