The House of God, by Samuel Shem is a satirical novel that represents the lives of young interns interning at a hospital nicknamed “The House of God.” The came from the top of their medical school class to the bottom of the hospital staff to serve a year performing distasteful work, experiencing poor working conditions, and losing close contact with family and friends. But only the Fat Man, the all-knowing resident, could sustain them in their struggle to survive, to stay sane, and to be doctors. It is a four hundred and thirty-two page novel illustrated with numerous medical references and college level diction. The book fits well with the current AP English literature curriculum because it is known to be the Catch-22 of medical professions and offers the same themes and character conflicts found in other suggested readings.
The House of God is a must read for all students enrolled in AP English. It expresses irony, humor, conflict, character development and many themes. The novel allows students to read a book similar to Catch-22 without having to deal with another war novel, like A Farewell to Arms. It captures interest through a chronological flashback, unlike Catch-22, where the order of events is unclear. It also offers students an insight of the cruelties and realities of the medical profession that parallel the military profession. In the end the reader learns the effects of oppression, fatigue, and the psychological development of each intern. These understanding will further enhance a students knowledge of theme and conflict.
However, introducing the novel to the curriculum has some disadvantage. It is constructed with vulgar language through the last page. The language is especially explicit during the numerous sexual intercourses between the interns and nurses. Students should be mature enough to get past the crudeness but some teachers and students may not be open to the vivid voice and scenes. Also many of the characters are stock characters and confusion arises about whether or not they are important to the central plot. Lastly, some students will not be familiar with the medical references of diseases and symptoms stated throughout the novel. Nevertheless, this is only a minor disadvantage since some terms are explained as doctors ridicule the interns knowledge.
Despite the disadvantages, the novel fits well within the curriculum. It has offers a difficult reading level that challenges students reading, a strong use of literary techniques, and a psychological understanding of dynamic characters. It is the same length as Catch- 22 but it is easier to understand and expresses a clearer message on the realties and psychological tolls of a profession.
Courtney from Study Moose