Before analyzing this story, it is important to mention that Richard Gordon used to be a practicing doctor before he started his career as a writer. His stories are based on personal experience, what makes them more striking.
The story is highly emotional and ironical first person narration which tells about medical students’ experience of passing their final examinations. The text is clearly divided into three parts according to the stages of examinations. The first part tells about students’ attitude to exams. The second deals with written part of the exam, the third is about oral part and the last one tells how students get the results of the whole examination.
The author makes his narration bright and involving appealing to personal experience of readers: each and every of us used to be a student and had to pass exams. The readers got back in thoughts to their own experience and compare it with the main character’s. Although, it turned out that in case of medical students it is a bit different, the author had already achieved his goal: he had involved readers into narration appealing to their emotions.
The main subject of the story, as it was already told, is final exams. It is interesting to observe how many stylistic devices are used by Gordon to describe the concept of examination. The author employs conceptual metaphor to compare exam with death and develop this metaphor throughout all the narration. In the very beginning the direct simile to death is given “To medical students the final examinations are something like a death”. Then Gordon mentions death telling about students’ superstition “To speak of falling is a bad taste. It’s the same idea as talking about passing away and going above instead of plain dying”.
Later, clear allusion to Bible is used by the author when he describes students, who have passed the exam and go upstairs (to heaven) and those, who have failed and go down (to hell). If we try and think about the purposes of giving such strong comparison, we would come to a conclusion that for medical students exams are really similar to death. I mean that students of this profession are much more responsible for death and life of people, than any other. That’s why learn everything and succeed at the exams is absolutely necessary for them.
Describing exam using simile “a straight contest between himself and the examiners” and comparing student to a “prize-fighter” author equals examination to sport. Another metaphor used by the author treats exams as if it was imprisonment. Gordon uses words associated with prison describing the waiting room like “contempt cell” and name students “poor victims” to underline this simile.
Moreover, to make the readers share the emotions and tears of students, Gordon uses a vide range of other stylistic devises such as irony, metaphors, epithets and similes. For example, his description of different types of students and the way, they deal with examination is given in highly-ironical mood. He even gives names to these types, calling them “Nonchalant”, “Frankly Worried”, “Crammer”, “Old Stagger”. What is more, he devotes special attention to so called “women students” and describes them as “attractive ones, not those who are feminine only through inescapable anatomic arrangements” intentionally using bookish words to make the situation funny and ironical.
Another tool which is employed by the author to help for better understanding of students is the description of their superstitions and believes. For example the myth which tells that students’ written works are marked at random or fear to say aloud the word “fail” because this brings bad luck.
But the main part of the story which devotes readers’ attention most of all is the climax. You can easily guess that the tensest moment of the narration comes when student get his results. The narrator describes his state in details “My pulse shot in my ears. My face was burning hot and I felt my stomach had been suddenly plucked from my body.” to share the fever of excitement of student. The hyperbola in sentences “The traffic stopped, the plants ceased growing, men were paralyzed, the clouds hung in the air, the winds dropped, the tides disappeared, the sun halted in the sky” enlarges this effect.
Courtney from Study Moose
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