Blog Entry 2: Who Is Phineas Gage and Why Is He Important?

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Hi all:

When you have finished the selection from Descarte's Error, go back and pick the quotation (could be as long as a paragraph) that you found most interesting, or important, or confusing, or illumination, and type it into the comment box.

Then write a few lines, up to a paragraph, explaining why you picked that particular quotation.

Remember: you entry will not necessarily appear immediately on the blog.

Also, please remember, if you do not wish to be identified as a member of this class, please use a false name and let me know what it is.

Nick

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20 Comments

"Distracted, and before his man has poured the sand in, Gage begins to tamping the powder directly with an iron bar. In no time he strikes fire in the rock, and the charge blows upward in his face." (pg.2)
- This quotation is intersting because if Gage was never distracted the job would have been done and he would have not got hurt. Instead, without noticing there wasn't any sand Gage began to tamper the powder and strikes fire in the hole causing an exlosion that blew up in his face. Why didn't Gage check first to see if there was any sand? If he did this Gage could have avoided the injury that caused him to die a couple of years later.

"The bang is unusual, and rock is intact. Also is the whistling sound, as of a rocket hurled at the sky. But this is more than fireworks. It is assault and battery. The iron enters Gage's left cheek, pierces the base of the skull, traverses the front of his brain, and exits at high speed through the top of the head."
I think that this part of the article is an important part because it's why this story exists. It also gives the audience a visual of how the accident happened the day of the incident.

"They noted sadly that "Gage was no longer Gage". So different a man was he that his employers had to let him go shortly after he returned to work, for they ''considered the change in his mind so marked that they could not give him his place again." The problem was not lack of physical ability or skill; it was his new character."

I choose this particular quotation because i found it to be very important. I thought this quotation was important because i liked how they describe Gage as no longer Gage since his whole personally changed after the accident. Since the accident, Gage personally changed tremendously causing him act violently towards other causing him to lose his job and eventually changing his life having him to migrate to different places and hard for him to find a stable job. Gage became a completely other person due to his personality causing people to know him as "Gage was no longer Gage".

"Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders; he talked so rationally and was so willing to answer questions, that I directed my inquiries to him in preference to the men who were with him at the time of the accident, and who were standing about at this time. Mr. G. then related to me some of the circumstances, as he has since done; and I can safely say that neither at that time nor on any subsequent occasion, save once, did I consider him to be other than perfectly rational."

I picked this particular quotation because this is a rather strange case. For someone to suffer a brain injury that serious and still be willing to talk is unbelievable. Mr. Gage must have been a really strong man because he survived the accident and on top of that he was talking normally like if nothing had happened, as any other person, a true miracle.

"Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders; he talked so rationally and was so willing to answer questions, that I directed my inquiries to him in preference to the men who were with him at the time of the accident, and who were standing about at this time. Mr. G. then related to me some of the circumstances, as he has since done; and I can safely say that neither at that time nor on any subsequent occasion, save once, did I consider him to be other than perfectly rational."

I picked this particular quotation because this is a rather strange case. For someone to suffer a brain injury that serious and still be willing to talk is unbelievable. Mr. Gage must have been a really strong man because he survived the accident and on top of that he was talking normally like if nothing had happened, as any other person, a true miracle.

"He had joined the tableau of dispirited people who, as Nathanael West would put it decades later, and a few hundred miles to the south, "had come to California to die."

This quote caught my attention because it illustrated Phineas Gage's feelings before his time of death. He tried looking for jobs and to start a new life, but he eventually quit due to the reason that i believe is the rejection from society. Everyone was talking about how he changed for the worse and no one cared about what he went through. Gage was not healthy in his mind in the first place, and everyone's negativity attributed to his short lived life.

"Gage's body may be alive and well, but there is a new spirit animating it."

I picked this line from the passage because I like the diction. The word "animate" was perfect to use because Gage no loner acted like himself, It was as if someone new inhabited his body and controlled his actions.

"...brain sectors whose damage would have caused Gage's heart to stop pumping and his lungs to stop breathing had not been touched by the iron rod."

I found it interesting and bizarre that Gage didn't die from the accident if the iron rod went through his head. It supposedly didn't triger any areas that would have caused him to die or lose conscious, all it did was destroy his frontal lobe. It's strange how it changed his personality and behavior to the opposite of what it was before. He went from social and responsible to reserved and ill-tempered.

"Phineas Gage will be pronounced cured in less than two months. Yet this astonishingoutcome pales in comparison with the extraordinary turn that Gage's personality is about to undergo. Gage's disposition, his likes and dislikes, his dreams and aspirations are all to change. Gage's body may be alive and well, but there is a new spirit animating it."

I picked this paragraph because I found it astonishing that getting hit on the head so severely and would only lose sight in one eye. Instead of losing anything physically, his personality took the hit. He changed completely and lost jobs over it. I didn't know that ones personality could be altered by getting hit in the head. I included the first sentence because although he is "pronounced cured in less than two months" he dies weeks later.

"Distracted, and before his man has poured the sand in, Gage begins tamping the powder directly with the iron bar. In no time he strikes fire in the rock, and the charge blows upward in his face."
- This quotation was intersting because I could picture each step that is occuring leading up to the explosion. Also that one little mistake caused Gage to get hurt and a couple of years later die. Gage always was a man who always did the job right without anything going wrong. This time he made a mistake by tampering the powder without there being sand and putting fire in the rock causing an explosion to blow up in Gage's face. If Gage never got distracted and checked for himself that there was sand in the hole, everything would have been fine.

