Old Doc Rivers is an old-time doctor who believes in prompt decisions and quick action. Although he is recognized as an alcoholic and drug abuser, the people in the community still hold him in high esteem and often turn to him for help when all else has failed. His story is told from the perspective of several people in his home town after his death.


Williams seems both cynical and sentimental about the "good old days" of doctoring. The narrator acknowledges that drugged-up Rivers is a danger to his patients, yet he admires the man's doctoring skills (to some extent) and the confidence he inspires in patients. The story illustrates the power of the physician--in this case, a physician who is neither up-to-date nor up-to-snuff--in the patient-physician relationship; the sick are vulnerable. Yet, Doc Rivers' charismatic power is often effective in healing. For those reading Williams in a literature and medicine context, Hugh Crawford's book, Modernism, Medicine, & William Carlos Williams (annotated in this database), may be of interest.

Primary Source

The Doctor Stories


New Directions

Place Published

New York




Robert Coles

Page Count