He is willing to go above and beyond what is standard for medical students in order to save the life of a patient, something that Paul believes all doctors should do. When Paul is ten, his family moves from Bronxville, New York, to Kingman, Arizona. Her efforts bring about positive changes in the school system, allowing students to feel that their futures can lie beyond the narrow confines of the town. Additionally, the reader can also see Paul’s religious background, which was passed down from his father, aiding in his awe of nature. Once again, Paul sees the potential harm in doctors trying to separate themselves from tragedy. Even before Paul starts to work with patients directly, he sees the necessity of treating them with care rather than simply trying to complete their paperwork. Mistakes in the cuts Paul makes in patient’s brains can result in irreversible damage to mental or physical health. When he picks the latter, Paul baffles his biology adviser (“When you grow up, are you going to be a scientist or a . When Breath Becomes Air (Book) : Kalanithi, Paul : "For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living? This is one example in which science and language work together to make up human identity and experience. Thus, the first conflict between textbook knowledge and real-world experience ends in Paul’s decision to truly experience nature. Textbook knowledge does not prepare Paul for various skills he must practice, such as performing surgery and sewing up wounds. ©2020 eNotes.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Paul’s mother quickly learns that the Kingman school system is ranked among the worst in the country. Nuland’s actions are heroic to Paul because they demonstrate his intense dedication to his patients. ?”) but feels that this is the best option for forging new... We’ve discounted annual subscriptions by 50% for our End-of-Year sale—Join Now! The importance placed on experience will recur in Paul’s medical school experience as well. Verbal nuance is not only more accurate but also more compassionate here. When he picks the latter, Paul baffles his biology adviser (“When you grow up, are you going to be a scientist or a . A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. Paul’s desire for more education continues, as does his interest in language and literature. Paul’s early experience in the desert opens up another recurring theme. Kalanithi's cancer diagnosis derailed … Whereas before Paul felt that words were a “supernatural force,” here they start to lose power without real-world experience to back them up. Physical, mental, and emotional strength are all required in order to be able to put patients’ needs above their own. Paul’s descriptions of dissection not only signal a shift in subject but a shift in writing style: whereas before Paul had focused on words, here Paul focuses on concrete actions and visceral feelings. This connects to Paul’s earlier question of what kind of life exists without language. While his friends are attending classes at their universities of choice, Paul spends time alone in the desert or with his girlfriend at the time, Abigail, who works at the only coffee shop in Kingman. Again, Paul emphasizes how much time is lost in building up potential for the future. Paul makes his commitment to providing better emotional support for patients very clear. Part 1, Section 4 Summary After completing his two years of extensive study at medical school, Paul enters the second half of the program, spent in the hospital and the clinic. "My students can't get enough of your charts and their results have gone through the roof." Paul understands that even though he is working with dead bodies, human lives and identities are sacred. This problem comes to the forefront during Paul’s sophomore summer, when he considers two jobs: interning for a prestigious primate research center or working as a prep chef at Sierra Camp. Paul’s mother quickly learns that the Kingman school system is ranked among the worst in the country. Once he finally feels at home in Kingman, Paul himself starts sharing “country facts” with outsiders. While Paul reveals how important it is to find a little bit of levity in the job, he comes to see his jokes with Jeff as making too much light of patients’ conditions. Our, LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Yet at the same time, he doesn’t question how meaningful the work is. “I was scandalized by the sex,” Paul notes, “but it also instilled in me a deep love of, and care for, language.”, Paul is accepted into Stanford, but the academic year begins a month later than most other colleges. Even so, doctors still strive to ensure their patients’ survival. Here, Paul recounts his early focus on literature, but because Paul has already admitted that he will in fact become a doctor, the reader can foresee a shift that will occur from literature to science. His work in the lab not only tries to understand the brain but also works to restore certain functions that make people’s lives easier. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. Eliot’s work in particular will recur throughout the memoir, as Paul quotes it in other key passages when coming to terms with his illness, proving how he uses literature to make sense of his own life. Log in here. Again, this represents a case of “judgement calls”: that removing a tumor has a greater cost than the potential risk of surgery. Nuland’s work is a direct precedent for Paul’s own writing. In Matthew’s case, surgery could (and as the reader sees later, does) alter his life by damaging a part of his brain. He says: « “A few years later, I hadn’t thought much more about a career but had nearly completed degrees in English literature and human biology. He dual-majors in English and biology, hoping a synthesis of the two subjects will reveal to him what makes life meaningful—particularly as one of Paul’s concerns is that he is not living his life to the fullest. At this point, Paul has built his potential and is beginning to envision what the rest of his life