Part II, Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
This chapter opens with an excerpt from a letter to Paul Farmer from Ophelia Dahl. Dahl, daughter of author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal, came to Haiti to volunteer with Eye Care and see the world. When she came to Eye Care's building in Mirebalais, she met Farmer. He was then twenty-three, and she was eighteen. They talked endlessly about their lives during the week Dahl was at Mirebalais, then road back to Port-au-Prince (the capital of Haiti) with the Eye Care team. As they navigated the twisting roads, they ran across a wrecked "tap-tap" (a truck that carried both passengers and cargo). One woman had been killed in the wreck.
They saw each other almost every day as they worked with Eye Care and became romantically involved. Farmer wrote Ophelia poetry and educated her on the social and economic realities of Haiti. As they talked, Farmer's plans for his future became clearer, and Ophelia realized that she too wanted to become a doctor. Eventually Ophelia left and went home to England. When she did, she called Farmer's family at his request to let them know he was okay—but Paul's dad thought it was one of Paul's sisters putting on a fake English accent and treated it as a joke.
This chapter gives a different perspective on Paul Farmer, or rather, several of them. The primary shift is, of course, from Kidder's point of view to Ophelia Dahl's perspective, filtered through time and memory. However, since their time together was a time of transformation, the account also becomes one of change. Farmer is shown as very young emotionally at twenty-three, but very deep spiritually and very powerful intellectually. Farmer came from a complex but fairly impoverished background, with nowhere near the privileges Dahl had had with parents who were both famous artistic successes. However, despite that general background, it was Farmer who learned Creole much faster, soaking up the language along with the culture. Chapters 5 and 6 had given a sense of where Farmer came from, and how he appeared in context; Chapter 7 starts to show how Farmer changes the world and people he comes in contact with. As a piece of writing, this chapter aligns internal and external events almost poetically: in the midst of Haitian poverty and punctuated by tragedies like the woman's death in the wreck, there is love. Finally, readers can watch Farmer's vision crystallize; Farmer wants to know Haiti in depth, and he takes Ophelia with him.