Jo Cannon, "Insignificant Gestures", a Short Story, 2007

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”Insignificant Gestures”

“Insignificant gestures” is a short story written by Jo Cannon in 2007. In this short story the main character, who is also the narrator, is looking back at his gory time as an expatriate district health officer in t Africa. We read about how his daily clinical routines were not like the ones in the western world. He had to work under gloomy circumstances, sometimes even in the middle of the night and had truly no joy in his position at the local town hospital. The only consolation in his otherwise depressing everyday life, was Celia Dimba, his native housekeeper. She lit up his life, when she sat next to him every evening and draw with him. One night at the hospital, she suddenly became his patient. According to a village woman, she had been beaten up by her boyfriend. Celia was severely injured and almost unrecognizable to him, but in spite of his medical qualifications, there was nothing he could do at the local hospital to help her. After transferring Celia to a bigger hospital an hour and a half away, he was called to the police station to give a medical statement which evidently put the boyfriend behind bars. Six weeks later he found out that Celia actually died great despair from meningitis. When he realized that he could have saved her with a single shot of penicillin, he tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his police statement to save the innocent boyfriend too.

When he returned from Africa, he retrained as a psychiatrist with the goal never to witness another death. One day, meeting an African nurse, he was suddenly overwhelmed by his distant memories about Africa.

This short story is written in a first-person perspective. The narrator is non-omniscient and tells the story in past tense. The story is composed of a flashback[1] and the “present” time in which he is a psychiatrist. In this story, Jo Cannon expresses himself in a very personal way, showing us many of the main character’s feelings and emotions, for...
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