Death of the Island Doctor


Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Storeys from the Old Hotel

"When we were discussing 'Civis Laputus Sum', I implied that I dislike all academics, especially in the humanities. 'Death of the Island Doctor' proves I don't. There are still a few left who got into their fields because they actually love them. Not many, but a few. Needless to say, they are scorned by their colleagues, though frequently worshipped by their students. It seems to me that there used to be a lot more of them than there are now."


An elderly professor offers a class on islands. Eventually two students sign up and attend his rooms, where he bemuses and intrigues them with an array of quotations, references and allusions on the subject. He sends them on a field trip to a local small island, and asks them to report what they find magical there. On returning to the class the following week, they find he has died, and in fact it's said that he died the day before the first class they attended.


Unresolved Questions

  • How does the young woman guess that Dr Insula was found sitting in his boat?
  • She may be remembering his last quotation, " purpose holds / To sail beyond the sunset." Like Ulysses in Tennyson's poem, like King Arthur sailing to Avalon, Dr. Insula seems to be a heroic figure. In his time, History and Literature had been one. In other words, he is from the time of legends. Death cannot stop him from giving his island lecture and bringing the couple together, so he is a Christ figure as well.

< Last Day | Storeys from the Old Hotel | Redwood Coast Roamer >