Archibald Cronin (1896-1981)

Archibald Cronin was born at Cardross, Dumbartonshire. He was educated at Dumbarton Academy and in 1914 began to study medicine at Glasgow University. In 1919 he graduated from it with honours, and then worked as a surgeon on a ship. On his return to Britain Cronin settled in South Wales where he worked as a general practitioner. In 1925 he started practice in the West End of London.

But in 1930 his health broke down, and while convalescing in the West Highlands of Scotland he wrote “Hatter’s Castle” (1931). It caused a sensation in literature and literary circles. Thus Dr. Cronin decided to take up writing. In 1933 he won a gold medal for the best historical essay of the year. His literary career was a success. His next book “The Stars Look Down” (1935) presents the relations between the miners and their masters. The major conflict of the book is a social struggle that arises from the clash of “two nations”. The author’s satire is directed against upper classes. The injustice, the social contradictions are well described. “The Citadel” (1937) is a fine collection of portraits in the medical world of capitalist England. The action in the novel begins in 1924 and ends in the middle of the 30’s. The main character of the novel is Andrew Manson who after graduating from the university starts working as a general practitioner in a small town in South Wales. The first steps are always hard, especially for Andrew who has to work on his own for Dr. Page. Hard work is no burden for Andrew, but he lacks experience and practice, and he can’t even diagnose his first patient.

Luckily, Andrew gets acquainted with doctor Philip Denny who helps him a lot. When an outbreak of typhoid begins, Manson is at a loss for he sees no way to fight it. Philip suggests blowing up an old sewer which causes infection. The scene of the blowing up of the sewer is one of the best in the novel.

Parallel to difficulties and hardships Andrew meets love and affection. He gets acquainted with an attractive and gentle young teacher, Christine Barlow. They fall in love with each other and get married.

Andrew undertakes a research on miners’ lung diseases, and successfully passes his examinations. Strongly determined to make the best of his career, Andrew does not even notice how he gradually loses his best qualities as a man and as a scientist. Archibald Cronin gives a thorough description of Andrew’s moral degradation: first money becomes his main aim in life, and then he loses interest in work and scientific research. All this cannot but affect his relations with Christine who sees what is happening and tries to stop his degradation. However, honesty prevails in Manson’s nature: seeing one day how a patient dies because of stupidity of some doctors Andrew, is born anew. He becomes the Andrew of his first days in South Wales again. All goes well, but suddenly disaster comes. Christine is killed in a road accident. The blow is hard, Andrew suffers bitterly, but the catastrophe helps him to see and understand many things. His duty as a man and as a doctor becomes quite clear to him: to serve people, to make people happy.

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