The Doctor's Son Summary
by John O'Hara

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The Doctor's Son Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Doctor’s Son,” a long story in four parts, concerns James (Jimmy) Malloy, a boy who is confronted with the fact that one may be physically grown yet not grown up. Jimmy, the doctor’s son of the title, narrates this story about his loss of illusions against the backdrop of the influenza epidemic of 1918. During the epidemic, Doctor Mike Malloy works himself into exhaustion, and “Doctor” Myers, a medical student, is called in to work Malloy’s patients until he has recovered. Jimmy, though only fifteen, is commissioned to drive Doctor Myers around the county to see all the flu victims. Their first stop, at the request of Doctor Malloy, is the Evans home in Colieryville, where Jimmy looks forward to seeing Edith Evans, a girl several years his senior. Because the Malloys and Evanses are friends, Jimmy and Doctor Myers are invited for lunch by David Evans, Edith’s father. At lunch (which Mr. Evans cannot attend because of business commitments), Doctor Myers is attracted to Adele Evans, though Jimmy notices something unusual only in the glances passed between Edith and her mother.

As they travel to see patients in single-family dwellings and gathered in bars to await the doctor, Jimmy is impressed by the compassion and skill with which Doctor Myers works. He has an unnerving experience, however, when they visit a miner’s house in which the husband has died, and one of the children dies while they are there. Although Jimmy is a doctor’s son and has been exposed to death, he has always been prepared for it, “if only by the sound of the ambulance bell. This was different.” It is his first realization that death can come unexpectedly, and he is shaken by it.

The third part of the story, the shortest of the four, opens with the story’s only extended digression, as Jimmy discusses various people who are taking advantage of the flu epidemic to profit in one way or another, whether financially or sexually. This digression foreshadows the affair between Doctor Myers and Adele Evans, which follows when Mrs. Evans asks Doctor Myers to come by on the pretense of examining the maid; Jimmy and Edith are unsuccessful in preventing the liaison.

Soon after this, Mr. Evans interrupts an examination Doctor Myers is performing in a bar and demands to...

(The entire section is 602 words.)