The Love Interests of Christy: David vs. Doctor Neil MacNeill
(Contains Spoilers for Christy!)
I read Christy (by Catherine Marshall) in two days. Not only was it a beautifully written and timeless narrative of Appalachian culture… it was also a most refreshing romance. One of the most satisfying tropes in any story is the main character (Christy) falling in love while being unaware of it happening; she had never felt like this before. Sometimes true love, if its never been experienced… can indeed be unrecognizable. Love had to be -pleasing relationship… never mind that he basically watched her fall into a creek and didn’t help because his Sunday best couldn’t be soiled. Thankfully, towards the end, she discovered that her relationship and feelings for David weren’t loved at all. Now I’ve heard the questions before: When did she fall in love with Doctor Neil MacNeill? Did the Doctor really love her? Was she just a rebound after his wife died? How was the relationship with Neil relationship better than her and David’s? Here are some answers about how Christy and Doctor Neil’s relationship was TRUE LOVE:
- Respect: Christy has many ideas regarding how to improve education in the impoverished mountains. But David doesn’t take her seriously:
“David smiled at me in a patronizing way. “It just wouldn’t work, Christy.” Dr. MacNeill held up a restraining hand. “Wait a moment before we judge. Christy, what would David do with the men? What kind of classes?”
David dismisses Christy’s ability to lead on many occasions, where the doctor is always supportive and encouraging, within the realm of reason. Neil recognizes that the same passion Christy has for the mountain people is the reason he is a doctor today. Someone looked at him and saw the possibility in him… instead of poverty and now he is helping the people in his community. Neil respects Christy and appreciated her more than David has the ability to understand.
- Openness: At one point Christy is struggling with the death of a friend and she asks David for answers. He responds by saying that it’s best to not think about it. In contrast, Neil pushes Christy’s faith and beliefs, asking her why she believes what she does. Insisting that she not offer parroted responses for her faith but that she think for herself:
“Let it pour out, Christy. I don’t blame you. But this is the real you talking now, not some character you’re trying to be. You have fire in you, and I like fire in a woman.” -Neil
Another scene that so perfectly displays their relational openness is a section where Neil gives Christy a ride back to the mission:
Doctor: “I’ve known a few girls in my life, Christy, but I don’t believe I’ve ever met one as stubborn and as know-it-all as you are.” Christy: “‘Thank you. I was just thinking the same nice thoughts about you.’ The doctor chuckled.”
- Rebounds Abound: It’s been argued that Christy was just Neil’s rebound after his wife and child died of Typhoid three years beofre they met. But I argue that Christy is Davids’s rebound after having his quarter-life crisis. His proposal was offered in the midst of his doubting his occupation of being a pastor, one that his mother pressured him into. Furthermore, the reason we don’t really know the Doctor is in love with Christy is that he fights it. He doesn’t want to be in ‘love’ again because he recognizes that he doesn’t really know what the essence of love is. This stems from his previous marriage being a relational disaster, mostly because of Margret’s very demanding and spoiled nature, a flaw her mother admits to fueling. But towards the end of the book he realizes as he prays to God:
“I still don’t understand anything–except that somehow I know you are love. And that in my heart has been born so great a love for Christy as I did not know could exist on the earth. You, God, must be responsible.” -Neil, Praying at Christy’s Death Bed
By contrast, we see that David isn’t capable of loving Christy, and she knows it:
“Oh, David, what’s wrong? Why can’t you receive love? I’m afraid to admit it even to myself, but you don’t love me… You only want me in your arms, with my body against yours.” – Christy, To Herself
These are some of the most powerful instances I saw of Christy and Dr. MacNeill’s love being true and lasting. Let me know your thoughts! 🙂
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