Of Human Bondage: Chapters 79-86

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Summary of Chapters LXXIX-LXXXVI
 
Philip finds new rooms in Kennington. He has four rooms, including a kitchen. He needs to live more cheaply and does not want the old memories from his last room. He puts up all his art work and makes it into a home. Lawson and Hayward come to a housewarming. Lawson remarks that Norah Nesbitt has been asking about him. He decides to go to her and throw himself on her mercy.
 
When he goes to her place another man is there whom she introduces as Mr. Kingsford. Finally, Kingsford leaves and Philip pours out his tale of woe to Norah, who listens sympathetically. He tells her he is sorry he threw her love away. She expresses sorrow for his plight but says she is engaged to Mr. Kingsford. He realizes the gods have played a little joke on him.
 
Philip is back in medical school but has to economize since he spent a lot on Mildred. Philip will not speak to Griffiths but he runs into Ramsden, a friend of Griffiths, who tells him the story of the romance with Mildred. The weekend at Oxford extinguished Griffiths’ passion but not Mildred’s. She did not want to go back to Philip who revolted her. She wrote Griffiths boring letters and moved closer to him. Afraid of scandal, he tried to avoid her and eventually made a break with her. She cried on his doorstep until the landlady threatened to call the police. Apparently, Mildred has gotten a job and disappeared in London.
 
Philip becomes an outpatients’ clerk to Dr. Tyrell. Philip soon becomes accustomed to “the crude stench of humanity” (Chpt. LXXXI, p. 432). It is a clinic for the poor; men typically have problems with alcohol, and the women with malnourishment. Philip likes the work and is able to put people at ease for the first time in his life. He thinks it ironic that he may have stumbled on what he is good at. He studies the people in his care. There is both tragedy and comedy.
 
One day he gets a letter from Lawson in Paris who says Cronshaw is in London and would like to see him. Philip finds Cronshaw in a restaurant drinking absinthe, and in the three years since Philip knew him, he has faded. He is dying of cirrhosis of the liver but won’t stop drinking. Cronshaw says he came back to London to see his poems through the press and then die. Philip wonders about his woman and two children in Paris but he doesn’t bring them up. Cronshaw does not seem afraid of death.
 
Leonard Upjohn, a pretentious literary critic, is assembling Cronshaw’s poems for publication. Philip sees the slum Cronshaw is living in and invites him to stay in his extra room.
 
Philip becomes a dresser in surgery to a sarcastic surgeon, Jacobs, who humiliates him by making him take off his sock to expose his clubfoot as they are treating a similar case. The patient with a clubfoot is not embarrassed by his ailment, and Philip wishes he could take it so philosophically. Jacobs tells Philip he could operate on his foot and fix it to some degree.
 
Cronshaw becomes difficult as he gets worse. Philip takes Dr. Tyrell to look at him, but it is hopeless. One day Philip discovers the poet dead and sends for Tyrell, who signs the death certificate. Philip pays the funeral expenses and only Upjohn and Philip attend. Upjohn writes an article on Cronshaw, bewailing that the great man had to expire with a clumsy medical student as nurse.
 
When Philip works on the hospital wards, the patients like him, especially one called Thorpe Athelny, an unusual man who is a journalist. He is a press agent for a large department store but discourses quite intelligently to Philip on Spanish culture, reading his own translation of the mystic poetry of John of the Cross. He speaks of Spanish literature until he fires up Philip’s imagination. Athelny invites him to a family dinner.
 
Commentary on Chapters LXXIX-LXXXVI
 
Philip has the redeeming virtue of being able to laugh at the little jokes of fate, such as his trying to make up with Norah when she has already moved on. He recognizes the justice of his mistake, since he had rejected her love.
 
He himself moves on from Mildred, enjoying his profession and the joke of perhaps accidentally ending up in medicine where he belongs. He is moved by observing humanity: “the directness of contact with men and women gave a thrill of power which he had never known. He found an endless excitement in looking at their faces” (Chpt. LXXXI, p. 435). This seems to indicate growth, since at times in the past, he was horrified at the suffering and triviality of humanity. As a doctor, he meets them on different ground and even makes friends with diverse people that would have disgusted him earlier. It is implied that his compassion has widened as he has lived through his own hard times. Though he sees comedy and tragedy in the cases he treats, “there was neither good nor bad there. There were just facts. It was life” (p. 439). He does not moralize over people any more. He has become more accepting and calm in the face of life’s ups and downs.
 
When he tries to get Cronshaw to give up drinking, Cronshaw clings to his habit, saying he doesn’t care if it kills him, he “yearns” for it. He speaks as Philip spoke of Mildred who was like a drug to him. Addicts do not live by reason.
 
Philip is confronted by death a lot, of his relations and acquaintances,  and now, in his profession. Cronshaw tells him, “Death is unimportant. The fear of it should never influence a single action of the wise man” (Chpt. LXXXII, p. 442). He says he regrets nothing. Philip asks for the secret of the Persian carpet, and Cronshaw says he has to find the answer himself.
 
Cronshaw the artist tells Philip that “dreams make you lord paramount of time and space” (Chpt. LXXXIII, p. 446), but when Philip looks at the dead body, it is “shrunk and ignoble” (Chpt. LXXXV, p. 454).
 

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