THE PHILOSOPHER / Doctor Parcival

PP.20: “The saloon keeper was a short, broad-shouldered man with peculiarly marked hands. That flaming kind of birthmark that sometimes paints with red the faces of men and women had touched with red Tom Willy’s fingers and the backs of his hands. As he stood by the bar talking to Will Henderson he rubbed the hands together. As he grew more and more excited the red of his fingers deepened. It was as though the hands had been dipped in blood that had dried and faded”; “As Will Henderson stood at the bar looking at the red hands and talking of women, his assistant, George Willard, sat in the office of the Winesburg Eagle and listened to the talk of Doctor Parcival.”

PP.23:”There I stood over the dead body and spread out my hands“; “It was very amusing. I spread out my hands and said, ‘Let peace brood over this carcass.'”

PP.24:”We will quarrel and there will be talk of hanging. Then they will come again bearing a rope in their hands.”


This chapter’s placement after the “Mother” chapter, suggests a word of warning to Willard in being obedient to the dream of his mother. That’s what Parcival set out to do in becoming a minister, but found his hard working hard drinking irreligious brother being the more beloved of the two.

To be noted that a disproportionate number (or maybe just “a lot”) of the people of this book are intellectuals or concerned with ideas. Reefy, Parcival, Swift, in a sense Joe Welling, in a sense Seth Richmond….

Parcival’s “fright” of being hanged is “replaced by doubt” (pp.25). Biddlebaum inspires dreams in place of doubts (pp. 8).

Is the redness of Tom Willy’s hands intended to suggest the “crucifixion of all men?”

Parcival’s dirtiness reminds of Wash Williams’ and the core philosophy of both involves a keen hatred for the rest of the species (in the latter’s case, dwelling more on women). Parcival’s idea seems to be like Raskolnikov’s “louse idea” — hold people in contempt and you will be as the Great Man of History. However, the adventure of Parcival and the woman thrown from the wagon seems to disprove his own philosophy. He tries to show contempt for mankind, by refusing to help with the accident, but terrifies himself by doing so, and ultimately, doesn’t seem to understand people very well.


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