Study Guide

Cutting for Stone Suffering

By Abraham Verghese


One of the major themes in Cutting for Stone is that life is full of pain and suffering. Oof.

Well, the good news is that it manages to be a pretty uplifting story, anyway. No, suffering can't be avoided, but the characters in this novel just find a way to live with it. The key is in compassion: in fact, a number of characters say that they believe that relieving others' suffering is their purpose in life.

There's plenty of suffering to relieve, too, considering that the novel takes place in a hospital.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Why do you think that the author spends such an enormous chunk of the book telling about Sister Mary Joseph Praise's suffering and death?
  2. What does suffering have to do with medicine in the novel? Can suffering and medicine be separated?
  3. Is there a difference between the suffering depicted in Ethiopia and the suffering depicted in the U.S.?

Chew on This

In Cutting for Stone, suffering is a part of the human condition and should be embraced.

The characters in Cutting for Stone dedicate their lives to fighting suffering.