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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 558

Giovanni Corte arrives at an unnamed sanatorium somewhere in Italy to be treated for a mild case of an unnamed disease. He is pleased by the appearance and amenities of the sanatorium building. It has seven floors, with a fine view from the upper floors, especially from the seventh floor where he is roomed. Unfortunately for those on the bottom floor there is no view at all except for the trees in front of the windows. In a conversation with his nurse, Corte learns that the seventh floor is for people like himself, those hardly ill at all. However, the lower floors are for people who are most ill. The first floor is only for those who are dying. Appalled but fascinated by this system, he looks down at the bottom floor and sees that most of its rooms have their venetian blinds pulled down. Now he discovers that the blinds are pulled down only when a patient has recently died.

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After some days Corte is asked if he will, for the moment, give up his room to accommodate a new patient who is bringing her two children and needs more space. He agrees, but then is dismayed to discover that the only room available for him is on the sixth floor. Nevertheless, thinking he will soon be brought back to the seventh floor, he goes down to the sixth floor. Here the routine is different, for the patients are truly ill although not seriously so. Corte is assured that he belongs above, but he is made aware that something, after all, is wrong and perhaps he should stay here, where the doctors really know their business, as opposed to the less knowledgeable physicians above.

Suddenly the patients on the seventh and sixth floors are separated into two classes—those less ill and those more ill. By apparent bureaucratic mischance, Corte is placed among the more ill who are sent down to the fifth floor. He objects violently but finally agrees, because he suddenly lacks strength to continue protesting. On the fifth floor he develops an eczema that will not go away and that...

(The entire section contains 558 words.)

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