Stephen Leacock’s “Further Progress in Specialization” as Humorous Essay



The Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock’s sense of humors to create amusement has no doubt abundantly erected in a fanciful story about the recent trends towards specialization particularly in the field of medical treatment in his essay Further Progress in Specialization. At the time Stephen Leacock wrote Further Progress in Specialization, science had become the subject of much public debate. During this period, the natural sciences were becoming part of the everyday curriculum of schools. Read More Essay  Journalists responded to the general interest in science—and the particular interest in medicine and its possible wonders—with a multitude of speculations. Stephen Leacock chose a topic for his essay that was calculated to catch the public's imagination. In addition, his care in presenting accurate details, both in setting and about the everyday lives of his characters, gives the narrative a powerful immediacy, as though the action could be taking place in any reader's own yard in future. Read More Essay

An interesting technique is Stephen Leacock's use of symbolic names. The narrator could be an Everyman figure—a character who is meant to symbolize all human beings. More pointedly symbolic are the Dr. Follicle, Dr Scrape and Dr Clicker. Read More Essay They are not given individual names of their own, but instead stand as representatives of their kind. Usually, an author will try to interest readers in individual characters; in Progress in Specialization the great list of specialists of doctors is more important than the characters because of what Stephen Leacock wants to say about improving medical science, technology, and social evolution. He therefore individualizes his characters only a little, preferring to emphasize what they have in common with the types of people they represent. In this mad rush for expertise, there lies a sense of irony in humouristic blend.

In the essay, Progress in Specialization Leacock defines how twenty years ago when a man got sick, he went to a doctor. Read More Essay The doctor looked at him, examined him, and told him what his problem was. Then he gave him some medicine and advised him to take rest. The patient follows the doctor’s advice and got better gradually.

Having completed all the successive stage, When the patient came to the shoe shining boy, and told him to polish his shoe of the right foot, the boy immediately refused to polish because being left handed he only did the left foot. Now a day, a doctor first makes a diagnosis. Then the patient is handed on to a heart man for heart test and a nerve man for nerve test. If he has to be operated on, he is put to sleep by an anesthetist, operated by a surgeon and woke by a resurrectionist. Read More Essay The character of Dr. Follicle appears to us very funny.

 In the old days when a man got sick, he went to a doctor. The doctor looked at him, examined him and told him about his trouble. Then he gave him some medicine and advised him to take rest. Read More Essay The patient did so and either got better or did not. When the expert told the patient that he needed a shave, the patient became upset, before, he had come in. He knew it. Still he hoped that he could avoid it. Having failed to do, he made an appeal to postpone it for a day or so. Dr. Follicle will see the incoming patient who has come to him to seek advice regarding uneasy roughness in the skin of his face. It is expected that Dr. Follicle will see him and prescribe him some remedies for his problem.




When the patient entered the chamber of Dr. Follicle he immediately recognized certain roughness in the skin of his face. Then he asked a few questions about his personal life.  Finally, after an examination of the patient’s face with a magnifying glass he remarked some humourous quotes. The hairologist Dr. Follicle told the patient that his constitution was quite good to stand an immediate shampoo. Read More Essay  But he cautions him to have a heart test before that. After all, a premature shampoo in cold weather might cause a nasal trouble in a distressing character.

However, snipping the hair about and around the ears always needs specialist hands because it is a very delicate line of work. If a person as does the job of snipping without knowing the proper technique, he may cut off the ears of the patient. The hierologist advised the patient to have the shaving before shampoo. He thought that the patient’s condition was good enough to stand a shampoo. Read More Essay  But no soapists will be available for an hour or so and it was was unfortunate. It was because both the experts Dr Scrape and Clicker were busy in an emergency case ---the complete removal of a full beard!!

 The news that the two soaping experts are busy in soaping the full beard of a person is unfortunate. Read More Essay  The expert is really concerned as the shaving of the patient is getting late due to this.  In modern days, which the essay ironically treats, the medical treatment has got specialized. Now a general physician first makes a diagnosis and them the patient is handed over to different specialists for different problems. If he requires and operation a surgeon does the operation with the help of an anesthetist has been improved into a complicated process. Read More Essay Dr. Follicle, an expert hierologist, examined the patient carefully, announced that the patient must have a shave. The patient requested him to wait for a day or so more as he had to finish some office works. But the doctor did not agree to take the risk. The patient then decided to have the shave at once and asked expert to do accordingly. So, Leacock has very finely pointed out a very humorous aspect of modern life. But, Leacock sense of humour is very finely tinged with a subtle sense of irony.

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert      
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature