Response to Anne Fadiman`s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”

Responseto Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”

Responseto Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”

Chapters5-9 of Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”are a buildup of tensions and certain aspects that surrounds Lia’sdecline in health, while conflicts are also experienced between thedoctors and her parents. In chapter 5 for instance, Peggy Philp andNeil Ernst are both primary doctors for Lia. As much as a fewphysicians have agreed to compromise their standards in order to havetotal cooperation from their patients, Neil is by natureuncompromising and would not agree to stoop so low for their Hmongpatients (Fadiman, 1997). The aspect of power runs across thechapters considering there is an assumption by the doctors to havetotal power over their patients. The paper therefore, is a responseto the above chapters, more so on the aspect of power.

Tobegin with, chapter 5 focuses on resident Dan Murphy. He explainsthat “the Hmong patients would not do anything since someone morepowerful than them say so” (Fadiman, 1997), which focalizes theaspect of power. There is an immense imbalance of power as far aseffort and time from the doctors put in their medical training areconcerned. Here, one may argue that it is instead racism endemic thathas plagued the society. This is evident that in the doctors’ eyes,Lia’s parents see them as danger to the patients’ health andwelfare, even when it is only for their daughter, Lia.

Chapters5 and 6 bring up another aspect of power, which is the traditionalpower structure in the Hmong community (Fadiman, 1997). The excerptsare a reflection of a community whereby the wives are different fromthe husbands, who in turn defer to the elder parents. Doctors areconstant complainants about the requirements to be able to consultwith a lot of people, and in turn serve as a challenge for bettermedical are whenever decisions demand quick action. In addition, thephysicians however, those that have acquiesced to handling work withutmost power structures, are instead trying to fight it and thus moresuccessful. Looking at chapter 6, there is clarity on the lessonsneeded to be learned. If doctors for example, ensured the Hmongpatients are to respect and accept their instructions and expertise,then they will have to be willing to respect Hmong hierarchy.

Lees’family is rendered entirely powerless. Chapter 7 continues with thisaspect, which is evident with the feelings of injustice shown allthrough the Hmong community. Towards the chapter for example, the NaoKao and Foua are handling their daughter in the best way they canshowering her with lots of love, while giving her what they saw to bethe best regimen, but the doctors that failed to cure her, took heraway. The aspect of power is evident on the doctors’ side when theyensured Lia’s parents follow their instruction to the later as away of making sure it turns out to be the only way they could getback their daughter (Fadiman, 1997). In addition, looking at thisscenario, a philosophical question may come up. Who should assumepower when it comes to completely making decisions for the child?

Itis true that doctors are possession of scientific knowledge, but thefact remains that in chapter 7, Lia’s seizures continues toincrease in frequency in spite of the Lees, her foster parentsfollows every detail of the doctors’ instructions, and thereforeshow their knowledge is completely fallible. For the Hmong communityview, there is something that is has to be said, which includeshaving given birth to the child, pays for his or her personal needs,and pamper the child, and thus are in the best position to exercisetheir power in making decisions. According to Fadiman (1997), thisscenario is one of Neil’s justifications about the Hmong’s needto understand specific rules they had to completely abide by. Theattitude is in support if this kind of an idea that this kind ofbehavior was a section of the racist society that required a need forsocialization and end up conforming to Western norms and culture ofpower.

Fadiman’ssense of invisibility in regard to cultural biases could haveinfluenced the manner in which she ends up describing the Lees. Theauthor managed to extensively include physical descriptions abouttheir sense of determination in reference to natural forces (Fadiman,1997). “The Lees looked rooted like it would carry a gale a forcedwind” (Fadiman, 1997). In chapter 9 for instance, the Lees thoughttheir daughter had gone back to them since foster care she end upsicker than before. Peggy and Neil had a feeling of improvement inher condition following the foster care for given to her. Anoncompliance feeling of power as a result of protection given toLia, made the Lees surrender their ability to protect to the doctors.

Thechapter is a representation of a revelation about the number of timesthe American system of power was used by the Hmong. At the end ofchapter 9 for example, Neil’s premonition foreshadows an impendingtragedy. He says that he felt that there was a giant snowball, whichcomes down the mountain, and people are trying to keep it up and keptpushing us forward. The aspect of power is evident, especially withthe figurative language used to express a state of despair, forinstance, at being unable to improve Lia’s health condition(Fadiman, 1997). In addition, the aspect of power continues to becomeevident, especially when an explanation of a cultural backgroundtalked about dictates a shift in Hmong community.

Inconclusion, power shift between the doctors and common individualsare dictated by a number of factors. There is a complaint by thedoctors about the requirements and the need to consult with a lot ofpeople who serves to be an obstacle for the good of the medical carewhen the decisions are made quickly. The paper responded numerousinstances of the aspects of power evident in Anne Fadiman’s “TheSpirit Catches You and You Fall Down.” The Hmong hierarchy, apartfrom tussles between the Lees and Lia’s doctors, exercises theirdiscipline with acceptance and respect to the hierarchy.


Fadiman,A. (1997). Thespirit catches you and you fall down: A Hmong child, her Americandoctors, and the collision of two cultures.New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.