"Eli" and "Afterwards"
"Blood bears the curse of human malice. This life fluid may conceal destruction, the way words and thoughts can kill unseen. Within blood the idea of death can flow."
~Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
Thoughts from Queen's campus
By Kate Humphrys, Health Promotion Co-ordinator - Health, Counselling & Disability Services (146 Stuart Street, LaSalle Building)
QueensU BeWell is the Health Promotion division of Health, Counselling and Disability Services. BeWell provides healthy lifestyle strategies to support the health of Queen’s University students. We offer nutrition, physical activity, and smoking cessation consultations with a Health Promoter, peer-led skill building workshops, online resources, and volunteering opportunities. Follow us on Facebook at Queen’s University Be Well and on Twitter @QueensUBeWell.
Winston & Eli - Mental Health Help & Support at Queen’s
In the story “Winston” we join Dr. Sri as he meets Winston - a patient who comes to the hospital concerned that he was poisoned. As the story progresses, Sri questions his beliefs and understanding of Winston’s situation. He thinks to himself that “the facts are shadows of themselves” – a profound description of the concept of ‘truth’ that reminded me of my first introductions to philosophy and to a research methods course I took in Grad School. I enjoyed the debate as to ‘what is truth’ and it really forced me to reconsider what I knew about science. I hope you’ll all get to take a course that pushes you into new, mind-blowing ways of thinking!
But back to our doctors: As Sri’s concern with Winston’s mental health grows, he reaches out and pays a visit to Winston at home. Sri’s decision-making process makes it clear that he is doctor who is truly concerned about his patient. He is willing to go out of his way to help. This resonates with me, as I have found this to be the case with many of the physicians, nurses and counsellors at Queen’s.
Personally, I liked this depiction of a doctor much better than that of Dr. Fitz in the following story, “Eli.” After the last story about Fitz (Code Clock), I was content that he had been accepted into medical school, and was managing the challenge. Now Fitz appears exhausted and bitter. The frustrating treatment (in all directions) between patient, doctor and police, and the ways each seek revenge on the other is depicted in Lam’s use of graphic detail. The description of the emergency room was alarming and disturbing. Personally, I’ve never experienced such treatment by police or physicians, but it’s clear the author does see this darker side of the ER. I do hope that those of you considering future work in health, justice or any related profession are mindful of the role you can play each day to treat others with respect.
As you prepare for Queen’s, you may hear a lot about stress and mental health. While mental health problems are more common than most people realize - about 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health concern at some point in their lives – the severe form of psychosis experienced by Winston is not common. Less invasive mental health issues, things like feelings of low mood and feelings of anxiety are more common. No matter what though, if you are ever concerned or have questions, reach out for support! That’s what we are here for!
As an adult, it’s also important to understand what it means to be mentally healthy – it does NOT mean blissful happiness 24/7/365. It is a normal experience of life to feel stressed, unhappy, unmotivated or worried at times. However, if your worries or sadness last for more than a couple of weeks without an obvious cause (e.g. death of someone close to you), then you should always talk to someone. Queen’s Health, Counselling & Disability Services is here to help with all types of problems. It’s always OK to ask for help at Queen’s if you aren’t feeling 100% yourself or if you have questions or concerns about a friend or floormate! You can seek out support from many sources; below are a few of the services most commonly used by 1st year students.
On behalf of the staff at Health, Counselling and Disability Services, I’m happy to welcome you to Queen’s and I wish you all the best for a safe and healthy year ahead!
Seek out support if you need it:
- Health, Counselling & Disability Services (HCDS) - speak to a professional counsellor or see a physician or nurse at 146 Stuart Street, LaSalle Building, 613-533-2506
- Residence Outreach Counsellors & Faculty Counsellors – professional counsellors from HCDS who work out of other places on campus including in Residence buildings (e.g. Victoria Hall) and in Faculty buildings (e.g. Beamish-Munro Hall, West Campus, Goodes Hall)
- If you live in Residence, your Don can be a great support if you aren’t feeling well for any reason.
- The Peer Support Center (PSC) is an on-campus student run program where you can talk to a peer. 613-533-6000 x75111
- Good 2 Talk is a free Post-Secondary Student Helpline you can call 24/7/365 1-888-925-5454
Think about it
- How do you feel about Fitzgerald's complicity with the police? ("... the game: You do your thing and we'll do ours … cops and robbers and doctors" p. 167). What about his acts of revenge against both patient and officers? Do we see all three sides — patient, police, doctor — reaching a lowest common denominator?
- In "Eli" there is a surreal duet of doctor and patient, both shouting at once, neither, of course, listening (see p. 171). How is that passage a microcosm of the story as a whole?
- Examine Sri’s contemplation that despite a person being medically deceased, one truly is not dead until the family is notified. What would happen, philosophically and morally, if Dr. Sri did not notify the family of Mr. Wilhelm's passing?
- In "Afterwards," as in some of the other stories, the line is thin between farce and tragedy. Is this the nature of the human condition? What are some of these moments?
- What is the significance of Mrs. Wilhelm stuffing her husband’s hat into a mailbox? How do her actions show her character’s emotional state before revealing what truly happens in the back room of the hair salon?
- Think about how Zoltan and other public service professionals might have trouble leaving work issues at the workplace, and not “bring them home,” as it were. What personal psychological effects may come into play if one decides to be a public service worker, such as a doctor?
Sri says to a stressed Zoltan: "Why don’t you go away for the weekend. Somewhere calm, where you will think differently." With so much of first-year life revolving around campus (especially if you are living in residence), it is sometimes nice to step outside the 'Queen's bubble,' either for a weekend or for a few hours. Doing so can help you recharge, take your mind off stressors, and potentially even position you for new ways of thinking. Consider taking the free ferry across to Wolfe Island, visit some of the cafes and shops downtown, or take advantage of a residence or club trip.
Media & links
Check out the television version of "Eli" (Warning: explicit language), starring Shawn Ashmore, Zoie Palmer, and Dan Lett. How does this portrayal compare with that in the book?
"Think about it" questions 1,2,4 adapted from BookBrowse.com; questions 2,5,6 adapted from "Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures Content Questions," Peel District School Board (.doc, 28.5 KB).