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Written by Connie Skibinski
Contrast between rich and poor
Typically, we expect the lives of the poor to be characterized by hardship and suffering, while the wealthy experience ease and happiness. There are some ways in which the novel agrees with this typical view. For example, the pessimistic plight of poor farmers who can't afford essentials such as food is examined. This parallels the life of Mrs Pumphrey, who is extremely wealthy and optimistic.
However, chapter 61 is ironic as it usurps these expectations. In this chapter, the Alton family are poor but family-orientated and joyful, whereas the rich Tavener family are miserable. Through this ironic contrast, the author suggests that money does not bring true happiness. Instead, happiness is forged through a person's connections with others.
Mrs Pumphrey's treatment of Tricki Woo
Mrs Pumphrey is absolutely devoted to her dog Tricki Woo, and lavishly pampers him with extravagant human food. However this is ironic, as he pampering acts of love are in fact seriously damaging Tricki's health. By excessively feeding him, Tricki has become overweight and unfit, to the point where Herriot had to take Tricki to the practice for 2 weeks. Despite his constant warnings that she is actually harming Tricki, Mrs Pumphrey continues to pamper him. This illustrates her eccentric personality and her generous nature.
Contrast between Tristan and Siegfried
It is ironic that, although Tristan and Siegfried are brothers, they are polar opposites. This can be seen through their general personality traits, as well as their approaches to veterinarian studies. While Siegried is hard working and charismatic, Tristan is exceptionally lazy and mischievous. Furthermore, Siegried has a successful, established practice, while Tristan has failed his studies. These differences create moments of comic humor, and illustrate their own distinctive personalities.
Throughout the novel, Siegfried gives a number of instructions, however, he ironically and humorously fails to take his own advice. This can be seen in chapter 37, when Siegfried tells Herriot not too use too much suture material. Later, Siegfried uses an excessive amount of this material, and tells Herriot of for pointing out the contradiction. These contradictions are a large aspect of Siegfried's characterization, and provide many moments of humor.
The role of nature
Nature and the landscape play a dual function in the novel. While the beauty of the countryside provides Herriot with great solace, the harsh winter climate causes him great struggle. It is ironic that the land can be simultaneously calming and aggravating. This can be seen through the juxtaposition between the "high, grassy hills and wide valleys" which evoke a sense of peace, and the "twelve miles of frozen snow" which he must trudge through during an early morning farm call.
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