(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator introduces Dr. Montarco as a competent physician who is admired and trusted by his patients. The trust begins to waver when it is observed that the doctor is a writer who eschews the composition of medical treatises in favor of writing strange and fanciful fiction. He ignores the objections of his clientele and rejects dissuasion by the narrator. His patients begin to desert him. This happened once before; the doctor, with his wife and two pre-teenage daughters, had to leave his native town when his practice dwindled because of his professional dualism.

Montarco insists that he practices medicine to cure people and to gain his livelihood, and that he does on his own time what he wants to do and not what others want him to do. His personal contempt for patients to whom he is professionally solicitous may be justified, but it signals the instability that will be instrumental in his being institutionalized. Don Servando expresses the sentiment of the patients when he tells the narrator that Montarco is a good doctor but appears to need treatment for a mental ailment. Characteristically overreacting, Montarco calls Don Servando a fool.

As the doctor’s practice disintegrates, his verbal aggression becomes excessive and his mental acuity shows signs of diminishing. One sign is his erroneous ascription of the phrase “appetite for divinity.” Another sign is his denial that he disdains the people whose opinions he clearly scorns....

(The entire section is 549 words.)