The doctor-narrator is working in a hospital during the Great Depression. The pediatric ward cares for many children left there by families unable to feed or care for them. The doctor sometimes thinks the children should just be allowed to die. One particular child captures his interest. She has a high fever and he cannot figure out why. Her condition becomes progressively worse and she dies. It turns out that she had meningitis. Perhaps he could have saved her if he had made the correct diagnosis. Yet, he doesn't feel guilty.


The doctor seems surprisingly callous towards his patients. He sincerely questions the point of treating so many desperately poor children, because they have terrible lives in store for them. He is disgusted by their parents whom he seems actually to blame for their own poverty and ignorance. Yet, he goes on; he does what he can. 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 William Carlos Williams Reader


New Directions

Place Published

New York


1966 (paperback)


M. L. Rosenthal

Page Count


Secondary Source

The Doctor Stories