All Creatures Great and Small

by James Herriot

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 202

The Darrowby people Herriot encounters as a new vet illustrate many universal themes. Through their love for their animals and each other, they experience joy, pain, hope, satisfaction, and despair. As farmers, their success is not egocentric, but a chancy result of their cooperation with their land, their animals, the Dales environment, and the onslaught of disease and the knackerman, who carts away their dead beasts. This intensely difficult life accentuates idiosyncrasies, and evokes desperate, nonscientific folk cures for animal maladies, and nervous distrust of the vets. Herriot understands this and only rarely gets angry and is never bitter toward these brave, necessarily strong folk whose daily lives are much like climbing one of the 2,000 foot "fells," the bare, steep, looming hills into which the Dales are uncomfortably nestled. The animals' lives are instructive models for the people, for whom the ultimata of birth, death, and disease frame the daily morality of living. These people, give or take an odd one, are good, Herriot says, adding, without preaching, that readers should learn from them. American suburbanites, apparently, see in these people the struggle for survival that they in their ease no longer worry about and yet still feel the need to recognize.

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