doctors dilemma

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Shaw was an unashamedly didactic writer. Does Shaw’s use of humor and wit in this instance enhance or detract from the demonstration of a serious philosophical dilemma?

George Bernard Shaw was a didactic playwright who seeked to instruct rather than entertain in his works. Furthermore, his use of humor and wit in this extract from Act II enhances the demonstration of the serious philosophical dilemma. The dilemma consists of Dr. Ridgeon having to decide whether to give the cure to Blenkinsop, an honest but feeble doctor, or Dubedat, “a charming sociopath who happens to be an extraordinary artist”. Whoever doesn’t get the cure will die and Shaw uses wit and humor to make serious issues such as this “trolley dilemma” easier to digest. Shaw calls it a tragedy and very conspicuously and persistently uses humor to deal with a topic as serious as the allocation of scarce medical resources. His use of tragic comedy prompts the audience to examine the motives of the medical profession, insurance companies and how we came as a society to accept a healthcare system still driven in large part by financial gain.

The extract starts with Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington repeating ‘Goodnight’ “several times, in varied musical tones”. This displays an over the top character and forces the audience to disregard him as a serious individual, even less so as a reputable doctor. He is the doctor that will be taking care of the patient that Ridgeon doesn’t choose, enhancing the lack of hope for the patient and making the death of the patient more definite. This is exemplified by his “Gooooooood-night Paddy”, at which Sir Patrick merely grunts at him. The elongation of “good” makes B.B. seem immature and juvenile and Shaw makes B.B seem like a joke of a character, not only through his actions but also through the way that the other characters such as Patrick react to him. The grunt indicates how Patrick has such low regard for B.B that he does not even dignify him with a...
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