Progress Notes

White Rabbit

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Some things I hear or see stick with me for a long time. I have thought about this exchange for years. In the film Harvey Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood, an amiable alcoholic who has an invisible 6 foot tall rabbit as a companion. The film and play are perennial favorites for its sweet silliness and gentle philosophy. In the story, Elwood becomes entangled with psychiatrists and a mental institution because of his insistence on the reality of Harvey the Pooka Rabbit .

Elwood explains to Dr. Chumley that Harvey can alter time and space and take him anywhere he wants to go. But Elwood can't think of anywhere else he would rather be since he is perfectly happy wherever he is. Dr. Chumley, world weary, has seen it all and much of what he has seen was crazy or unpleasant, makes a wisecrack about miracles and this exchange follows:

"Elwood:..I always have a wonderful time wherever I am, whomever I'm with.
I'm having a fine time right here with you, Doctor.

Dr. Chumely: Oh. Oh, I... I know where I'd go.

Elwood: Where?

Dr. Chumley: I'd go to Akron. Akron! Oh, yes.
There's a cottage camp just outside Akron... in a grove of maple trees.
Green, cool, beautiful. That's my favorite tree.
And I'd go there with a pretty woman. Oh.
A strange woman, a quiet woman.
Oh, under a tree. I wouldn't even want to know her name, while I would be just... Mr. Smith.
Then I would send out for cold beer.

Elwood: No whiskey, huh?

Dr. Chumley: No.
Then I would tell her things.
Things that I've never told to anyone.
Things that are locked deep... in here.
And as I talked to her, I would want her to hold out her soft white hand and say,
"Poor thing. You poor, poor thing."

Elwood: How long would you want this to go on, Doctor?

Dr. Chumley: Two weeks.

Elwood: Two weeks? Wouldn't that get a little monotonous, just Akron, cold beer and "poor, poor thing" for two weeks?

Dr. Chumley: No! It would be wonderful."

I had to find the exact dialog because in my memory it is different. In my memory he says, "I want to lie in the grass beside a quiet stream with my head in a pretty woman's lap. She strokes my forehead gently and says, "There, there. There, there."

But "Poor thing. You poor, poor thing" would be perfectly O.K.

Wouldn't it be nice?


  1. Garuda's Avatar
    Funny how that happens: how you think a certain line of text from a movie or song is one thing, but it turns out to be different upon closer inspection, even though you were certain it was what you thought it was. An article I read recently explained that it's because we remember the event of X saying something that had an (emotional) impact on is. We remember the impact more than the actual text.
  2. Doc's Avatar
    Yes. I was a lot younger when I first saw that scene and didn't really have the experience of life yet to grasp Dr. Chumley's feelings or why he had them. He was just a stuffy, old authority figure to me then. But I knew it was significant, somehow and the idyllic scene and the lovely woman had an emotional impact on me even then. Now I realize he was longing for his work to be over, for release, for comfort, for rest and freedom. His reverie painted a lovely picture in my memory, which I remembered all this time. The picture and the emotional impact of the image his words created stayed with me while the words themselves did not.
  3. CasperParks's Avatar
    I keep forgetting to check the blogs...

    Doc, thank for sharing that with us.

    It was a great film, loved it as a child and still do.
  4. organelle's Avatar
    Daniel Johnson had a similar thought, although I think we are seeing evidence of some kind of quasi-universal ... ‘trope’ of sentimentality and personhood (the mother-relation at the tree).
  5. tomi01uk's Avatar
    I have just learned something here. Thanks
  6. Doc's Avatar
    Every so often Miss August reaches out her soft white hand to me and smiles, saying, "What is that I am supposed to say? 'Poor thing? You poor, poor thing.'" It makes me feel very good when she does that. Must be magic.