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Dr. Urbino's first meeting with Fermina to his rescue of Fermina and Hildebranda
Dr. Urbino grows obsessed with cholera. After the death of his father, he helps prevent an outbreak, and finally convinces city officials to take precautions against another epidemic. Urbino falls in love with Fermina Daza when he is called to h er house to examine her for symptoms of cholera. She strips from the waist up, and after a careful examination, Urbino concludes that she has only a mild infection. Lorenzo Daza, dazzled by Urbino's social esteem and economic status, overpays the Do ctor in hopes that he may arrange a romance between him and Fermina.
Dr. Urbino returns on the following Tuesday to see Fermina again. Through an open window, he calls to her, checks her pulse, and concludes that she is like a "new-sprung rose." In reply, she slams the window shut. Bewildered, the Doctor is beckoned by Lorenzo, who demands that his daughter apologize, which she does melodramatically. Lorenzo invites Urbino in for coffee and a glass of anisette, and though he does not drink either coffee or alcohol, he accepts. When Urbino leaves, mildly drunk, he call s out to Fermina, who does not hear him over her tears of rage, furious at Urbino and her father for humiliating her. Urbino persists, but Lorenzo warns him of his daughter's temper. As Urbino leaves, the crows shriek, and thinking of Fermina, he warns Lorenzo that the birds will peck out one's eyes. Dr. Urbino is too ill from drinking to continue his work for the day, and hears funeral bells tolling as he rides home in his carriage. When he returns home, exuding the "whorish perfume" of the crows, hi s mother informs him that, because of his neglect, a man had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. In reaction, Urbino vomits.
Later, Urbino serenades Fermina with a piano concerto; in a mule-drawn wagon he brings a pianist and a piano to her home. Fermina knows who the suitor is without looking, and wishes herself brazen enough to dump the contents of her chamber pot onto his h ead. Her father, however, is overjoyed, and invites Urbino and the pianist inside for brandy. Lorenzo gives Urbino his first chess lesson, the catalyst for his long-time addiction to the game.
Shortly after the serenade, Lorenzo finds an unopened letter addressed to his daughter, from Urbino, in the doorway of the house. Lorenzo slips the letter under Fermina's door, though it is days before she finally opens it, after having dreamt about Urbi no the previous night. The letter simply requests that she give her consent to allow Florentino to ask her father's permission to visit her. Impressed, her initial rage disappears. She first places Urbino's letter in the same trunk in which she had kep t Florentino's letters, but thinks it wrong and feels somehow shamed. "Poor man," she sighs, thinking of Florentino. Fermina receives a few more letters from Urbino, though she does not think to answer them. She receives another letter, not from Urbino but from an anonymous author who threatens her with public disgrace if she is to reject the Doctor. She receives two more such letters, each in different penmanship. Fermina is furious with the Doctor, for she imagines that the letters are a result of his gossip.
Urbino seeks help in his romantic pursuit from the Mother Superior at the Academy Fermina had been expelled from. The nun, who Fermina despises, tries to convince her that Urbino is a worthy man, and gives her a gold rosary. When Fermina refuses to comp romise, the nun threatens to call on the Archbishop. Fermina dares her to let him come, though he never does.
Hildebranda, sent by Fermina's parents to distance Fermina from her lover, arrives to spend Christmas with Fermina. Hildebranda is embittered when she learns that Fermina has rejected Florentino and goes to the telegraph office alone. Upon first sig ht, Hildebranda wonders how Fermina could have loved such a drab-looking man. But she repents when Florentino kindly arranges a means of communication between her and her estranged lover without even knowing her identity.
The girls dress in costume to have their picture taken, and, afterwards, are harassed by onlookers as they walk through the plaza. Just in time, Dr. Urbino whisks them away in his carriage. Fermina had not wanted to accept the ride, but Hildebranda, ast ounded by his heroics, already had. Uncomfortable in her costume, Hildebranda undresses in the carriage, and communicates with Fermina in sign language while the Doctor covers his eyes. Fermina is infuriated by Hildebranda's libertine behavior, and by D r. Urbino, who instructs his coachman to drive in circles. Sensing their aggravation, Urbino finally drives the women home. Upon farewell, Fermina mimics Hildebranda's gesture and shakes Urbino's hand. Urbino squeezes her ring finger, and tells Fermina that he is waiting for her answer. When she tries to free her hand, he is left holding the glove, which she does not attempt to retrieve. Though she is still furious, Fermina writes Urbino a letter in which she awards him permission to speak to her father.
The novel abounds with parallel situations and encounters. One such parallel is Lorenzo Daza's encounter with Dr. Juvenal Urbino, for he had encountered Florentino Ariza in much the same way years before. Then, however, his reception of him had been much different than his reception of the Doctor. Lorenzo greedy for Urbino's wealth status, welcomes Dr. Urbino with overwhelming warmth, overpaying him and inviting him in for coffee and anisette. However, when Florentino delivers a telegram to him, Lorenzo Daza is gruff and rude; Lorenzo does not acknowledge Florentino's presence immediately, but ignores him until he has made the boy wait for a significant time. And though the telegram Florentino delivers bears good news, Lorenzo does not tip him, he mere ly shakes his hand. The reason for Lorenzo's biased treatment of Florentino and Dr. Urbino is that one man—the Doctor—possesses hordes of wealth and status to offer him and his daughter, as where the other—Florentino—has nothing t o give but sincere affection, for he possesses no property, wealth, status, or class.
Another parallel can be drawn between the relative dynamic among Fermina, Florentino, and Lorenzo, and among Fermina, Urbino, and Lorenzo. Interestingly, each dynamic is the reverse of the other. Lorenzo forbids Fermina's love affair with Florentino, th ough Fermina loves and desires to be with Florentino. Conversely, Lorenzo encourages and fosters Fermina's feelings for Dr. Urbino, though Fermina wants nothing to do with the doctor, for she has no interest in him. Hildebranda and Fermina's tragic jour neys in faraway lands also parallel each other. They are both exiled from their lovers. Like Fermina, Hildebranda is sent away by her parents on a journey whose purpose it is to erase her lover from her memory. Hildebranda goes to the telegraph office t o see Florentino because she feels a bond with him; their common situations bind them, for they are both tortured by unrequited love, each has been pried apart from their lover, and feels intensely alone without their one and only love.
The scene in which the Mother Superior from Fermina's former school, the Academy of the Blessed Virgin, tries to persuade Fermina of Doctor Urbino's virtuosity corresponds to another scene which occurred earlier in the novel, in which Fermina and Dr. Urbi no battle in the worst argument of their married life. Fermina associates only negative memories with the Academy and, therefore, with religion. Not only did the two institutions exert control over her during her youth, but the Mother Superior herself ha d been responsible for Fermina's expulsion when she had found the girl writing a love letter to Florentino.
Throughout the novel, Fermina resents Dr. Urbino's strong religious beliefs, namely because of her unpleasant past experiences and associations with the Church. By sending the Mother Superior to do his dirty work, Dr. Urbino forces Fermina into an unwant ed position, as the Academy and the Church had done before in her school days. Fermina is alarmed by this reckless exertion of control, and resists by being rude to the Mother Superior. When the nun threatens to send the Archbishop if she will not compro mise, Fermina dares her to send him, echoing her exclamation "To hell with the Archbishop" in Chapter 1.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Love in the Time of Cholera!