looks like. He discovers that the study of the mind is not only scientific, but extremely personal as he sees how catastrophic brain damage can truly be. Teachers and parents! Written in the last year of the author's life, while he was dying of Stage IV lung cancer, the memoir recounts Kalanithi's life story, beginning with the onset of symptoms, then taking us back in time to trace his development from a bookish teenager to an inquisitive student and finally to a talented and well-trained resident with a bright future in neurosurgery ahead of him. Paul’s hard work in identifying patient’s values allows him to make those difficult judgment calls during surgery in order to give patients a future that they would want to have. Does When Breath Becomes Air mention fictional stories anywhere in the book? Throughout the memoir, including here, Paul makes several off-handed comments, wondering if certain parts of the brain relate to other parts because of patient’s experiences. When Breath becomes Air Summary: Summarizing this book is not easy. The pressure of this schedule once again demonstrates the stamina required of doctors in order to make it through medical school and residency. Though Paul and Lucy’s relationship prior to his diagnosis is not explored very fully, later Lucy explains how deeply in love they were throughout the various stages of the relationship. I am certain I will read When Breath Becomes Air again. This perhaps represents the most difficult of judgment calls that doctors must make, and Paul must face it often. It is interesting that he uses the word “drowning,” because it literally means a loss of breath, which relates to Paul’s own death from lung cancer and lung failure (as well as the title of the book). Here he also relies on the experience of the attending physician to prevent a catastrophic outcome. Surgeries that involve these language centers involve many precautions, and the patients are often awake and talking during the surgeries. The book discusses Kalanithi's lifelong fascination with … -Graham S. Paul’s mother demonstrates the value she places on education and traditional textbook knowledge. This moment is one of the first instances in which literature and science combine to spur Paul’s curiosity and understanding of the world around him. The Kaplan-Meier curve serves as an example of the limits of pure science. Not only does this provide Paul with opportunities in the future but also gives him a lifelong love of literature and language. The possibility of standing nine hours straight eventually becomes much of Paul’s reality, as he frequently performs many complex and long operations during his neurosurgery residency. when breath becomes air summary and review Introduction of when breath becomes air by paul kalanithi. In surgery, time almost becomes irrelevant. After receiving his terminal diagnosis, Paul reflected: “I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. (including. “I was scandalized by the sex,” Paul notes, “but it also instilled in me a deep love of, and care for, language.”. Mari represents another example of how doctors must be willing to take mental and physical beatings for their patients. Paul loses some of his empathy over his career, but gradually refocuses it and works to be “with” patients in their most vulnerable moments instead of simply “at” those moments, as he says later. Paul must use the tact of language in order to provide Mrs. Lee with room for hope. In both circumstances, Paul has a responsibility to be careful, or to risk doing irreparable damage. Part of what drew Paul to neuroscience is the brain’s relationship to identity and learning how to map that relationship. One of the hallmarks of human life is cognition, and without this cognition, it becomes easy for many medical students and doctors to ignore the humanity of the cadavers, until some small connection awakens their empathy. He meets the resident, Melissa, on his first day, and learns that he’ll be working in the labor and delivery ward. Instead, he begins to realize that he has come to the limits of book knowledge and the limits of understanding that literature provides, and works instead towards practicing medicine. He becomes numb to his patients until hearing of a friend who died in a car crash, reawakening his empathy for those in these tragic situations. Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this When Breath Becomes Air study guide. Lucy becomes his biggest caretaker and advocate in the final years of his life, and helps Paul to determine his own values as well. A doctor, his father spent most of his time away from home, which resulted in Paul’s disenchantment with medicine even before he developed any interest in it. Paul again underscores how he will need to support his patients and have a strength of his own to get through the day. Paul recalls his father as a fine cardiologist beloved by his patients; as a parent, though, Paul felt his father to be distant and only sporadically available to his children. Paul’s background illuminates some of the family’s early values: not only his father’s devout Christianity, but also his values as a son of immigrants, striving to provide their children with opportunities in the future. One day, Abigail recommends that Paul read something other than his preferred “high-culture crap” and lends him a book entitled. Part memoir, part guidebook, and part philosophical investigation, the book is the story of his life, his work, and the difficult—but ultimately rewarding—process of coming to terms with his own death. Since the book is the real story of a man and his battle with cancer, several themes and problems are confronted that are very useful, as cancer has no cure. As part 1 (titled “In Perfect Health I Begin”) opens, Paul remembers his path to being a doctor. Young Paul is fascinated by the desert terrain and wild animals that are a part of daily life in Kingman. He sees the doctors work as hard as possible to ensure that the babies survive, even if their chances are grim. Need help with Part 2: Cease Not till Death in Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air? Terrified her children will not receive an adequate education, she combs through college reading lists and assigns books to her children. Mr. Michaels is an example of a patient who has lost these crucial language functions, and therefore loses the ability to form human connections. When Breath Becomes Air is neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi's heartbreaking memoir of life and death. