James Herriot

Start Free Trial

What is the theme of the story “A Triumph of Surgery” by James Herriot?

The theme of the story “A Triumph of Surgery” is the consequences of overindulgence.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In “A Triumph of Surgery,” James Herriot illustrates the theme of overindulgence and its consequences through Mrs. Pumphrey and her dog, Tricki. Mrs. Pumphrey continuously pampers Tricki, resulting in the dog becoming overweight. According to the story, Tricki looks like a “bloated sausage” and appears weak. Mr. Herriot, a veterinary surgeon, is astonished when he sees Tricki. He advises Mrs. Pumphrey to reduce Tricki’s food intake and ensure that he has regular physical exercise.

Mrs. Pumphrey, however, believes that Tricki’s illness is a result of malnutrition. Therefore, she feeds the dog in between meals. For instance, she gives Tricki “a bowl of Horlicks” (a malted milk drink) in the evening so that he can sleep peacefully. She also gives him “cream cakes and chocolates.” Consequently, Tricki falls ill. He vomits repeatedly and lacks appetite.

Mr. Herriot comes to learn that Tricki is overindulging in rich foods and getting no exercise. Therefore, he takes him under his care for two weeks. During this period, Tricki is not treated with medicine and is instead made to interact with other dogs. His food intake is also reduced.

Mrs. Pumphrey sends food and drinks, including eggs and wine, to Tricki during his stay at the clinic. Instead of giving these treats to the dog, however, Mr. Herriot enjoys them with his staff. Tricki slowly starts to recover and begins playing with other dogs. He hunts for rats and fights for food during mealtimes. These activities give him the exercise he needs. Thanks to his increased activity level and his lack of indulgence in food, Tricki gradually becomes fit and healthy. After two weeks, he fully recovers and is handed over to Mrs. Pumphrey.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on