The Lord God Made Them All

by James Herriot

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 690

As in his preceding three books—All Creatures Great and Small (1972), All Things Bright and Beautiful (1974), and All Things Wise and Wonderful (1976)—Herriot portrays the people he meets with an eye toward the details of their lives. He makes readers aware of correspondences without being heavy-handed, and Herriot’s self-effacing manner and honest treatment of his own mistakes and shortcomings lead the reader to admire but not canonize the author.

Each chapter typically addresses one overriding concern that unifies the episode. An example of this method is chapter 3, the theme of which is “change versus constancy.” Chapter 3 begins with the author stopping his car on a high moorland road to get out and look around at the landscape. His day’s work has reminded him of how much veterinary practice has changed since the war—a change represented by a farmer’s saying “It’s all t’needle now, Mr. Herriot.” His stopping to look at the land around him comforts him: “I looked through the window at the great fells thrusting their bald summits into the clouds, tier upon tier of them, timeless, indestructible, towering over the glories beneath, and I felt better immediately. The Dales had not changed at all.” His next focus in the chapter is his home, a walk into which allows Herriot to fill in the details about changes in Tristan Farnon’s life since the war and to bring Siegfried Farnon briefly back into his book. Siegfried has had car trouble and has decided that the veterinary practice needs another vehicle. He informs Herriot of his decision and then test drives a candidate for purchase, a harrowing ride described by the author. Siegfried’s full-throttle decision and driving also leave Herriot comforted: “the Dales hadn’t changed, and Siegfried hadn’t changed either.”

The Lord God Made Them All does differ from the preceding three books in its scant inclusion of Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, two memorable and important people in the earlier works. Herriot provides an episode in his fourth work for each of the Farnons: for Siegfried, the test drive, and for Tristan, the goat droppings from Miss Grantley. Herriot introduces Tristan’s episode as a recollection about “the old bachelor days in Skeldale House,” James and Helen Herriot’s home and the site of the veterinary office shared with Siegfried. The goat droppings episode allows Herriot to show Tristan once again triumphant over the doggedly hardworking Herriot, winning the favor of Miss Grantley with his discussion of goats while Herriot did the work of stitching up the goat’s lacerated shoulder. If Herriot had chosen to write whole collections of observations on Tristan and Siegfried, the reader could well imagine their similarity to James Boswell’s “Johnson triumphant” motif in The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791).

Herriot does portray himself sympathetically, for one reason because he notes his own mistakes. One case that “still haunts” the author is a cow that he treated for a foot disease, an animal that later died of a blood clot formed at the spot where he had given her an injection. The author dreads the owner’s judgment of him and even awaits a solicitor’s letter informing him of a lawsuit, but the cow’s owner, Robert Maxwell, does not accuse Herriot and continues to do business with him. This episode concludes with the author noting that he now has a standard of conduct to follow: Maxwell’s.

Although The Lord God Made Them All is told from an adult’s perspective, the book is worthwhile for young readers. For example, anyone who has ever been a part of a musical recital will enjoy Herriot’s description of his son Jimmy’s piano recital. Young readers will especially appreciate the aplomb of the son, described somewhat at the expense of the father. Young readers will also identify with Herriot’s willingness to experiment and his openness to new experience. The book’s travel episodes stress food descriptions, but they retain an exuberance that makes for compelling narration. In his travels, Herriot demonstrates the curiosity that most people experience, evoking innocence and the trials of youth.

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