The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

As the novel’s prime focus of attention, Doc Hunter’s clearheaded opinions, advice, and interior soliloquies considerably offset Upward’s often imperfect understanding of his motives. His language is precise and unrhetorical, sometimes in dramatic contrast to some less polished or slightly affected voices about him—such as those of Harry Hubbs, Caroline Gillespie, or Nellie Furby, the coeditor of the Upward Chronicle. Doc’s qualities emerge as well in the guests’ discussions and anecdotes, forming a composite portrait. Altogether, he appears as practical, sympathetic to the unfortunate, a reputed ladies’ man, dryly ironic, an admirer of Upward’s pioneers and of those who have survived, a critic of self-righteousness and small-mindedness, tolerant of human error, self-sacrificing, inspiring, paternal, and a man who recognizes the frightening consequences of decisions. His voice and wit do not betray the physical decline that some guests remark. He cautions Benny Fox against a morbid, masochistic tie to his and his mother’s past, advising him of his right to his own life—and that not necessarily in Upward. He “can’t see the point of making life miserable trying to play safe.” His acceptance speech vigorously criticizes the town’s only temporary deviation from bitterness and spite as he pleads for trust, understanding, and working together.

One nexus of Doc’s personal beliefs is shown in his discussion of creation with the Reverend Mr. Grimble—who has also identified to himself Upward’s lack of spiritual dedication, its observances of only the formalities of municipal generosity....

(The entire section is 667 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Doc Hunter

Doc Hunter, a seventy-five-year-old who is retiring after forty-five years of practice. His birthday party also celebrates the opening of the Hunter Memorial Hospital in the town of Upward. Through the conversations of the characters with and about him, counterpointed with Doc’s own thoughts, his character is created. Doc always attended patients, through the worst of winters, whenever he was summoned. The druggist remembers him as a “salt and aspirin man”; he bluntly advised patients to keep their bowels open and “pots” off. Many townsfolk regret that, now that the adequate hospital has come, Doc, who had to manage without modern aids and with only the nursing care provided by Maisie, the local madam, is now leaving Upward. Doc knows that new medicines and techniques bewilder him; he recognizes, without self-pity, that only a younger doctor will make proper use of the new facilities. No one in Upward knows that the new doctor is Doc’s illegitimate son. The need to provide for Nick was part of the reason for Doc’s hard-nosed determination to be paid in cash or in kind. Chickens and eggs often went to Big Anna, Nick’s mother. Nick has obviously—though surreptitiously—been central to Doc’s life. Upward residents suspect that he did abortions. He has doubts about only one that he refused to do. He has also—and without qualms—helped some patients out of the world. The townspeople saw Doc’s wife as a snob,...

(The entire section is 571 words.)