Joshua Ferris’ “The Valetudinarian”

Joshua Ferris’ “The Valetudinarian” has many conflicts all of them involving the main character, Arty Groys. In the beginning, Arty loses his wife and must fend for himself; in the middle of the story, Arty is worried about his health and complains about it to anyone who would listen; in the end of the story, Arty sees a prostitute, ends up in the hospital, and develops a complicated relationship with the neighbor who saves him, Mrs. Zegerman. While Arty’s life is not one that lacks tension, the story as a whole does not have a primary conflict. It appears to me that any of these aspects of Arty’s life can be made into their own story but are not effective when presented as one short story. The plot and all of the tension that go along with it keep changing drastically, especially at the end. As a result it is difficult for the reader to feel sympathy for Arty or for anyone else present in the story. What further complicates the situation is the fact that the point of view changes as well, first focused on Arty and then focused on Mrs. Zegerman. It appears to me that the character of Arty is not yet established when the character of Mrs. Zegerman is introduced. As a result, both characters appear flat and unsympathetic. She minor conflicts found within the story appear to be resolved but since the story lacks a primary tension, it is difficult to say whether tension overall is resolved. Furthermore, since I’m not sure what the story is trying to achieve, I’m not sure whether it succeeds.

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