The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies
"The Cunning Man" by Robertson Davies is a novel that is steeped in symbolism and explores the intricacies of the human mind. It is a work of great depth and complexity that requires close attention to fully appreciate its many layers of meaning.
The story is set in a small Canadian town where Dr. Jonathan Hullah, a retired physician, resides in a stately mansion surrounded by a beautiful garden. Dr. Hullah is a highly intelligent and perceptive man, but also deeply flawed. He is haunted by the memory of a patient who died due to his negligence, and spends much of his time reflecting on the many mistakes he has made throughout his life.
The novel is divided into three parts, each of which provides a glimpse into Dr. Hullah's fascinating life. In the first part, "The Doctor," we are introduced to the protagonist and are given insight into his past. We learn about his upbringing and his early medical career, as well as the tragic event that has haunted him for years.
In the second part, "The Patient," the story takes a dramatic turn as Dr. Hullah is presented with a complicated medical case. The patient in question is a beautiful young woman named Elsa who suffers from a rare and mysterious illness. Dr. Hullah becomes obsessed with her case, and begins to see her as a kind of muse who inspires him to explore the many mysteries of the human psyche.
As the novel progresses, we are introduced to a cast of colorful characters who all have their own issues and motivations. There is the town's resident madman, who seems to know more about Dr. Hullah's past than he should. There is also a young man who is obsessed with the occult and believes that Elsa's illness is the result of a curse.
In the final part of the novel, "The Philosopher," we see Dr. Hullah grappling with the many questions that have plagued him throughout his life. He becomes consumed with the idea of the "cunning man," a figure from folklore who possesses supernatural powers and is able to outwit even the most intelligent of men. Dr. Hullah sees the cunning man as an embodiment of his own desires and aspirations, and becomes obsessed with understanding the true nature of this elusive figure.
The novel is rich in symbolism and explores many philosophical themes, including the nature of reality, the power of the human mind, and the limits of human understanding. Through the character of Dr. Hullah, we see the struggle of the human spirit to come to terms with its own limitations and to find meaning in a world that is often chaotic and unpredictable.
Overall, "The Cunning Man" is a deeply philosophical novel that is both thought-provoking and engaging. It is a work of great beauty and complexity that rewards careful reading and reflection. Anyone who is interested in the human psyche and the many mysteries that surround it will find much to enjoy in this wonderful piece of literature.