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithis transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. When Breath Becomes Air summary. The contrast between the two families’ states represents the difference between success and failure for a doctor, and the life-changing consequences that their actions can have. How does Paul Kalanithi explore the themes of life and death in When Breath Becomes Air? Though Paul doesn’t know it at the time, V will serve as a model for how Paul deals with his own illness: worrying about the lack of time, questioning whether his life has had meaning, and working to return to his career and further his work. Thus patients depend on him for his skill and experience in surgery as well as his guidance in treatment, and Paul feels the weight of that responsibility very tangibly. Paul finishes the phase of medical school that focuses on textbook learning, moving on to getting practical experience as he is assigned to various hospitals and clinics. Nuland also describes the gradual deterioration of the human body, with it the human mind. Nuland’s grandmother’s prayers not only represented her language ability, but also her ability to hope. Paul is accepted into Stanford, but the academic year begins a month later than most other colleges. This is true not only at the ob-gyn, but also in Paul’s later surgeries. Only a thousand of the world’s people will suffer from lung cancer before the age of 36, and Paul Kalanithi is one of them. At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a … Does when breath become air mention fiction anywhere in the book. When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about Paul Kalanithi’s experiences as a doctor and as a terminally ill patient. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in When Breath Becomes Air, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. He identifies his own values as a reaction to his father, who was often absent. It was published on January 12, 2016. He dual-majors in English and biology, hoping a synthesis of the two subjects will reveal to him what makes life meaningful—particularly as one of Paul’s concerns is that he is not living his life to the fullest. Paul continues to emphasize his early love of literature over science. Paul continues to develop his interest in science, even beyond becoming a neurosurgeon. It returns to a question he asks earlier: what makes life meaningful enough to live? Another of. The remaining part of his medical school education will focus on gaining these crucial capabilities. When Breath Becomes Air: Part 1. As he goes on to explain, being technically precise is a moral imperative, because any mistakes can be detrimental to a patient’s life. Paul will make this same call with his own life at the end of the memoir. He is told various so-called “country facts” about the landscape by the locals, though these “country facts” are largely exaggerations concerning the supposed lethality of the wildlife, designed to make fools of newcomers and tourists. Initially, he has no interest in going into the medical profession, even though he comes from a family of doctors. Of course, Paul uses dramatic irony here, as the reader understands that Paul will never fully realize that potential because of his lack of time. In passing on the responsibility of breaking the bad news to Mrs. Lee, the doctors in the ER attempt to remove themselves from more death, but also delay her diagnosis and rob her of more of her valuable time. It is a memoir about his life and illness, battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. This juxtaposition of science and literature continues through college for Paul, each serving its own purpose in providing meaning. LitCharts Teacher Editions. As he describes later when he decides to spend a summer going to a camp in order to experience nature, here he enjoys his childhood home because it gives him real-life experience with beauty and wilderness. You'll get access to all of the From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. His book When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about his life and illness, battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Paul’s first two nights at the ob-gyn give him immediate experience with the two extremes of his job: life and death, and how there is no in-between. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword) When Breath Becomes Air is a non-fiction autobiographical book written by Paul Kalanithi. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. Though a cadaver’s humanness is undeniable. Though the book his girlfriend gives him is not of high quality, its descriptions and assumptions about science, which cause him to investigate science classes in college, proves to be as formative as any classic work of literature. Paul’s first encounter with the tragedies of brain injuries is another formative experience for him. He is more interested, as a child, in becoming a writer—a dream which has never left him. Word Count: 1158. Being unable to communicate with family members deprives life of much of its core meaning. T.S. Here, Paul experiences tension between his desire for textbook knowledge (represented by the primate research center, a man-manipulated form of nature) and real-life experience (actually experiencing nature and various animals at the camp). Whereas in his childhood Paul worried about being like his father (largely absent), he comes to see his father as a model physician in the way he treated patients. 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