In front of Johns Hopkins is a statue of Jesus, the toe of which patients and doctors alike rub for luck. For Rebecca Skloot, the statue represents the intersection of medicine and religion—two vital forces when understanding the history of Henrietta Lacks. Doctors, after all, see HeLa as purely scientific. Henrietta’s family members, meanwhile, believe that it was divine providence that led to her cells’ immortality. Throughout the book, the cosmopolitan Rebecca struggles to comprehend the Lackses’ deep and sincere religious faith, eventually coming to the understanding that they see HeLa as proof of the eternal life promised in the Bible. Of course, the statue is also an ironic symbol; although it is supposed to bring luck, the unlucky Henrietta died in Hopkins. Yet it was her terrible fate that led to the discovery of HeLa, and the various innovations to which it led.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Statue of Jesus appears in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Exam
...hospital, gone past the “colored” bathroom, into the main entrance of Hopkins, past a lucky statue of Jesus , and then continued into the waiting room of the gynecology clinic, where she tells... (full context)
Chapter 32: “All That’s My Mother”
...On May 11, 2001, Rebecca escorts Deborah and Zakariyya to Johns Hopkins. They pass the statue ofJesus and head towards Christoph Lengauer’slab. An amiable man in his mid-thirties, Christoph takes the group... (full context)