“A Country Doctor”
A moment of extreme frustration can often be the catalyst that sets in motion a series of reflections about our past. Whether or not we change the course of our lives as a result of this newly gained understanding depends on many other factors; what is important is the new level of consciousness that has been reached.
“A Country Doctor” by Franz Kafka gives a powerful account of how a village doctor is powerless to take the morally correct decision to save his servant girl from the sexual abuse of a man; instead, the doctor allows himself to be swayed by circumstances and people. Though incapable to alter the course of events the doctor gives a lucid description of how events unfolded.
He is torn between departing to fulfill his professional duty to go see a supposedly ill patient in the middle of a blizzard of snow, and leaving his servant girl at the mercy of a mysterious groom. Inexplicably this groom appears in the doctor’s house ready to supply him with two magnificent horses so he can make the journey. The doctor is aware of the groom’s evil intentions, but he sees no alternative but to accept the groom’s horses because his own horse died the day before and no one in the village is willing to lend him a horse. Thus, he sets off on his journey leaving his servant girl behind only to discover that his patient is beyond any medical intervention. This is the moment when his frustration peaks: he cannot do anything for his patient and he has failed to protect his servant girl. It is at this time that it becomes clear to him how much his village patients have taken advantage of his generosity. He reflects on his poor pay and on how the villagers have betrayed him because no one was willing to lend him a horse in spite of all the help he has rendered in the past.
. Was the doctor really powerless to change the outcome of events? Of course, he could not be blamed for the storm, or for his horse’s death. How was he to know that the patient was beyond medical help? Was he to ignore his duty’s call? He was swept by events in the same fashion that his coat was dragged all along the return trip home. Perhaps the doctor should not be judged so severely, for all of us must have at least once in our lives faced a set of events that drags us beyond control