All Things Bright and Beautiful Essay - Critical Context

James Herriot

Critical Context

Some of the most popular works of fiction for children and young adults deal with the relationship between human beings and animals. In particular, Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller (1956), Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows (1961), Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die (1972), and Gary Paulsen’s Dogsong (1985) realistically portray loving relationships between animals and the humans who care for them. Often, Herriot’s feelings toward his patients and his struggles to help them are reminiscent of scenes from these novels.

All Things Bright and Beautiful and Herriot’s other books have become classics because of their strong evocation of life in Yorkshire and their vivid descriptions of people and animals. A best-seller, All Things Bright and Beautiful has provided millions of readers with insight into the life of a veterinarian who shares his love of the Yorkshire landscape, people, and animals with his readers, which is his primary motivation in writing these books. This book is of interest as a social document that celebrates a particular way of life at a particular time in history and argues for the value of animals. At the same time, it is part of a growing number of autobiographies intended for adults, but often read by younger readers, that focus on scientists or doctors who deal with animals. Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf (1963) shares many of Herriot’s concerns, while Louis J. Camuti’s All My Patients Are Under the Bed: Memories of a Cat Doctor (1980) and David Taylor’s Going Wild: Adventures of a Zoo Vet (1980) were clearly influenced by him.