Analysis Of Anne Fadiman's Novel 'The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down'

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Anne Fadiman’s novel The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, documents the life of the Lees, Hmong refugees who live in California. Their daughter Lia has a seizure which they diagnosed as qaug dab peg, “the spirit catches you and you fall down”. These seizure cause her to become vegetated for the rest of her life. Her parents believed that her seizures happened because her soul had fled her body. Because of the cultural traditions, aside from her treatment at Merced Community Medical Center, they utilized traditional healing methods. This was because her parents and the Hmong culture believed that they needed to call her soul back. Through the Lee’s story, Fadiman highlights the dangers of a lack of cross-cultural communication in the medical…show more content…
The Lee’s story shows how this idea was the root cause of Lia’s ultimate death. On one hand you have her family who, through their culture believed that what Lia had was spiritual. The clash of cultures and understanding lead to the difficult situation between the family and the doctors. “Whether you find these traits infuriating or admirable depends largely on whether or not you are trying to make a Hmong do something he or she would prefer not to do. Those who have tried to defeat, deceive, govern, regulate, constrain, assimilate, intimidate, or patronize the Hmong have, as a rule, disliked them intensely” (Fadiman 26). This excerpt shows how on the side of the family their culture instils the idea of not giving in to the opposition. Although they wanted to help their daughter, they also have it in their minds that they can help her with their spiritual traditions. Not wanting to put their daughter life in the hands of Western medical doctors they do not know, lead them to clash. “Most patients accept the doctor’s explanation of why they got sick in the first place, and even if they resist the recommended treatment, they at least believe their doctor has prescribed it in good faith and that it is not designed to hurt them. Doctors who deal with…show more content…
Here we can clearly see how Fadiman wants to show how people should treat others from a different religion. She says that she needs to “more like a Hmong” to understand their culture, religion and traditions. Doing so will help her understand why it is that they do what they do and why they have little trust on American doctors and medicine. If the doctors at the Merced hospital had tried to put themselves in Lia’s parent’s shoes to try and understand their culture they would of been able to come up with solutions that would of helped Lia more in the long run. Simply ignoring the fact that they are dealing with a completely different and trying to do what they can under the circumstances they should of been able to work with the parents. Maybe having a Hmong religious leader talk to them so that they understand what her parents think about the soul and it escaping from the body, would have changed their way of seeing the situation. Fadiman as the writer

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