“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman

One of the most disturbing scenes in chapter eleven in the entire book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the description of one of the characters, Leah, getting to the hospital. The author gives a detailed account of the elements of the environment, the hero’s well-being, and the doctors’ actions. Through such a realistic presentation, I get the feeling that I am in the intensive care unit.

The feeling of inner discomfort comes not only from reading the description of what Leah has to go through. Specific narrative details also develop a sense of fear and insecurity. Talking about the actions of ambulance specialists, the author clarifies some points. Describing the health conditions of the girl, she says: “Lia had the same thing wrong with her that she had had on her previous fifteen admissions, only worse” (Fadiman 145). The reader immediately realizes that the eerie scenes of Leah’s rescue from suffocation and her struggle with epileptic seizures are not happening for the first time.

Another stylistic trick that struck me was using a strict text format to describe a patient’s hospital card. From the short report, the reader can tell that the girl is only four years old and is already struggling with many complex diseases. Such moments in the story make one empathize with the heroes much more because it is impossible to remain indifferent, looking at the fate that befell Leah. It is worth noting that The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down as a whole is an extremely emotional work. The struggle of the characters for survival in a hostile environment does not leave the reader unimpressed. However, the scenes of Leah’s fight for her life are some of the most disturbing not only in “The Big One” chapter but throughout the entire piece.


Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.

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