Class XII: Vistas – The Enemy

The Enemy

By Pearl S.Buck

About the author

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was an American writer and novelist. She was also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu. She was born on June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia and raised in Zhenjiang in eastern China by her Presbyterian missionary parents. Initially she was educated by her mother and a Chinese tutor. At the age of 15 she was sent to a boarding school in Shanghai. Two years later she entered Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She graduated in 1914. In May, 1917 she married missionary John L. Buck; although later divorced and remarried. She returned to China and taught English literature in Chinese universities from 1925 to 30. During that time she briefly resumed studying in the United States at Cornell University, where she took an M.A. in 1926.
As the daughter of missionaries, Buck spent most of her life before 1934 in Zhenjiang, China. After returning to the United States in 1935, she continued writing prolifically and became a prominent advocate of the rights of women and minority groups, and wrote widely on Asian cultures. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She died on March 6, 1973 in Danby, Vermont.


The story highlights how a Japanese doctor saves the life of an American prisoner of war and rises above narrow national prejudices. He risks his honour, career, position and life by sheltering a war prisoner of the enemy camp and saving his life. The author has beautifully portrayed the conflict in the doctor’s mind as a private individual and as a citizen with a sense of national loyalty.
The story takes place on a coastal town of Japan in the year 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. A war going on between America and Japan. Japanese were hostile to the Americans and ready to kill any American found in their soil.
‘The Enemy’ gives the message that humanism transcends all man made prejudices and barriers. Dr. Sadao upholds the ethics of medical profession in treating an enemy. The story is a great lesson of peace, love, sympathy, fellow feeling and humanism.


1. Dr. Sadao Hoki:  A Japanese doctor trained by Americans.
2. Sadao’s father: much concerned about his son’s education, a true patriot.
3. Hana: Wife of Dr. Sadao, met in America, became friends and got married in Japan.
4. Tom: An American prisoner of war, a soldier of U.S. Navy.
5. The old General:  a sick Japanese army General, needed an operation, trusted only Dr. Sadao.
6. An officer: A messenger of the General.
7. Gardener:  an old gardener in the house of Dr. Sadao.
8. Yimi: Hana’s maid servant.
9. The cook: an old cook in the house of Dr. Sadao.
House of Dr. Sadao:a house built on a narrow beach near the sea.


Sadao was a Japanese surgeon. He studied in America and returned with Hana, a Japanese girl whom he met there, and married her in Japan and settled down comfortably. While most of the doctors were sent to serve the Japanese army in the World War II, Sadao was allowed to stay home because he was wanted by the old General who was dying.
But one night into his uneventful life came an American Navy-man, shot, wounded and dying. Though unwilling to help his enemy, Sadao took the young soldier into his house and provided him with medical aid. He was in danger from that moment. Soon his servants left him. Dr. Sadao saw that the soldier was getting well and absolutely alright.
Once his patient was no more in need of him, the doctor turned out to be his assassin, conspiring to kill him in his sleep. He informed the General of the American and the General promised, he would send his private men to kill the American. Sadao awaited the American’s death every morning but to his gloom the man was still alive, healthier and posing danger to him.
At this point Sadao becomes the real man in him, a true human being who realizes the essential worth of human life and universal brotherhood. He thinks beyond countries and continents and races and wars. He finds no reason to believe that the American is his enemy. Sadao rescues the American. Thus Sadao rises above narrow prejudices and acts in a truly humanitarian way.

Main Points

1. Dr. Sadao, a Japanese surgeon finds a wounded American soldier on the beach near his house.
2. He is unable to throw him back into sea though he was his enemy. Being a doctor, his first duty was to save a life.
3. Hana, his wife though initially reluctant joins her husband in operating and nursing the enemy soldier back to health.
4. It is dangerous to keep the enemy in the house so all the servants left. Hana does the housework alone.
5. The General did not send Sadao with the troops as he is an expert surgeon and the General might need him any time for an emergency operation.
6. Even General comes to know that Sadao is harbouring his enemy, he does not take any action and suggest that he would send his private assassins to kill the enemy and remove his body.
7. Dr. Sadao performs an emergency operation and succeeds.
8. The General promises a reward and saves the life of Dr. Sadao who in return helps the American soldier escape in his boat.

