We seem to be reading not a confession but a personal diary meant for the doctor's eyes only, so he has no reason to be lying to us. He may, of course, still be lying to himself, and is unreliable to that extent. I do think he is unaware of the source of some of his feelings.
He feels distaste for the pastor even before Helga comes to him. Why? Perhaps some of it is the distaste of a man of science for a man of faith. Perhaps the pastor really does have an ugly face; that is reason enough to dislike someone until they make some favorable impression. Most of it is probably because of his attraction to Helga. He knows the pastor has a pretty wife before she comes to him. Does the pastor deserve the doctor's distaste?
pastor seems to be
: hypocritical, lecherous, selfish, cruel and
Surely that would have described most of the town. Sterling says his main crime is that he wants to have sex with his wife and that he can't be blamed for that. But to me this seems like one of those old situations in which the pretty young girl was married off to the established older man. Of course, we can't expect all men to be as sensitive to young women's feelings as our dear Vollman from the Bardo (by the way, I came across the term Bardo in yet another book I'd never read before; it seems to be the word of the year), but such a thing is surely sufficient to heighten distaste for a man, at least once the young woman's distaste is confirmed.
I am not sure the doctor ruined anyone's life. He cannot be said to have ruined the pastor's. He has ended the pastor's life; it is no longer a source of pain or pleasure to him, or if he was right, as a pastor, his state has improved. Whether or not he has ruined Helga's life depends on the situation she is left in. If she is financially secure, she is almost certainly better off. And as he seems to be in no danger of arrest, the doctor has certainly not ruined his on life.
I think the doctor is in a quiet revolt against his time or his society. Why does he bring up the abortions at all? He sympathizes with the women and would like to help them, but feels he can't in his world, and surely he was right. Part of his distaste for the pastor is his distaste for the practice of marrying off young women to old men they couldn't possibly be attracted to, indeed with the whole philosophy of marriage of the time. His distaste for the society he lives in makes him think of suicide, of his right to die whenever he wants, and so he carries his pills. Is there anything wrong with him? Well, he is who he is. Could he feel better, be happier? Maybe, but he could also take one of his pills.
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