Study Guide: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - BookNotes|
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THE SPIRIT CATCHES YOU AND YOU FALL DOWN: ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY
The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes
some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force.
In this story, the protagonist is Anne Fadiman whose experiences with
the Hmong in researching and writing this book is the basis for understanding
the story. She examines every aspect of how Lia Lee’s tragedy unfolded
and becomes her champion when deciding where blame lies in the end.
The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for
the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character
or even a character at all. In this plot there are two antagonists: at
times, the Lees are antagonistic when trying to deal with the doctors
in Merced; however, their antagonism sincerely comes from the culture
to which they are bound. The other antagonists are the doctors at MCMC
who refused to accept that understanding a patient’s culture is integral
to treating his illness.
The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist
to resolve the conflict. The climax occurs when Lia suffers the “big one,”
or the seizure that ultimately contributes to her vegetative state.
Lia’s brain impairment is never resolved and she is taken home by her
parents to be loved and cared for by them. The doctors in Merced and other
medical communities begin to realize that understanding the cultural differences
of an immigrant must be considered when treating them as patients. However,
in the end, they still believe that the bottom line means save the patient’s
life while the Hmong believed that it was the patient’ soul.
This true story involves the life of Lia Lee, a Hmong child who is epileptic.
She suffers severe grand mal seizures and eventually, as a result, becomes
vegetative for the rest of her life. The key point of the book, however,
is not Lia’s epilepsy as much as it is the cultural barriers that led
to them destroying her brain. The proper treatment and so-called compliance
with it becomes the basis of a tug-of-war for Lia’s life between her doctors
and her parents. The author uses this battle as a way of discussing Western
and Eastern medicine and how each group views the patient in such different
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down".
. 30 May 2008