How does the landscape of Yorkshire Dales shape the character of its residents? Is James Herriot changed by the landscape at all?
The landscape and climate of the Dales are difficult and bleak, predominantly cold and unforgiving. This is reflected in the farming community whose families have been farmers for generations and for whom doing something different is not a consideration. The bleakness of their environment creates a bleakness in the way they converse with others, rarely saying anything more than is strictly necessary and having no time or skill for social niceties or frills. They are tough, no-nonsense people who work hard and expect the same of others. They view the land as part of their family and the land in return provides for them.
James is not hardened by the surroundings as those villagers who have lived there their whole lives, but does become hardier because of calls out to various farms in the middle of the night. He does come to appreciate the landscape and eventually finds his soul is both filled and calmed by the sight of the sun rising over the hills as he goes home from an early-hours farm visit. He also gains in confidence and learns more about his own inner strength as the terrain and the weather presents constant challenges that he always finds a way to rise to.
What do you think frustrates Siegfried Farnon the most about his younger brother Tristan?
Siegfried is extremely frustrated by what he sees as younger people's lackadaisical attitude and general overly relaxed state of mind. When Tristan fails his first year at Veterinary School Siegfried is far angrier about his brother's seemingly carefree attitude about failing than he is about the failure itself. Subsequently when Tristan passes his exams and is accepted back into school his apparent lack of studying in order to achieve this also adds to his brother's frustration. Siegfried wants Tristan to be a younger version of himself and the fact that he is actually the polar opposite increases his general ire. Tristan is relaxed, smooth and charming with an ability to win over anybody in five minutes flat, a talent that Siegfried is largely unappreciative of, and would rather was replaced by seriousness, diligence or efficiency. Their general differences are in fact of benefit to their business but Siegfried does not acknowledge this, as praising his brother could be interpreted as tacit approval of his character
Do you think James Herriot does a good job of explaining medical symptoms and veterinary terms, or could he be more explicit to help the reader understand more clearly?
James Herriot explains medical situations very well but oddly for a book about a vet deals more with the characters he encountered and presents veterinary visits and emergencies as more of a backdrop to various situations with locals than as the main focus of the book; he will often use a farmer's blind faith in an "old wives tale" treatment as an example of the difficulty an incoming vet would have in persuading a farmer to accept modern medicine rather than related to a condition or ailment. Although he does not go into great detail about medical conditions and symptoms he gives enough information to enable the reader to understand why a condition is serious, or why it might impact a farmer's livelihood. He explains with enough sentiment to allow the reader to feel empathy for the animals but throughout the book is far more detached from the sadness of an animal's death or suffering than the reader is able to be. Largely, though, Herriot teaches the reader basic medical information that enables a greater understanding of the anecdotes he tells without becoming cold like a medical text book.
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