Important People in When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi
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Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi is the book’s author and central character: the work is a memoir of his experiences before, during, and after receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer. As he begins his story (in a Prologue), Kalanithi is in his mid-thirties, on the cusp of a potentially successful, lucrative, and respected career as a neurosurgeon and teacher. He experiences all that potentially taken away, at least temporary, by that diagnosis: the narrative as a whole is an evocation of both his past (i.e. the experiences of his childhood, youth, and young adulthood that got him to that point), his present (i.e. his experiences of not only receiving treatment for cancer but of his simultaneous contemplations of life and its meaning), and his hopes for the future (i.e. resuming his career, having a family).

What makes Kalanithi and his story unique is that in...

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This section contains 1,291 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the When Breath Becomes Air Study Guide
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