Short Answer Type Questions

Q1. What did Dr. Sadao and his wife see when they stood out looking at the sea?
Ans. Dr. Sadao and Hana were standing out facing the sea. Mist had gathered around their house. Suddenly they saw something black coming out of the sea. He was crawling on his hands and knees. Then suddenly he fell down on his face and lay there motionless. They went to see him. When they turned his face, they were shocked to see a white soldier. They read the print writing on the cap. “U.S. Navy”. The man was a prisoner of war.
Q2. In what condition was the American sailor when Dr. Sadao found him?
Ans. The American soldier was wounded. He was very weak and pale. He had a wound of a gun and had the bullet stuck in his wound. His face looked tortured and his back was stained with blood flowing from the wound. The wound was black and was also stuck by the rocks. He was almost at the verge of death if Sadao had not saved hi
Q3. What was the chief concern of Sadao’s father and what did he do for it?
Ans. Sadao’s education was the chief concern of his father. He never joked or played with the boy. He worried about his education only. When Sadao was twenty-two, he was sent to America to learn all he could of surgery and medicine.
Q4. Why was Sadao not sent to the battlefield?
Ans. Sadao was a famous surgeon and scientist. He was perfecting a discovery that could make wounds entirely clean. Moreover, he was treating the old General medically, and the General could need an operation also. That was why Sadao was not sent abroad with the troops.
Q5. Who was Hana and where did Sadao meet her?
Ans. Hana was Sadao’s wife. Sadao had met her in America at the house of a professor where some foreign students lived. But he had waited to fall in love with her until he was sure she was Japanese.
Q6. How did foreign students feel at Professor Harley’s house?
Ans. Professor Harley and his wife were kind people. They were anxious to help their few foreign students. But the students felt bored there. The rooms there were very small and the food was also no good. And the professor’s wife was very talkative.
Q7. How did Sadao and Hana get married?
Ans. Sadao met Hana in America. He liked her but he waited to fall in love with her. He wanted to be sure that she was a Japanese. His father, too, was very particular in such matters. Both Sadao and Hana came back to Japan after finishing their studies. Their marriage was arranged in the old Japanese way.
Q8. Why do you think Dr. Sadao’s father was a very traditional and conventional man?
Ans. Like a traditional and conventional person, Sadao’s father did all he could for the education of his son. Even in the marriage of his son, he was very traditional and conventional. He accepted Hana as his daughter-in-law only when he found that she was of the pure Japanese race. He arranged the marriage in the old Japanese way.
Q9. What did Sadao notice about the white wounded man? How did he stop its bleeding?
Ans. Sadao noticed that it was a gun wound that had reopened. The man had been shot some days ago and had not been tended. Now a rock had struck the wound and it had started bleeding. Sadao took some sea moss lying on the beach. He packed the wound with it and thus stopped the bleeding.
Q10. What did Sadao and his wife want to do with the white man after he had stopped his bleeding? Why?
Ans. Japan was at war with America. Thus if Sadao and his wife sheltered the white man in their house, they would be arrested. But if they turned him over as a prisoner, he was sure to be killed. Therefore, they thought the best thing would be to put him back into the sea.
Q11. Why did Yumi defy the orders of Hana?
