Nobody’s Perfect…

18 09 2010

Yes, Dr. Paul Farmer does have flaws. Everyone has flaws! I think it’s easy to assume that, because of all his work with the impoverished people of Haiti, it would be easy to assume that he is a saint of pure virtue, through and through. However, this is not the case. I believe that Farmer has excellent morals; he puts the welfare of those in need before his own and generosity is a trait that he is not afraid of showing. He has sacrificed his lifestyle, income, and comfort to help the poor. But what of his relationship with those closest to him? In chapter 7 we are introduced to Ophelia Dahl. She becomes quite close to Farmer while working in Haiti and an immediate bond is formed between the two after they first meet. Ophelia describes the “evident feeling” he put into his discussion with her and how they “talked until about three in the morning”. It is clear that Farmer values the young woman’s company and conversation; however, there are hints dropped throughout the chapter that begin to uncover Farmer’s complex character. Kidder describes how Farmer asked Ophelia about her family. Flattered by his apparent sincerity, she proceeded to tell him about her parents’ celebrity; however, there is a description of Farmer’s mannerisms that add new dimension to the conversation. Kidder states, “Ophelia would think of Paul and how, when he said those words, he made so many people feel he cared about only them at that moment. Of course, one knew that sometimes his interest was mixed with other motives…”

What would his other motives be? This statement stopped me, mid paragraph, and I was forced to read it over again. Is Farmer’s blatant sincerity to everyone around him somewhat… false? Is he pretending to care? Feigning interest, perhaps? If this is true about the good doctor, then he is much more flawed than one might make him out to be. Meanness and cruelty are flaws on the surface, but pretending to care about those who truly need someone to care about them is a flaw that comes from deep, very deep inside. I don’t think that this particular bump in the picture Kidder has painted for us of Dr. Farmer affects the inspirational aspects of the book, though. I still admire everything Paul Farmer has done for the people of Haiti and I believe that he is an innately good person – that’s inspiring in and of itself.

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3 responses

19 09 2010
Annie Morino

Hey Bee,

Your response to the line “one knew that sometimes his interest was mixed with other motives” makes me feel like you think we have finally found the deep and dark flaw about Dr. Farmer. Is it that maybe now that we have found that ambiguous flaw we were looking for, we can all relax and just enjoy the story because we know Dr. Farmer is no longer perfect? I wonder though how you reconcile this flaw with Dr. Farmer’s inspirational qualities. Do you think that maybe the other motives could actually be well-intentioned motives? Why doesn’t his flaw turn you off to the inspiration in the story?

I underlined the line about hidden motives, as well. However, I also underlined the lines about making “people feel he cared about only them at the moment.” Ophelia mentions on the next page, 69, that, “She wouldn’t have liked him so much if he hadn’t said, ‘Thank you for telling me that’ with such evident feeling, with his eyes open wide.” These lines make me think about how I would feel if someone gave me such rapt attention. I also still find Dr. Farmer inspirational, and I think this fine attention to detail and the human element is why I can ignore his “motives.” I think maybe sometimes it is hard to not think about how someone and his or her story can make an impact or become a part of your life.

Toodles, Annie

19 09 2010
Maggie Boone

Surprisingly enough, I also underlined the quote, “Ophelia would think of Paul and how, when he said those words, he made so many people feel he cared about only them at that moment. Of course, one knew that sometimes his interest was mixed with other motives…” It truly got me thinking, is it possible for Kidder to have as much care and consideration for everyones’ personal story as he portrays himself to have? I’m not quite sure if I believe that Farmer has the same amount of passion and care as he seems to have for each individual he meets. I understand where Bee is coming from in asking if Farmer genuinely cares for others, or if he cares more for HELPING others. Does he really care about the specific person? Is it a matter of a specific persons health? Or is he focused more on human kind as a whole then on the individual person?

20 09 2010
claireemariee

Bee, I think you correctly identified the one quote in the book that possibly sheds light on a flaw of Paul Farmer. Ever since we began reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, we have been looking for flaws in Farmer’s character. With the introduction of Ophelia, we as readers obtain a look at a different side of Farmer, a closer look at what he is like with close friends. Her narrative on their time together, especially during the first summer, raises some suspicions about Farmer’s character. Maggie, in the comment above, states “I’m not quite sure if I believe that Farmer has the same amount of passion and care as he seems to have for each individual he meets.” I agree with her statement, but I also support Bee’s thought that even though Farmer might have flaws, those flaws have not taken away from the inspiration invested through this book…at least not yet…

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