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Unit 43 – The Doctor’s Wife Extract

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds


The passage below is an extract from The Doctor’s Wife by Brian Moore.

Her flight had been called twice now and it was definitely the last call. There as no delaying it any longer, there was nothing to do but say goodbye, turn her back on him, and walk through the security check and onto the aircraft. An anxiety, the unreasoning anxiety of departure, came into her voice as she said, ‘Well, I must go this time.’
He stared, his dark eyes all question, as though he waited for her to give him some sign.
‘Goodbye, then,’ she said.
He did not speak.
‘If you ever come back to Ireland you must look us up.’
He moved toward her. She was sure he was going to kiss her, but, instead, he stopped and awkwardly held out his hand. For a moment she thought of kissing him on both cheeks in the French manner and making a joke of it, but her courage left her, and instead she shook his hand, then went up to the security people. A man and his wife were ahead of her in the check line, loaded down with cartons of gifts. She turned to look back. He was still standing there. She waved, he smiled and waved back. And then she entered the security checkpoint and, once through it, could no longer see the departure lounge. When she entered the aircraft, the seat-belt sign was already on, and as she sat down in her allotted seat, a stewardess offered her a choice of magazines. She took the first magazine off the pile, hurriedly, because she wanted the stewardess to move so that she could look across the aisle at the window facing the terminal. But saw only the terminal wall. No sign of him. The aircraft door shut and the plane taxied out for takeoff. She sat, staring numbly at the magazine cover.
As the plane moved forward in the takeoff queue, the quotation from the front of the magazine repeated itself in her head: L’avenir n’est interdit a personne – the future is forbidden to no one. The engines increased their thrust, the plane rushed down the runway and lifted into the air. Outside the window, great canyons of cloud opened and closed like the corridors of heaven as the plane climbed up into a bright-blue void. The seat-belt sign went off. On the intercom, a female voice announced that drinks would be offered and that luncheon would be served. She remembered the fuss she had made in the British Airways office in Belfast, two months ago, when the clerk told her this luncheon flight was fully booked, but that there was space on the later flight at three o’clock. She had wait-listed herself on this flight because she didn’t want to miss lunch. And if I hadn’t done that, at this moment I would be having lunch with Tom Lowry in Paris. Why didn’t I change my reservations this morning, why did I worry about the stupid old hotel? How did I get so bogged down in ordinariness that even this once I couldn’t do the spontaneous thing, the thing I really wanted to do.


1. “She was sure he was going to kiss her” – retrospectively, this thought of the hers appears to have been result of:

  • A      Hindsight bias
  • B      Wishful thinking
  • C      Logical interpretation
  • D      Egocentricity


2. Which adjective most accurately describes the protagonist’s various interactions with the staff of British Airways as they are portrayed in the passage?

  • A      Conflicted
  • B      Frustrating
  • C      Inefficient
  • D      Distracting


3. Which of the following would be an apt moral for the story?

  • A      Laziness breeds inactivity
  • B      Fortune favors the brave
  • C      The only thing holding us back is ourselves
  • D      Love hurts
  • Answers;
    Q1: B
    Retrospectively we learn how obsessed with Tom Lowry the protagonist is. She is in love with him. She would definitely have wished him to kiss her, but given his awkward movements that followed (we can include them because we are reviewing the situation retrospectively) this was not about to happen.
    Also “He stared, his dark eyes all question, as though he waited for her to give him some sign.” which, based on what we are told, she didn’t give him. Even if this was an effect of logical reasoning, rather than emotional, the evidence suggests that he wasn’t going to kiss her.
    Hindsight bias is when new information is used to colour perceptions of past events. It therefore cannot apply to an event that is in the process of happening.
    Egocentricity is a harsher word for vanity. The protagonist does not appear to be especially vain so this can also be ruled out.

    Q2: B
    She interacts with the BA staff in the Belfast office and also with the flight attendant on the plane.
    Both times are frustrating. In the first incident, she is initially denied what she seeks and must wait to find out whether or not she got on the flight. There is some conflict here, and the process was somewhat inefficient, but not distracting.
    The second time, she wants to look out the window, but the flight attendant gets in the way. She hurriedly snatches a magazine to get her to leave. There is no direct conflict between the staff and the protagonist. It’s distracting that she is in the way, but was clearly frustrating too. She efficiently gets rid of the magazine lady to clear her view out the window.

    Q3: C
    The moral of the story is alluded to on the cover of the magazine the protagonist takes from the flight attendant: ‘the future is forbidden to no one’. Anything could happen – you can do whatever you want to do. Yet here she is on the plane going home instead of doing what she wants to do. Her drive to act on her desires is constrained by her own planned behaviour.
    Fortune favors the brave is close, but we see no example of fortune favoring the brave within the story, and no other hints at it that are quite as big as the magazine cover incident.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    June 24, 2012

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