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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Surgeon at 2 A.M.

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 15 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2101
  1. Hugh Byrne, SpR in obstetrics and gynaecology, NW Thames deanery
  1. hughbyrne{at}

    Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was a prolific poet and wrote several poems with medical themes in which gore and the grotesque feature heavily, such as Thalidomide, Facelift, Two views of a cadaver room, and In plaster, as well as Three women, which is set in a women’s hospital. The surgeon at 2 A.M. was written in 1961 and was possibly heavily influenced by her recent miscarriage and a hospitalisation for appendicitis at the now defunct St Pancras Hospital in London. In this extract, she manages to capture the surreal beauty of the operating theatre at night as well as that of the internal organs: …

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