James Herriot’s If Only They Could Talk Essays

James Herriot’s If Only They Could Talk Essays

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James Herriot’s If Only They Could Talk


In James Herriot’s autobiographical book, If Only They Could Talk, we see that Herriot has many strong characteristics which help him through his tough, and oftentimes demanding, career. He has a vast knowledge of his practice, as well as his employer and friend, Seigfried Farnon. Herriot has a great sense of humour, and is able to take embarrassment excellently. He also works well in strange, or uncomfortable situations. One of his strong character traits is his adaptability, he is very flexible with his customers, and adapts to their lifestyles. James Herriot’s most endearing quality is his deep passion and concern for his patients.

James Herriot has a tremendous memory of all the signs, symptoms, medications, diseases, and sicknesses concerning animals. This helps him very much throughout his career. He remembers thinking to himself about a horse reference book, “I had gone through it so often in my mind final year that I could recite stretches of it like poetry.”(1) He is able to deduct a patient’s problem without even needing an x-ray, or anything of that sort. In one situation, a bull was in danger of dying, and no one knew what was wrong. Herriot felt the rays of sun on his face and knew then that the bull had sun-stroke, and when asked, the owner told him he had put the bull out to pasture for a long length of time. James Herriot also understood his employer, Farnon, well. He knew when to steer clear, and when to ask him for advice and guidance. Herriot said: “I could read his mind without much trouble.”(2)

Herriot had a wonderful sense of humour, and was always happy to get a laugh, even if it was at his own expense. Once, he was out with another aged veterinarian, Angus Grier, and found himself in quite a predicament. Grier insisted on Herriot coming with him to a cleanse a cow. This was a fairly simple procedure, where you remove the afterbirth still inside the cow. Herriot did not feel he needed to go, thus he said he did not have the proper clothes for the job. Grier was annoyed, but forcefully suggested Herriot put on Grier’s new calving outfit. It was an immense plastic suit of armor, and Grier made Herriot put every part of it on, including the helmet. This was, of course, quite ridiculous just for cleansing out a cow. But Herriot did it, and was the center of attention at the families’ fa...


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... best feeling in the world to him, and that is why he would not have chosen any other profession: “I can’t think of anything in my working life that has given me more pleasure than standing in that pen directing the life-saving jet and watching the bull savoring it.”(10) Another thing that Herriot loved was new-born animals. Especially when he helped deliver them! He was really interested in the cycle of life. I think this also helped keep things going. The fact that every year, it was a new beginning: “I felt utterly content, warm with the memory of the foal trying to struggle on to it’s knees…”(11)

James Herriot has a very strong character, and a very good sense of values. His humour keeps the days light, and jovial, and gets all the not-so-great situations a little bit easier to handle. His expansive knowledge of his job keeps the work somewhat easy, and helps with the hard to solve problems. His adaptability is very useful, as he works with many people, and in many different places. His deep concern, appreciation, and love for his patients, and all animals keeps him doing his job. No matter how hard it gets, he does it for the animals, and this is why he has kept on going.

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