Ans. Hana asked the maid servant Yumi to wash the wounded dirty man with warm water. Finding a white man she became stubborn as she had never washed a white man. So she was determined not to wash him. Hana cried at her sternly but Yumi had a fierce look of resistance on her round face. Then Hana decided to do it with her own hands and asked her to return back.
Q12. How did the gardener react about the wounded American soldier?
Ans. The old gardener was a superstitious person. He said that the white man ought to die. First he was shot. Then the sea caught him and wounded him with her rocks. It showed the man was fated to die and they had no business to save him.
Q13. Why did servants leave sadao’s house?
Ans. Dr. Sadao had given an enemy soldier shelter in his house. None of his servants liked it. They looked upon all white Americans as their enemies. When they saw that Dr. Sadao was not going to hand over the man to the police, they left his house.
Q14. How did Hana help Dr. Sadao while he operated upon the enemy soldier?
Ans. Hana was very much helpful while the operation was on. She dipped a small clean towel into the steaming hot water and washed his face. She was requested to give the anesthetic if needed. With the help of instruments from his emergency bag, Sadao made a clean and precise incision. The bullet was out and the doctor declared that the man would live.
Q15. At what point of time does Sadao decide to get the enemy out of his house?
Ans. The General had known about the presence of the enemy in Sadao’s house. He had forgotten his promise to send his personal assassins to kill the enemy. The enemy had recovered. Sadao had given him a lease of life. He had no desire see the enemy killed. Therefore, he decided to get the enemy out of his house and reach the nearby island.
Q16. Why did the messenger come to Dr. Sadao? What did Hana think about it?
Ans. The General was very ill. He was in pain and required medical treatment immediately. He had faith only in Sadao’s medical capabilities. With his orders, the messenger came to Dr. Sadao. Hana thought that the General would penalise her husband for giving shelter to an enemy.
Q17. In what context does Hana remember the cruel nature of General Takima?        
Ans. Hana remembers General Takima in the context of the sufferings of the prisoners of war. Moreover she knew that he was a ruthless despot. At home he beat his wife very cruelly. But no one mentioned it then because he had won a victory in the battle of Manchuria.
Q18. Why did the General spare the American soldier?
Ans. The General was in great pain and had to be operated on. In his own pain, he forgot all about the American soldier. So we can’t say that he spared the American soldier. He had only forgotten about him.
Q19. How did the old General offer to help sadao in getting rid of the white man?
Ans. The General said that he had his private assassins. He would send two of them any night. He said, “They are very capable assassins — they make no noise and they know the trick of inward bleeding. If you like, I can even have them remove the body.”
Q20. What instructions were given by Dr. Sadao to the American before he left for the sea?
Ans. Sadao instructed him to row and stay on the island for the arrival of a Korean fishing boat. He advised him not to bum any fire for fear of being caught. He gave him his flash light and told to signal two flashes. In case he ran short of food or still he was on the island, one flash would suffice. He sternly warned him to flash the light only at the sunset and never during the darkness.
Q21. What message does ‘The Enemy’ give?
Ans. ‘The Enemy’ gives the message that humanism transcends all man made prejudices and barriers. Here Dr. Sadao upholds the ethics of medical profession in treating an enemy. The story is a great lesson of peace, love, sympathy, fellow feeling and humanism.

