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Written by Connie Skibinski
“Everybody was asleep. Everybody except me, James Herriot, creeping sore and exhausted towards another spell of hard labour. Why the hell had I ever decided to become a country vet?"
This quote clearly illustrates the struggles Herriot faces due to his demanding career. At times, this has caused him to question his profession, clearly indicated by the blunt rhetorical question. The exhausted tone and juxtaposition between Herriot and his sleeping co-workers further illustrates the demanding nature of his job.
"If you decide to become a veterinary surgeon you will never grow rich but you will have a life of endless interest and variety."
This quote perfectly parallels Herriot's attitudes throughout the novel. It shows that Herriot is not driven by greed, rather, he works as a vet because of his genuine love for animals. It is true that Herriot's life is interesting and full of variety, as shown through the numerous humorous anectodes he tells. In this way, such a simple quote powerfully summaries Herriot's mindsets, past achievements and expectations for the future.
“At times it seemed unfair that I should be paid for my work; for driving out in the early morning with the fields glittering under the first pale sunshine and the wisps of mist still hanging on the high tops.”
Through the optimistic tone and evocative natural imagery, Herriot illustrates why he loves his career, despite its challenges. Herriot is appreciative and grateful, taking great delight in the natural world around him. He describes the land in great detail, creating a beautiful narrative. In this way, by juxtaposing the beauty of the country with the sterility of a city practice, Herriot emphasizes how grateful he is to be an accomplished country vet. He presents this lifestyle as extremely rewarding.
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”
This quote emphasizes Herriot's love and awe of animals, as he praises them for their loyalty and gratitude, presenting animals as kinder beings than many humans. The religious allusion to the soul is also strengthened by the strong biblical undercurrent of the novel and the allusion in the title. Furthermore, this quote is indicative of Herriot's generous and considerate nature, as he uses this reasoning to condole a grieving elderly lady.
"They didn't say anything about this in the books, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back. I lay face down on the cobbled floor in a pool of nameless muck, my arm deep inside a straining cow."
As the initial line in the novel, this quote effectively illustrates Herriot's initial struggles and challenges. The unpredictable nature of him career is emphasised, as the reality of the experience is not something accurately conveyed in his textbooks and lessons. Vivid descriptions of the snow and muck confront the reader with the difficulty of the experience and emphasis the stark contrast between the tasks of a city vet and country vet. While the tone of this quote is predominantly overwhelming, Herriot soon adjusts to and loves his choice of career.
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