Dr. Beaumont and the Man with the Hole in His Stomach Critical Essays

Beryl Epstein, Sam Epstein


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Epsteins combine an emphasis on the importance of scientific experiments with careful attention to the human dimensions of such research. Readers receive full descriptions of Beaumont’s experiments and their significance: how he inserted different foodstuffs tied on strings into St. Martin’s stomach, withdrawing them periodically to check the progress of digestion, how he noted that St. Martin’s anger over his own rudeness interfered with the process, and how he recorded the stomach’s temperature to refute theories that food digested by being “cooked” in the stomach. These details, however, are usually presented in a larger context that explores the personalities and goals of the two individuals. Beaumont’s working methods are precise, young readers are told, not only because he is a scientist and a good doctor but also because he has decided that writing an account of the case will win him the recognition that he craves. St. Martin’s pain over his friends’ reactions to him after the accident and his shame at being made into an exhibit remind readers that he is a person as well as a medical marvel. As Beryl Epstein wrote of the book, “Our research had convinced us that the story had to be about both men, rather than just about the self-centered doctor alone.” Such an approach, though subtle, means that young readers will be less inclined to see science as impersonal or doctors as gods.

For the most part, the Epsteins maintain a neutral tone, offering few overt judgments of either Beaumont or St. Martin. Thus young readers are encouraged...

(The entire section is 644 words.)