Jose is a patient who exhibits all the classical symptoms of autism. The caregivers in his institution treat him dismissively, as though he is stupid. Sacks notices, however, that, given a pencil, Jose draws not only with amazing accuracy, but with a quality of liveliness in his representations that betokens close, insightful, and even empathetic observation and awareness. As he encourages Jose to draw, he finds his drawings diagnostically helpful, and powerful evidence of an active interior life to which they provide a valuable link.


This story is one of the most striking and developed of the clinical tales in the collection, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It is valuable not only for its testimony to the intelligence and capacities of an inarticulate patient, but also for the way in which Sacks's own process of investigation, exploration, and epiphany is detailed in finely crafted prose. The sentences themselves seem to be acts of exploration with their multiple verbs, their cumulative structure, and the surprising precision of their images and allusions. Sacks's work is especially helpful in writing courses for medical or premedical students; it offers a useful model of good writing and also suggests ways in which the work of good writing and the work of diagnosis may be related.

Primary Source

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales


Simon & Schuster: Summit

Place Published

New York



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