39 pages 1 hour read

James Herriot

All Creatures Great and Small

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1972

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Key Figures

James Herriot (James Alfred “Alf” Wight)

James Herriot is both the pseudonym for the author, James Alfred Wight, and the name of the main character of All Creatures Great and Small. Though the book is heavily based on Wight’s experience as a veterinarian in Yorkshire, the narrative is fictionalized in many parts. The story follows James’s experiences beginning his career under the supervision of Siegfried Farnon, adjusting to life in Yorkshire, and gaining confidence in his choice of career as a vet. The second phase of the narrative follows his courtship of Helen Alderson where he struggles with self-doubt. He is obedient, ethical, and always tries to do his best, but the unpredictability of animal medicine makes it so that his best is not always a success.

James’s character follows both an outer and an inner journey. Externally, he learns how to be a skilled vet in the often-challenging conditions of rural Yorkshire in the prewar period. The medicines are primitive, the weather is severe, the roads are sometimes impassible, and many clients don’t pay. James learns to apply his academic training to the imperfect conditions of rural life to protect the health and well-being of the region’s animals and their owners.