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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


The Birth: Pre-Reading Task

About the author: A. J. Cronin

Archibald Joseph Cronin was born on 19th July 1896 in Cardross near Glasgow on the west coast of Scotland to a Scottish mother and Irish father.

Cronin graduated with honours from medical school at the end of the First World War in 1919. In the mining towns of Wales, he saw the human spirit fighting poverty and hardship. In his London practice, he encountered the spoilt, neurotic rich, happy to spend money like water.

Thus, he worked with the miners, then the rich, eventually grew disillusioned with the medical profession entirely. This disillusionment is reflected in the novel 'Citadel' which is the origin of the extract in the class XI CBSE textbook.  

His career as an author was very successful. He had a great following in America and in 1939 moved with his wife and three sons, to New England. However, at the height of his fame, success and wealth, Cronin was deeply dissatisfied.

CITADEL: fortress, bastion, fort, castle, refuge, sanctuary

THE NAME: The symbol of the citadel is central to the book. It symbolises ideals – in Manson’s case medical integrity – which are enclosed in a castle on a hill. Manson fights against great odds to free himself from materialistic temptation, and climb that hill. At the end of the book we are left with the sense that, with Denny and Hope at his side, Manson will scale the walls of the citadel to realise his ideals.

Newly qualified, Dr Manson takes a job as assistant to Dr Page in a small mining town. On arrival, he finds to his surprise that Page is partly paralysed and will never work again. This means Dr. Andrew Manson will have to do most of the clinic’s work in this mining town at a meagre pay.

A junior doctor, Denny proposes to blow up the old sewer in order to oblige the authorities to build a new safe one. Andrew helps and the plan works. Andrew falls in love with a schoolteacher, Christine Barlow. Manson cures someone no other doctor has been able to help, with a hormone treatment. Andrew contemplates marrying Christine. He has a little tiff with her. On returning home, he is called by a minor to help deliver a baby.

Andrew managed to help a difficult birth and save a baby’s life and walks away from the incident more confident as a doctor and feeling as if he had finally done something “real” in his life.

Watch the movie 'Three Idiots' again with special focus on the birth scene towards the end of the movie. Reflect upon the expressions on the face of all the people involved, from the immediate relatives to the friends to acquaintances. Before you read, understand that a birth is an extremely emotional and exacting event.

The Birth - As You Read


  • Andrew was returning home after a disappointing visit with his lady love, Catherine. 
  • Andrew Mason did not expect this to be a particularly monumental night of his career
  • He was returning from a long journey which saw him home as late as midnight.
  • Exhausted, he found Joe Morgan, anxious and somewhat scared, waiting for him.
  • Morgan's wife was in labour, before the expected date. This is their first child in a marriage of nearly twenty years.
  • Joe Morgan seems to trust Andrew implicitly. However, the community may not.
  • But the presence of the midwife before the doctor arrived and  Mrs. Morgan's reluctance to take anaesthesia reflects the lack of complete faith in modern medicine
  • Hopes riding on the delivery: the parents' as well as the grandmother's. He reassures the grandmother telling her both the mother and the baby shall be fine.
  • Andrew waits in the kitchen reflecting on the information he gleaned earlier in the night which showed him that most marriages were dismal failures. However, he feels Catherine is an exception.
  • The labour leads to a stillborn baby. 
  • Initially, Andrew feels suddenly overwhelmed with the enormity of the situation and the many hopes he had dashed despite his initial reassurance.
  • In moments though, Andrew's training kicks in. He instinctively decides to save the mother first, handing the baby over to the midwife.
  • The midwife, who has had no medical training, sees the body in her arms as a lifeless lump and places it under the bed among sodden newspapers.
  • Andrew draws the baby out and quickly diagnoses the most probable cause for the still birth i.e. Asphyxia, pallida.
  • He recalls a method he had once observed through which a child had been successfully resuscitated.
  • He tries: the simultaneous hot and cold dips to shock the body and get the heart to jump start, then rubbed the baby's body with a rough towel crushing and releasing the little chest as a form of CPR. 
  • On the verge of giving up, a medical miracle occurs.
  • The child finally breathes. Notice the author's description of the mucus as a joyful iridescent bubble.  
  • Andrew redoubles his efforts till the baby is breathing freely and safe. 
  • As he left the house, he realised that he had truly saved a life that night fulfilling the purpose of his profession. For the first time in his life, he felt he had done something 'real', something worthwhile. 