Long Answer Type Questions

Q1. There are moments in life when we have to make hard choices between our roles as private individuals and as citizens with a sense of national loyalty. Discuss.
Ans. As private individuals, we have our own ideas. We have our own likes and dislikes. But as citizens of a state, we have a duty to be loyal and law-abiding. But sometimes a conflict arises in our mind. There is one thing we want to do as an individual. But our national loyalty demands from us quite the opposite. The choice becomes hard to make on such occasions. This is what happens with Sadao in the story, ‘The Enemy. As a doctor, he has been trained not to let a man die if he can help it. A doctor is not supposed to kill a patient even if the patient happens to be his enemy. But as a loyal citizen of Japan, he must not give shelter to an enemy. He must hand him over to the police at once. All through the story, Sadao struggles with this conflict. He himself admits, “In fact, I do not know why I am doing it.”
Q2. How would you explain the reluctance of the soldier to leave the shelter of the doctor’s home even when he knew he couldn’t stay there without risk to the doctor and himself?
Ans. Though the Doctor and his wife were Japanese, they had displayed extreme kindness towards him. He was an American prisoner of war who had escaped and was given refuge by the kind doctor and his wife even though this act was fraught with danger for the two of them. He had obviously suffered at the hands of the Japanese while in prison and the scars on his neck were the evidence of the torture that he had undergone. He was afraid that if he left their house he would be discovered and would have to face the dire consequences, possibly further and even worse torture.
Q3. What explains the attitude of the General in the matter of the enemy soldier? Was it human consideration, lack of national loyalty, dereliction of duty or simply self-absorption?
Ans. Human Consideration
In the matter of the enemy soldier, the General had taken a soft stand and spared his life as well as imprisonment for treason in the case of Dr. Sadao on account of human consideration.
(a) The General’s humanitarian instincts made him identify with the wounded soldier, who too, needed Dr Sadao’s medical intervention to survive.
(b) He favoured being treated by Dr. Sadao because this doctor, a humanitarian, unlike the other two Japanese surgeons, placed saving of human life above the technical perfection of their skill.
(c) Having been to Princeton, the General had imbibed American values for human life and unlike most Japanese who could turn over a prisoner to execution, showed his leanings towards human consideration in making decisions.
(d) He did not gloat over his victories in battle but rather felt weighed down by the added responsibilities that each victory brought alongside, showing his deeply human instincts.
(e) Instead of outright action he suggests that the prisoner is killed by assassins so that both he and Dr. Sadao are spared the agony of killing a fellow human being in cold blood.
Lack of national loyalty
There is no lack of national loyalty as the General contemplates ways of getting rid of the enemy under all circumstances. Though educated in Princeton, he is at heart Japanese and decides on getting rid of the prisoner by using hired assassins who know the native technique of internal bleeding. A true loyalist, he knew that serving his country did not mean taking lives of enemies unnecessarily. Thus despite proclaiming to Sadao that he would arrange for assassins he trusted Sadaos judgement in finding an alternative and effective way out of the problem. The General makes a self-confession explaining that he had not sent the assassins because he was preoccupied with his own health condition instead. This was a face saving answer as both the men knew that no true patriot kills an enemy in cold blood. The General rewards the doctor for his kindness indicating that true patriotism is not about taking advantage of a fallen and defeated enemy.
Dereliction of duty
The General is a cool strategist who plans actions like a professional soldier. While trusting his medical needs in his surgeon’s hands, he goes ahead and secures victories for his country. For him, his victories in battle are not occasions of personal success but moments of introspection and planning for the duties thrust upon him by additional victories. He knew of every move within his command and thus was aware of the presence of the enemy and Dr. Sada
o’s medical intervention to save his life, in the spirit of humanity. His duty as an officer and a gentleman required that he find a way that would not jeopardize his surgeon as also not give his enemy undue advantage. He helped Dr Sadao find a solution to the problem by goading him into action by suggesting that he was taking the extreme measure of sending hired assassins, without actually meaning to do so.
(a) Though the General glibly says that he forgot to order the assassins to kill the prisoner, taking cover under self-absorption with his medical condition, the following events distinctly prove contrary to this statement.
(b) Having ascertained Dr Sadao’s capabilities as a doctor who is both humane and technically skilled, he carries out his actions without further thought about his health.
(c) He is concerned about protecting the doctor facing the complexity of an enemy arriving at his doorstep instead of being absorbed with the repercussions of such a matter on his own career prospects.
(d) Even in the thick of his own illness he spares a thought about his doctor’s plight showing his utmost concern for Dr Sadao’s welfare instead of his own.
(e) The self-absorption was a perfect ruse to make Dr Sadao devise an escape route for his patient an enemy soldier.
Q4. While hatred against a member of the enemy race is justifiable, especially during wartime, what makes a human being rise above narrow prejudices?
Ans. Though the Doctor hated all Americans and felt superior to them, he felt that he had to do his best to save the life of the American prisoner of war who had got washed ashore, close to his house. The open resentment of his domestic servants and the obvious danger of giving refuge to an American prisoner of war did not deter him from carrying out his duties as a doctor. In this way, he rose above the narrow prejudices of race.
Q5. Do you think the doctor’s final solution to the problem was the best possible one in the circumstances?
Ans. It was indeed the best solution to the problem as in this way the American could finally escape the Japanese at whose hands he had already suffered, the Doctor could assuage his conscience which would have bothered him had the General’s plan of having the American murdered, been carried out and his wife, Hana, could feel relieved at the enemy’s departure.

Courtesy : CBSE