The Lord God Made Them All Essay - Critical Context

James Herriot

Critical Context

Herriot’s autobiographies meet a need for many readers. For young adults, they model pastoral simplicity and decency. In a time of urban and suburban impersonal landscapes, Herriot’s The Lord God Made Them All anchors its readers in the rural values of hard work and helping neighbors. His themes are timeless, despite—and, in fact, probably because of—their being wrapped in such specific places and people.

Modern fiction, with its concern for reliable and unreliable narrators, undoubtedly influences a reader’s perceptions of Herriot as the fiction writer creating an order in his own life, an order that became evident thirty years after the incidences themselves. Herriot started writing when his wife told him that fifty was too old to begin a writing career, and so he began to spend his evenings in front of the television, working on his remembrances of his practice and of his personal life. One criticism of The Lord God Made Them All is that the book is too formulaic, too much in step with the earlier three works to be satisfying. Herriot’s strength as a writer, however, is in telling good stories of a life lived well, not in any particular originality of style or form.

Herriot’s four-book series has earned its status as a classic, and its popularity worldwide is reflected in the fact that the books have been translated into twelve languages, including Japanese. In 1978, the British Broadcasting Corporation introduced a television series, All Creatures Great and Small, based on Herriot’s autobiographies. The series enjoyed considerable success, further evidence of Herriot’s appeal.

The Lord God Made Them All is a book that is valuable to young readers for its evidence of joyful service. With its three predecessors, it belongs on high-school reading lists as evidence that humans can find a place in the world.