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Death Be Not Proud

John Gunther

Death Be Not Proud: Four

Three

Five and Aftermath

Summary

Everyone is baffled by Johnny's recovery and similarly confused as to what leads to his deterioration thereafter in this short section. In February 1947, he is physically more able. Frances teaches him how to use his strong right side to compensate for his weaker left side. Johnny arranges to meet a girl he has a crush on. By late February, however, the bump grows again. On February eighteen, Gerson holds a demonstration for other doctors to examine Johnny.

But Johnny exhibits the first of a series of short-term amnesia attacks on February 19; Frances helps him deal with them, though they remain frightening. Johnny wants to get off the Gerson diet and return to Deerfield, but both requests are denied. He works hard to make up his schoolwork in preparation for Harvard, and he catches up with and passes his history and English courses. He enrolls and excels in a tutoring school, scoring high marks in history, English, and trigonometry. He also writes up fifty-four Chemistry experiments in the New York Public Library's science room. On April 12, he takes his college boards. Gunther and Frances keep Johnny busy with cultural activities. Johnny returns the favor, giving his father a list of chess tactics, which Gunther reprints. Gunther finishes Inside U.S.A., to Johnny's proud delight. Johnny also completes an important chemistry experiment before a surprise meeting with Penfield.

The bump still grows. Gunther takes Johnny to Neurological Hospital for an exam. Mount takes some fluid as a sample. Johnny feels the bump and cries—Mount was able to extract very little from the stone-sized, rigid structure. Gunther is told that Johnny has glioma multiforme, one of the worst forms of tumor, and it is rapidly worsening.

Penfield arranges for an appointment with Johnny and urges Gunther to have him undergo a drastic second operation to try and clear out the tumor. They decide to take him off the Gerson diet, as it seems not to be helping anymore, though they are grateful to Gerson for his help. On April 29, Johnny goes to Neurological Hospital, unaware of the impending surgery. On May 1, Mount extracts "two handfuls" from the tumor, but the tumor is still huge. Johnny recovers quickly the next day, however, and feels better, making plans to eat good food now that he is off the diet. He is upset that they put him under general, not local, anesthesia, as it prevented him from observing the operation.

Analysis

Johnny's case, with all its ups and downs, is becoming more of a medical curiosity, and he is upset by the demonstration Gerson holds, though he doesn't show it. Nevertheless, his previous wry comments about being a guinea pig now seem more realistic. Along with the increased operations and observations, there is a greater air of secrecy between both parties, the patient and the doctors. Various medical tasks are performed without his foreknowledge, such as the surgery, and his haircut for it, to guard him against the shock. Similarly, he continues to play his own cards close to his chest, and after Mount's extraction, Gunther sees Johnny's eyes "spill over with tears" for the only time throughout his ordeal, further proof that he has been hiding his pain from others to spare them. Nevertheless, Johnny still faces his illness with fortitude, and he regrets not having been able to witness his operation, a desire based as much on his penchant for science as on his eagerness to confront death. Gunther and Frances's focus shifts in this section from keeping Johnny alive to, in Mount's words, letting him "die happy." They debate over how much independence they should grant the frail Johnny, walking the line between trying to extend his life and enhancing what he has left of it. Johnny clearly misses a normal adolescence—one of his first questions after his amnesia attack is if he can return to Deerfield, a telling query. Furthermore, his sexuality, previously unmentioned, is addressed here when he invites the girl over and when he jokes about becoming a "sex maniac" because of the hormone therapy. Despite his lack of social contact and his debilitating illness, his body and mind are maturing in ways that a bedridden life cannot satisfy.

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