In E. L. Doctorow’s The March, Wrede Sartorius is a 5-Observer doctor born in Germany. Emily, a young Georgian woman, is traveling with the Union army as a nurse in the Civil War. Bold sections highlight some aspects of Sartorius’ 5-ness.
Page 200 of 525: She [Emily] watched [Dr.] Wrede, who was hunched over his letter oblivious of the world, of the war, and of her. His powers of concentration were unnatural. At such times as this he was established in her mind as a total stranger to whom she was enslaved. How desolate, how lonely she felt. In the excitements of her boldly chosen vagrancy she had not thought about the future. Now it loomed ahead of her as a darkness, as a night of unceasing rain. Dr. Wrede Sartorius was not a normal man. She could not imagine him domiciled. He lived in the present as if there were no future, or in such a state of resolution that when the future came it would find him as he was now, as finished in his soul as he was at this very moment. Nothing fazed him—he had a preternatural calm. He was constantly sending to the Army Department of Medicine papers on surgical procedures he had devised, or improved courses of postoperative treatment he had discovered. He regarded the thick manuals of army medicine as virtually useless, and had a regal disregard of any and all advisories that came down from Corps. He was, finally, a man who needed no one other than himself, either professionally or, God help her, in his personal life. She could not imagine his becoming melancholic or nostalgic or unhappy, or giddy or foolish or anything temporary like that. He was an isolated, self-sufficient being who lived in his own mind, unneedful of anyone else. And, while he had shown her affection and had brought her like a teacher into his interest, she seriously wondered if she were to die in some attack, would he gaze upon her lifeless body as a bereaved lover or would he do an autopsy to see the effect on her tissues and organs of the grape or minie’ balls that had killed her?…
And since then—was it just a few night ago?—he had been somewhat remote, seemingly glad to be occupied with preparations for the renewed march, giving his quiet instructions to everyone, including her. And now she felt surely there was no future with this man. She was an encumbrance, a Southern refugee whose only justification was a fill-in nurse for the absent staff he would have preferred. And she had never felt so desolate….
Page 385 of 525: Always contemptuous of the army mind… his emotional estrangement from the medical community of the Army of the West was complete. Of the procedures he had invented, the treatments he had recommended to supersede the standard therapies, none had been adopted. Some were still under study. They would be under study long after the war was over. He was not looking for personal recognition. He did not need or want a higher rank. But he had become intolerant, passionately intolerant, of traditional medical thinking. It did not change, it did not advance but looked dumbly upon the disasters it devised for the poor broken and mutilated boys that were its responsibility…
Though Sartorius believed himself to be fervently human, he recognized that people had not always found him so. There seemed to be a natural divide in the way he and Americans conducted themselves in social intercourse. He was a bit formal, certainly not demonstrative, by which they decided he was arrogant. He did not smile easily, by which they understood his pale-eyed attentions were something like a naturalist’s looking at an insect.
Page 466 of 525: Wrede Sartorius saw, as if reflected, his inherently bleak state of being. He smiled, a man who lived alone, his own mind his only companion. He had been in America for almost twenty years, but he felt no more settled here than he had in Europe. He was contemptuous of the army’s Medical Department and no longer saw any reason to share his findings. The war was almost over. He was ready to resign his commission.
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