Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné, Norman Cousins tells the story of his visit to Albert Schweitzer in Africa. During this visit, Cousins accomplished the two goals he had for the trip: He helped persuade Schweitzer to make a public statement against nuclear weapons, and he gained Schweitzer’s permission for him and Clara Urquhart to photograph Schweitzer’s unpublished manuscripts so duplicates would exist if the originals were damaged. The visit affected both Schweitzer and Cousins. Before the visit, Cousins knew Schweitzer as a legend: a world-famous musician, medical doctor, theologian, and philosopher. By the end of the visit, Cousins knew him as a man, eighty-three years old and still vigorously working in difficult conditions at his jungle hospital in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa.

Cousins presents most of his experiences chronologically, as they happened, but he takes some out of sequence for aesthetic purposes. For example, he begins the first chapter with a brief scene of Schweitzer at dinner with his staff and his guest at the jungle hospital to show the doctor as an extremely busy and pressured human being with many demands on him. He may well not be interested either in having his manuscripts duplicated or in making a public statement against nuclear warfare.

After introducing the central theme of Schweitzer’s humanity, Cousins summarizes the arrangements he made for the trip. Then, in the second chapter, he...

(The entire section is 561 words.)