The Enemy Summary and Analysis

The Enemy Short Summary

The story begins with a description of Doctor Sadao Hoki’s house in Japan which was located very close to a sea beach. The coast was outlined by pine trees which were always bent due to the sea wind. The readers are acquainted with the father of Sadao and his constrictive upbringing. Ever since Sadao was young, the father was concerned about his education and so to train him adequately, he sent his son to America to learn and practice medicine. The son makes him proud by becoming a surgeon as well as a scientist in his field. The obedient Sadao meets a Japanese girl in America and waits to fall in love with her until he is sure of her origin and nationality. They marry under their parents’ blessings and with full custom and tradition of Japan. The doctor is not sent away with the war troops because of his talents and usefulness to the General who was suffering from a critical health condition. He trusted no other doctor and also required his assistance in the discovery of a medical solution that would render a wound completely clean. Doctor Sadao Hoki and his family of wife and two children were content and happy with loyal servants around them who were treated like family.

The plot changes abruptly to a seashore in Japan with a note of tense disparity. The readers are made aware that Japan and America are at war with each other. In such times, one evening, the talented and respected Doctor Sadao Hoki finds a man washed ashore near his house in a dying state. At first, the man rises out of the mist and takes a few staggering steps but then his body gives out and he starts crawling on the narrow beach. The doctor and his wife are unable to see him clearly through the mist and they rush out of their house to help the man as they thought he was a fisherman out in the sea. Together they discover that the deeply wounded man is actually an American war prisoner who was probably trying to escape and got shot by a bullet in the back. From his yellow hair and the faded letters on his wet cap, they could deduce that he was a naval officer in one of the American warships.

Thus starts an account of a brave deed committed by the Doctor and his wife where an individual sense of right overcame their fear of being traitors in a politically disturbed and unstable country. In the following days since the discovery of the sailor from U.S. Navy, the Doctor fights his inner conflicts and allows his practised skills to take over and operate the man. Hana and Sadao find the resilience to survive this ordeal even when their servants desert them and they were living under the constant fear of being found out by the Government for hosting and helping a national enemy. Day by day as the escaped prisoner gained consciousness, their worry increased and somehow they couldn’t turn him into the police even when it seemed like the “right” thing to do.

One day, when the General needed him to help recover from an ailment, Doctor Sadao calmly and in a neutral voice-related the whole incident to him. He was ready to accept any advice given by the General and be relieved of his burden. However, when the General decides to send assassins to his house to quietly murder the American, he spent many nights tossing in his sleep, disturbed by the thought of violence that would be committed in his house. After about four such nights of expecting assassins, the Doctor impulsively decides to help save the life of the man he had treated by sending him off to a nearby isolated island on a ship loaded with food, water and clothes for him. That is how humanity gained a victory against the sentiment of war through the courage of one sensible doctor.

The Enemy Analysis

At the time when the world was busy with the wars, very few Royals and Generals had any inclination towards saving the lives of the underprivileged. The poor masses and their suffering families were considered as collateral damage in a war they didn’t plan or start. Many battles have been fought over the thousands of years since human civilization but the World War hit hard and damaged the morale of humanity because it happened at a time when we felt more human and civilized than ever before. Science and medicine were making progress, trade and business had started to flourish worldwide, people were finally getting over superstition and discrimination to mingle together in an educated society. Right, when we were on a path to development; greed, power and politics made us turn on each other, which resulted in so much loss of life and suffering. The story, The Enemy, by acclaimed American writer Pearl S. Buck, is based on similar themes of human compassion and the ravages of war.

The Enemy Explanation: Literary Devices

The story is narrated in a simple manner using the third person narration. It enfolds with a proper introduction and background to the characters which make the incidents even more revealing.

Other important aspects of the narration include memories of the Doctor’s time spent in America, his relationships with his professor and landlady. These memories and his thoughts related to them reveal a lot about his character and personality. The setting of the story is also important as it happens in a war driven Japan with tales of cruelty everywhere. Also, symbolism and colloquial references have been made use of to highlight the difference in culture (like the Kimono and Gardner’s use of animal blood to fertilize his plants) but they are contrasted by the human sentiments of compassion that are independent of the social prejudices.

The Enemy Character Sketch

Dr Sadao Hoki is a man steeped in the nuances of his culture and national pride. His outlook towards the Americans, in general, are conflicted and prejudiced. The same is reflected in his thoughts and actions towards the American escaped prisoner who is also a patient and a “friend” when he is in the trance of surgical operation. The looming dread of punishment on grounds of national treachery hangs like a noose above his head and all his decisions are determined around it. He serves his inner integrity by saving the man’s life and operating on him skilfully but he remains critical in his stance of the “enemy” remaining in his house, endangering him, his reputation and the lives of all those he loved.

The main protagonist is assumedly the Doctor Sadao Hoki, but the characters around him, all have pivotal roles in the development of the plot, especially his wife Hana. She is an uncomplicated woman who has led a straight life, devoted to her husband and their household. She is a just and kind mistress of the house who has the respect and concern of her servants. Nevertheless, she is unable to dominate the choices and opinions of her servants when they leave the house and lets them go. She displays a sense of calm indifference and defiant resolution when they all cry as they say farewell to her. That is how she shows her superiority by not reacting to their rebellion, and quietly doing the work for the patient which they refused to do. Despite her forebodings and fear of the “white man” she nurses him back to health and treats him like a fellow human being.


To conclude, the story The Enemy discusses the concept of righteousness overlapping the concept of sin among mankind. Rationality and human empathy should reign our senses when dark instincts of fear and cruelty out of social bias threatens to dominate. Japan and America were bitter enemies and the people of these two nations had been convinced to hate each other. This story is based in Japan, and through the conversations between the characters, we can understand the political impositions they went through and how treating any American as ‘the enemy’ was the most important display of true patriotism. The hatred was almost blind and prejudiced but that was the norm of the society. It was this prejudice in the aftermath of the war that made the job of saving the life of an American prisoner so tough and dangerous for Doctor Sadao Hoki. However, in the end, all thoughts of enmity and treason gave way to human kindness and to the impulses of a good doctor who knew nothing above the sacred oath of saving lives when he could.