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Book Review: Birth by A J Cronin

Birth is a short story taken from the novel ‘The Citadel’. In this story, we see that Andrew Manson has come out of the medical school recently and working as an assistant to Dr. Edward Page. The story takes place in Blaenelly, a small Welsh mining town.

Around midnight Andrew meets Joe Morgan at Bryngower, where the latter was waiting for him for over an hour. Joe Morgan and his wife Susan Morgan are childless for over twenty years. Tonight Susan Morgan is expected to deliver a child and Andrew has to perform the task. They both begin walking homewards. When they reach, Joe Morgan refuses to come inside and says that he trusts him that things inside will be fine.

Andrew goes inside the small apartment in which other than basic furniture nothing is of substantial value. He goes upstairs and finds Susan on a bed, beside her bed standing midwife and her seventy-year-old mother. Andrew realizes that there is still time for the procedure to start. Mrs. Morgan’s mother fears that the doctor may go back, thus to involve him into waiting she offers him tea. Andrew assures the old lady that he will not go back until the procedure is done.

The old lady says that Susan has said no to chloroform as it may harm the child. To this Andrew replies that it’s totally harmless to both. Around 3.30 A.M., the labour pain starts, and then Andrew and the midwife start working together. Soon after the delivery of a stillborn child, the condition of Susan deteriorates. The child is very important to Morgan couple and Susan’s mother has emphasized the importance of the same to Andrew before the procedure. Caught between dilemma, Andrew feels the oppression of the situation and feels he cannot fail as he bears an indispensable responsibility towards the parents and the stillborn child. Andrew quickly rushes to stabilize the situation of Susan. After doing that he comes back to the child. The midwife has already put the child under the bed thinking it dead. Andrew pulls out the child, the whiteness of the child confirms the state of Pallida – a kind of respiratory problem. This case reminds him of previous experiment in Samaritan.

He orders two bowls of water, one with cold and another with mild hot. He puts the child in a blanket and dips it alternatively in both the bowls of water. This activity is bizarre for the old lady and midwife. The old lady is praying and midwife watches him in consternation. Next, Andrew rubs the puny chest of the child and then the ambiance fills with the sudden surge of life as the child cries out. Andrew heaves a sigh of happiness and goes down to drink water in the scullery. He then goes out and assures Joe everything is fine. This event changed his medical life’s course and he is proud to do something meaningful in his life.


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