Mountains Beyond Mountains

John’s Treatment Symbol Analysis

John’s Treatment Symbol Icon

While Mountains Beyond Mountains doesn’t have many symbols (it’s a work of non-fiction), Tracy Kidder acknowledges that the death of John—a young Haitian boy who’s rushed to Boston for emergency treatment—is a poignant symbol for the value (and perhaps, ultimate futility) of Dr. Paul Farmer’s life’s work. John suffers from a rare facial cancer that can’t be treated in Haiti, and as a result, Farmer’s nonprofit spends tens of thousands of dollars to fly John to better facilities in the United States. But in the end, John dies in Boston—the plane flight and extra care had no effect on the eventual outcome. John’s fate could be representative of the fate of Haiti itself: although Farmer devotes huge amounts of time and money to improving conditions in the country, nothing he does can change the fact that Haiti is an impoverished country, in which there will always be sick, suffering people. Even so, John and his treatment could also be considered a symbol of the ultimate value of Farmer’s project. Even if he can’t save John’s life, Farmer can improve John’s living conditions in his final moments—as a nurse puts it, letting John die in a place where there aren’t flies on his face. Even if Farmer doesn’t eliminate the root cause of his patients’ suffering, there’s value in reducing some of the suffering.

John’s Treatment Quotes in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes below all refer to the symbol of John’s Treatment. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Mountains Beyond Mountains published in 2009.
Chapter 25 Quotes

“Well, this boy is a challenge. But I’ve cured sicker kids.” Serena laughed nervously. She said, “Well, now he’s in Man’s Greatest Hospital.” That was what Mass General people called the place, playing on its initials, MGH. Dr. Ezekowitz chuckled. “As soon as we start to believe that, we won’t be.” He turned to the young intern. “Isn’t that right? We can always do better, can’t we.”

Related Characters: Serena Koenig (speaker), Dr. Alan Ezekowitz (speaker), John
Related Symbols: John’s Treatment
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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“Can we not have him in a place where people are trained in palliation? Isn’t palliative care important? And a place where his mother can grieve in private instead of an open ward with flies all over her face?”

Related Characters: Serena Koenig (speaker), John
Related Symbols: John’s Treatment
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The next time I was in Cange, I asked Zanmi Lasante’s chief handyman, Ti Jean, what the people in the region were saying about the case. He told me that everyone talked about it. “And you know what they say? They say, ‘Look how much they care about us.’”

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Ti Jean (speaker)
Related Symbols: John’s Treatment
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 26 Quotes

If you say, Well, I just think how much could have been done with twenty thousand dollars, you sound thoughtful, sensible, you know, reasonable, rational, someone you really want on your side. However, if you were to point out, But a young attending physician makes one hundred thousand dollars, not twenty, and that’s five times what it cost to try to save a boy’s life—that just makes you sound like an asshole. Same world, same numbers, same figures, same currency.

Related Characters: Doctor Paul Farmer (speaker)
Related Symbols: John’s Treatment
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.Lorem Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea comm

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John’s Treatment Symbol Timeline in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The timeline below shows where the symbol John’s Treatment appears in Mountains Beyond Mountains. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 25
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...2000, Kidder explains, PIH flies a Haitian child named John from Cange to Boston for treatment for a rare facial cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The process of diagnosing John requires several trips... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...conference in Europe, Serena prepares to fly John out to Mass General for a full treatment for his cancer. Kidder sees John lying in bed, and is shocked by his appearance—his... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
The medical team at Mass General proceeds with treating John. They identify tumors in John’s nasal area and spine—extremely painful. Gradually, they realize that... (full context)