Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World Part II, Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis

Tracy Kidder

Part II, Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis

In Chapter 12, Paul continues to focus on politics, and Kidder shows how this involvement affects Farmer's friends and coworkers. When Ophelia visits him in Haiti, she seems him uncooperative with the soldiers at roadblocks and leaving politically dangerous literature in view. When he visits Boston, Farmer asks Tom White for $10,000 cash to smuggle back to the resistance movement; this leads to a shooting match with his friends over the risks he is taking. In 1993, Farmer won a MacArthur grant, and wrote The Uses of History. The Uses of History tells the history of America's ongoing involvement in Haitian politics over the last two hundred years. However, back in Haiti, many of Paul's friends were being killed by the military. Throughout 1994, Farmer lectured throughout the U.S. on Haiti, even addressing Congress and debating a general on the topic, to mixed responses. Once Aristide's presidency was restored, Farmer returned to Haiti. He found a country whose health had been destroyed by violence and by the results of military rule. AIDS infections were up, as were tuberculosis cases, and many of the staff had resigned. (Chapter 12 also touches on how PIH has grown; like Paul, it is moving up in the world. It has started programs in Boston, Haiti, and Mexico, and published the book Women, Poverty, and AIDS.)

Chapter 12 documents how Farmer's life pulls him in radically different directions. As the MacArthur Foundation says about itself: "The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world." Popularly, MacArthur grants are also known as "genius grants," and winning one is a sign that one is doing something special and doing it especially well. This would be a great achievement, as would writing over 200 pages of a book in 10 days (as Farmer did with The Uses of History). On the other hand, Paul is progressively isolated: literally, politically, and emotionally. He is literally isolated by taking himself away from things and people, and through the intensity of his passion, which burns casual interests from his life. He is politically isolated both by his insights into health and politics and by his unwillingness to bend any longer to the military. He is emotionally isolated by the death of his Haitian friends, through his experiences, and through his commitments, which drive a wedge between him and the average American.