Study Guide

Dr. Henry Goose in Cloud Atlas

By David Mitchell

Dr. Henry Goose

Who Knew Gooses Could Quack?

Against his better judgment, Adam Ewing becomes friends with the smarmy, charismatic, swindling quack Dr. Henry Goose. Ewing is determined to see the best in people and stays friends with Goose despite the fact that Goose pretty much represents everything Ewing despises.

Goose is pretty much Imperialism personified. This is evident on the first page, when Ewing runs into him in the middle of the South Pacific and observes, "If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote, that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, 'tis not down on any map I ever saw" (1.1.1). In that time period, the sun never set on the British Empire.

Goose is known for uttering cringe-worthy bon mots over dinner, like: "As philanthropists, might it not be our duty to likewise ameliorate the savages' sufferings by hastening their extinction?" (1.5.23). Oh, and then there's this one: "Friendship between races, Ewing, can never surpass the affection between a loyal gundog & its master" (1.13.2). And who could forget: "The weak are meat the strong do eat" (11.2.37). All blatantly racist sentiments that leave us vomiting politely into our linen napkins and excusing ourselves to the little Shmoopers' room. And you thought your crazy uncle was embarrassing.

The sad thing about all this is that after drugging and almost killing poor, naive Adam Ewing, Goose escapes. Nothing bad happens to him. He lives to steal and swindle again, and to have children that might grow up and do the same thing. If evil will always exist, why do we keep fighting it?