A. J. Cronin, a physician as well as a writer, himself lived much of the life he attributes to his protagonist, Andrew Manson, in The Citadel. Therefore, he knows whereof he speaks. The novel begins by recounting the life of a medical doctor newly graduated from the not-quite-fashionable University of Dundee, as he commences his first full-fledged medical assignment, to maintain the established practice of Dr. Edward Page, an elderly physician in the industrial town of Blaenelly in Wales’s coal-mining region.
In Blaenelly, Manson meets Christine, a local schoolteacher who is to become h.is wife, and Dr. Philip Denny, who is to become the most influential person in his professional life. As he goes about carrying on Dr. Page’s practice in Blaenelly, Manson begins to realize that the older doctor was not always meticulous in his practice of medicine—Manson’s first awakening to the realities of how a profession that he had idealized is actually practiced day-to-day.
Before long, Mrs. Page unjustly accuses Manson of taking from a patient payment that should have gone to her husband. Actually, the grateful patient has given Manson a small gratuity in appreciation for his attention when he was ill. Manson realizes, however, that he can no longer continue in his present arrangement. The nearby town of Aberalaw needs a physician, and Manson goes before the committee there as an applicant for the job. He impresses the committee and accepts its offer to come to Aberalaw, taking with him Christine, whom he marries on the very day he leaves Blaenelly for his new post.
Manson remains the good, overworked physician. His idealism keeps him working at the highest level of competence of which he is capable. Although he begins to prosper modestly, his concern is with patients more than with the fees they pay him. Before long, it is evident that his patients have great faith in him as a doctor. His greatest professional problem in Aberalaw is the same as his greatest professional problem had been in Blaenelly: The citizenry with whom he must deal have old-fashioned notions of how medicine should be practiced, and the resistance that meets his new ways frustrates him enormously.
As a result, Manson is not always tactful in dealing with people. When a local clergyman comes to him saying that he and his wife do not want to have children yet and asking for advice, Manson, who has just suffered the loss of his...
(The entire section is 1002 words.)