Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
All Creatures Great and Small was James Herriot’s first book to be published in the United States. In it, the mature Herriot tells of his youthful self, when he graduated from veterinary school and began working in a rural veterinary practice. The narrator, like the reader, is able to laugh at the naïveté of Herriot, as well as at the people who surround him, including his employer, Siegfried Farnon, and his employer’s brother, Tristan Farnon. Simultaneously, the reader can recognize the close bond that develops between Herriot, Siegfried, and Tristan, the tremendous respect Herriot has for Siegfried, and the friendship he feels for Tristan.
At the beginning of the book, Herriot is lying on a cobblestone floor, covered with muck, shirtless, and in a cold, drafty barn, with snow sometimes blowing on him, as he tries successfully to deliver a calf. The first chapter ends shortly after he mistakenly thinks that a farmer’s question “How about a drink?” is directed at him, rather than at the cow that gave birth. Thus, he immediately introduces the hardships of a rural veterinarian’s life, as well as the kind of comic character his early misunderstandings of the rural Yorkshire folk made him. He simultaneously reveals his awe and delight at the miracle of birth, even when it occurs in the most uncomfortable of circumstances. The book ends with his account of his honeymoon, with his wife assisting him as he does tuberculin tests of cattle....
(The entire section is 887 words.)
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