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Book Review: The Enemy by Pearl S. Buck

‘The Enemy’ is a long story by Pearl S. Buck. Since the setting of the story is of WW-II, in Japan, so it’s apparently a war-fiction story. However, one of the consistent themes of the story is humanity and the call of the duty.


Dr Sadao Hoki is a renowned surgeon of Japan. He lives near a coast with his family – though it is a war-time but he is happy and leading a luxurious life. Most of doctors and surgeons in Japan are with the troops due to the ongoing war. Dr Sadao is a terrific surgeon and he is so skillful that he can save any patient quite convincingly. For this reason, Dr Sadao is made to stay back, so that he can tend the ailing needs of the old army General, who was known for brutality in his youth.

One night Dr Sadao and his wife Hana find a white man being washed ashore. The man was badly wounded. He was hit by a bullet and later got injured by rocky shore. He was a man from the navy. Since Japan and America are at war, taking that man inside his home for treatment means being disloyal to Japan and there is always a fear of being arrested by the police.

Dr Sadao learned medicine from America – he was in America for his medical studies and there he met Hana, also a doctor and his wife.

As a doctor, he is torn apart between his choice to help that man and at the same time being loyal to his own country. So he is in dilemma. Where to go? Should he help that wounded American or not? Finally, being overpowered by his human instinct – forgetting about war and hatred – he takes that man in. He operates on him and makes him almost livable. This action upsets all his servants and maids and fearing the arrest they leave the home, leaving Dr Sadao and his wife alone.

Soon afterwards, Dr Sadao is operating on the General. The General comes to know about that American enemy but he instead appreciates Dr Sadao for saving a man’s life by rising above war and its allied hatred and criminality. And for this reason – that Dr Sadao is a good man – the General trusts him. The General assures that no action will be taken against him. The General promises to send his assassins to get rid of that American enemy. Dr Sadao agrees to his help. Every night Dr Sadao leaves the patient’s door open to the garden-side. Sadao waits for assassins but they don’t appear for five nights.

So finally on his own, he takes the decision again to save Tom – the American prisoner. Next, Dr Sadao arranges a boat, food, water bottles, and a tiny torch. He instructs Tom to go to a nearby island by rowing a boat in the dark and from there he can catch either a Korean or American ship. He instructs Tom to flash the torch twice just after the sunset in case he runs out of water or food supply.
When Dr Sadao meets the General next time, he says that he forgot to send killers for that American enemy. Dr Sadao informs him about Tom’s escape. The General says nothing.

The story sheds light on the grim misery of the war and it also tells us about the humanitarian aspect of doctors. The doctor was right with his duty and dedication – he thought about getting rid of that enemy when he recovered fully.

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