The Enemy by Pearl S. Buck – Summary

The Enemy by Pearl S. Buck deals with a situation in which human considerations overpower narrow considerations of national duty. It tells about how people can help enemies on human grounds. To hate our enemy is natural and justifiable, especially during the war time. This story beautifully depicts how a human being rises over his prejudices to help a wounded enemy.

Summary

Dr. Sadao Hoki’s house was built on the Japanese coast. It was set upon rocks above a narrow beach surrounded by pine trees. Sadao’s father was a very serious and traditional man. He never joked or played with him. He had a deep concern for his son’s education. So Sadao had been sent to America at twenty-two to learn all that could be learned of surgery and medicine there. He returned at thirty. He became famous not only as a surgeon but as a scientist also.

It was the time of the World War. Japan was at war with America. Dr. Sadao had not been sent abroad with the troops. The old General was under medical treatment and he might need an operation. So, Dr. Sadao was being kept in Japan.

Dr. Sadao had met Hana in America, but he had waited until he was sure that she was Japanese before deciding to marry her. His father would never have approved of her otherwise. Sadao met her at an American Professor’s house. They came home to Japan. Their marriage had been arranged in the old Japanese way according to his father’s wishes. They were a happy couple.

One night, Sadao and Hana were enjoying the view of the sea from their verandah. At this moment, both of them saw something black come out of the mists. It was a man. He staggered a few steps. Then the curled mists hid him again. Hana and Sadao leaned over the railing of the verandah. They saw a man crawling on his hands and knees. Then he fell down on his face and lay there.

He was wounded and lay motionless on the sand. He was a white man. On the right side of his lower back Sadao saw that a gun wound had reopened. He was bleeding. He had packed the wound with the sea moss. The man cried but didn’t wake up. They read the faint letters on his cap : “U.S. Navy”. The American was a prisoner of war.

Sadao knew that giving shelter to the enemy would get them in to trouble. He was torn between his moral duty as a doctor which urged him to save the dying man and his national duty which required handing him over to the Army as a patriot. Both Hana and Sadao finally decided to take the man home, as he was in need of urgent medical attention. They decided that they should tell the servants also. The servants were frightened at what their master had just told them. They thought that their master should not heal the wound of that white man. Even Yumi refused to wash a white man and returned to her work. Hana herself washed Tom’s breast and face with steaming hot water carefully. Now her anger was ebbing.

Sadao was ready to operate. He was completely absorbed in his work. He told Hana that she would need to give anaesthetic to the man. The bullet was still there. He had already lost much blood. Hana couldn’t bear the sight and ran out of theroom. She had never seen an operation. Sadao went on with his work. But she came with a bottle and some cotton in her hand out. Then with a very clean and precise incision the bullet was taken out. The man quivered but was still unconscious. He only muttered a few words in English. Sadao declared that the man would live in spite of his sufferings.

The young man woke up. He was too weak. His blue eyes were terrified when he thought where he was. Hana consoled him not to be afraid. She comforted him that he would soon be strong. On the third day, Dr. Sadao examined the wound. Tom asked what they were going to do with him. He looked barely seventeen. For a moment Sadao didn’t answer. Tom was a prisoner of war and should have been handed over to the police.

The servants felt that they could not stay if Sadao hid that white man any more in the house. People would think that they liked Americans. The servants grew daily more and more watful. Sadao wanted the prisoner to get up on his feet. He should practise it everyday till he gained strenght. The man thanked the doctor for having saved his life. The doctor cautioned him not to thank him so early. The last stitches had been pulled out. The young man would be all right within a fortnight. On the seventh day the servants left together.

On the same day, a messenger in official uniform came to Sadao’s house. He asked Dr. Sadao to come to the palace at once as the old General was in pain. Hana breathed a sigh of relief. Whent Sadao came to say good bye, she revealed her fear. She had thought that they had come to arrest him. Sadao promised to get rid of that man for her sake.

Sadao told the whole episode to the General. The General knew that Sadao was indispensible to him. He never trusted other Japanese surgeons. The General promised Sadao that nothing would happen to him. The General then planned to get the American sailor assassinated. He told Sadao that his private assassins were very competent and would also remove the dead body. Sadao thought that this plan would be the best for his family.

After that meeting, Sadao spent three restless nights waiting for the assassins. But they didn’t come. Finally, the torture became too much for him to bear. He planned to get rid of the enemy himself.

The next morning he went to the guest room. He thought of putting his boat on the shore that night with food and extra clothing in it. The American might be able to row to that little island not far from the coast. Nobody lived on that island. He gave all the necessary instructions to Tom and also gave him his own flash light.

He told Tom that he should flash the light two times if he needed something, once if everything was fine. He must do this only when the sun had dropped under the horizon. He added that Tom could find many fish to eat but he should eat them raw, lest the fire would be seen. Even Hana didn’t know about this plan. Sadao had told Tom to wait for a Korean ship.

Sadao went to the General and informed him that the American had escaped. The General informed Sadao that he forgot about the prisoner, as he was unwell. He told Sadao not to leak this information to anybody. Sadao got his reward. He didn’t receive any signal. No one was on the island. The prisoner had gone safely. Sadao remembered that he had great difficulty in finding a place to live in America because he was a Japanese. The Americans were full of prejudice. The white people were, repulsive. It was a relief to be openly at war with them at last. Then he remembered the haggard face of the prisoner – white and repulsive’. “Strange”, he thought, “I wonder why I could not kill him?”

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