Health and Sickness in the Early American Novel: Social by Maureen Tuthill

By Maureen Tuthill

This e-book is a research of depictions of well-being and disorder within the early American novel, 1787-1808. those texts exhibit a troubling pressure among the impulse towards social affection that equipped unity within the country and the pursuit of self-interest that was once thought of imperative to the rising liberalism of the recent Republic. strong healthiness is depicted as an incredibly confident social worth, nearly an a priori situation of club in the neighborhood. Characters who've the “glow of overall healthiness” are likely to take pleasure in wealth and status; those that turn into ill are pressured via poverty and debt or have made undesirable judgements that experience jeopardized their prestige. our bodies that waste away, faint, or actually disappear off of the pages of America’s first fiction are resisting the stipulations that ail them; as they plead for his or her correct to exist, they draw consciousness to the injustice, apathy, and greed that afflict them.

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Beauchamp, thinking her the natural candidate to provide both material and emotional comfort. Mrs. Beauchamp responds as a proper community matriarch: “[W]e will go to her immediately. Heaven forbid that I should be deaf to the calls of humanity” (123). Mrs. Beauchamp does not have the “instinct and sensibility” that Foucault identifies as fundamental 38 M. TUTHILL to medicine. She only tends to Charlotte after she is urged to do so by her husband, and later, petitioned by the surgeon. Her behavior is always confined to social expectations that are defined by male figures—even when it comes to the benevolent healing of a seriously ill young woman.

32. Edward C. Atwater, “Introduction to the Collection,” An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform, Vol. I, ed. Christopher Hoolihan (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2001), 132. According to Paul Starr: “The domestic medical guides, together with popular lectures on health and physiology, were one of many ways that rationalist ideas about disease and medicine were transmitted to the public and converted into attitudes and practices”; see The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry (New York: Basic Books, 1982), 36.

32 M. TUTHILL The stimulating effects of hartshorn momentarily restore Charlotte, and for the first time in the novel, she speaks with rapid vehemence. She demands information from Montraville’s friend, Belcour, while her “pale lips trembled with convulsive agony” (106). Charlotte’s ready access to this remedy also indicates that she has sought the care of an “apothecary and nurse” (111). The hartshorn episode shows Charlotte in a developing light: through self-medication and the acquisition of medical assistance, she takes definitive action to protect herself.

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