Beliefs of the small town:
The midwife is present in the house before the doctor arrives. The mining community did not have complete faith in modern medicine and perhaps, preferred to have someone older, more experienced and traditional present during a birth. Yet, Joe Morgan trusted Andrew completely.
Contrasting personalities: The midwife is a foil to Andrew. She feels hopeless, resigned, helpless, fearful and untrained. On the other hand, Andrew proves to be more optimistic, diligent, efficient, self-sufficient, spontaneous and well-trained.


The 'Birth' is not only of the child but also of the many relationships the birth ushers. It is the birth of a grandmother, father and mother. Most significantly, it was the birth of Andrew as a true doctor worthy of his title and confident of his future.

Q.1. Andrew had no premonition that,that night would influence his whole future in Blaenelly. How did this happen?
Q.2. Why was Joe Morgan relieved to see Andrew? Did Andrew justify his hope?
Q.3. Why was Andrew called in? How did he react to this call of duty?
Why does Andrew say, 'Usually perceptive, Andrew now felt dull and listless'? 
Q.4.  'Don't fret mother. I will not run away.' Why does Andrew say this?
Why did Andrew choose to remain till everything was over?  
Q.6. What were Andrew’s thoughts as he waited for the childbirth? Why were they heavy and muddled?
Q.7. What was the conflict in Andrew’s mind regarding marriage? 
Q.8. Why was Andrew surprised during the wait, when the grandmother made a sound? What did the grandmother tell Andrew as he sat by the fire?
Q.9. Why did a shiver of horror pass over Andrew? 

Q.10. What dilemma did Andrew face during the course of events? How did he resolve the same? 

Q.11. How did Andrew revive Susan Morgan? 

Q.12. What did the child look like when Andrew pulled it out?
Q.13. What was the cause of the still birth? Which methods did the doctor try to resuscitate the child?
Q.15. What was the child suffering from? What treatment did Andrew apply?
Q.16. What were Andrew’s thoughts after he had successfully overcome the crisis?
Q.17.What unexpected miracle took place to turn Andrew’s desperation into joy?
How did the old Mrs. Morgan react to the entire ordeal?
Q.19. What did the room look like when Andrew had finished?
Q.20. Do you think that at the end of the story Andrew is justified in saying “ I’ve done something”? Support your answer suitably.
Q.21. How did Dr. Mason prove worthy of his title by the end of the story?
Q.22. What opinion do you form of Andrew Mason from this excerpt? Which values can we learn from him? 
Q.23. Which values should the nurse have demonstrated during the ordeal?
Giving specific instances from the chapter, demonstrate how the midwife proved to be a foil for Dr. Mason. 
Q.25. There lies a great difference between textbook medicine and the world of a practising physician. Comment with reference to the chapter, 'Birth' by A. J. Cronin.
Compare and contrast Andrew's emotional, mental and physical state at the beginning of the story with his condition at the end.
Q.27.'I've done something; oh, God! I've done something real at last'. This statement justifies the title of the story. Discuss.
Q.28. Why do you think Andrew said, 'I'll fetch my bag later, nurse'?
Q.29. Describe in your own words, how Joe Morgan must have been feeling during his wait and eventually when Andrew spoke to him on the latter's way out.
Q.30.The original title of the novel is 'Citadel' meaning 'fortress'. Attempt a parallel of the title with the context of the story.