"There are many Cages around us, people whose fall from social grace is disturbingly similar"(9). I chose this quote from the reading, Unpleasantness in Vermont, because it states how many humans have behavior changes in their life. People do not have to have a brain disorder or accident, to experience behavior problems. Addressing people as Cages refers to having a change of personality. Society does contribute to why people can act a certain way, and also family can change a person's personality.

"Gage has just put powder and fuse in a hole and told the man who is helping him to cover it with sand. Someone calls from behind, and Gage looks away, over his right shoulder, for only an instant. Distracted, and before his man has poured the sand in, Gage begins tamping the powder directly with the iron bar. In no time he strikes fire in the rock, and the charge blows upward in his face."

The reason for choosing this particular quotation is because it is amazing and tragic how at an instant everything one's worked for could end in a split second. Just the thought about one's life ending at any second is horrifying. It is uncertain when one's day may be their last and it is for that very reason that one should embrace life and enjoy every day of their life as if it were there last.

"They noted sadly that "Gage was no longer Gage." So different a man was he that his employers had to let him go shortly after he returned to work, for they "considered the change in his mind so marked that they could not give him his place again." The problem was not lack of physical ability or skill; it was his new character"(Dumasio pg. 4)


I picked this quotation simply because it interested me. It's somewhat sad to know that someone you have known, or worked with in this case, is no longer themselves. Having to see someone who was once such a great person to be around and maybe even admired go sour has to be hard. Also, I'm sure it had to be crushing for Gage to be fired not because he couldn't do the work, but because of his personality, but because of his personality I'm not so sure it bothered him too much.

"After the accident, he no longer showed respect for social convention; ethics were violated; the decisions he made did not take into account his best interest, and he was given to invent tales "without any foundation except in his fancy," in Harlow's words. There was no evidence of
concern about his future, no sign of forethought."
I found this quote quite compelling, it sums up the distress that Gage experiences after a horrific accident and nothing can really be done to fix his new personality. It is amazing how a brain injury can cause such significant and precise damage that it would change a persons moral and levels of respect for them selves and for others. Particularly, one doesn't hear of such a change, but most commonly brain injuries cause damage to either the ability to function a certain part of their body or to the ability to talk, write, hear, or process thoughts easily. Gage's predicament is very peculiar and very different and that is why it is an interesting situation.

"Gage lost something uniquely human, his ability to plan his future as a social being."

I picked this quotation because it intrigues me. If Gage lost the ability to plan his future,why did he hold several jobs after the accident. I think losing the ability to plan his future would have also affected his willingness to work in order to earn a salary.

"Gage 'got out of the cart himself, with a little assistance from his men.'"

I think this was the quote that perfectly described Gage's personality. In a simple sentence, it sent the same message that the author tried to send throughout the whole story. Aside from the fact that I love simplicity, I think this sentence is also one of the factors that helped Gage stay alive. Even when he was hurt, he stayed strong. He didn't want to accept help from anyone, sending the psychological message to his brain that he was going to fight this horrible accident. His mentality was set to not give up from the beginning, which may have had some effect on preventing him from dying at the end.

"He was now 'fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity which was not previously his custom, manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operation, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned... A child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he has the animal passions of a strong man'" (4)

Simply looking at the formation of this quote, I chose this specific combination of words because of its highly provocative nature in its learning capacity and depth of meaning. What this quote explains to me is that people change constantly. My favorite part of the quote is most definitely the last sentence. In a very poetic and yet revealing structure, it provokes a certain empathetic feeling towards one Phineas Gage. The truth is that in every individual there still remains childish behaviors and aspirations. What I question is what is wrong with having animal passions of a strong man? Aren't we suppose to fight passionately for what we strongly believe in?

"The survival is made all the more amazing when one considers the shape and weight of the iron bar. Henry Bigelow, a surgery professor at Harvard, describes the iron so: 'The iron which thus traversed the skull weighs thirteen and a quarter pounds. It is three feet seven inches in length, and one and a quarter inches in diameter."

After reading this line I had to pause for a second and realize how lucky Phineas Gage was to be alive after the explosion. I find it amazing that someone can live after having a rod pierce their skull and brain and after getting the description of the rod that had went through Gage's head,it was truly a miracle that he lived. It's even more amazing how he was still able to function after the horrid accident. This quote makes me realize that miracles do happen.

‘Gage lost something uniquely human, the ability to plan his future as a social being. How aware was he of his loss?’ I really thought this quote was important to Phineas Gage’s story because it summed up in one sentence the effect that the accident had on his life. It gives the reader a sense of what it might have been like to be Gage during the time after his so called recovery. I also chose to add on the question after the first sentence because I felt that it made us think about whether Gage was responsible for his actions or not. In my opinion he was not aware of his loss therefore making not only his death but also his life after the accident tragic. I also enjoyed the reading we had because it helped me understand more about the brain and Phineas Gage's story. It was amazing to find out that someone could actually go through something like that and not only survive but still seem like a normal human being. Although we find out that he was not normal. However, I was even more surprised to find out that there is a spot somewhere in my brain that makes me have respect towards others but most importantly myself.

Phineas P. Gage a respected twenty-five year old construction foreman had a life changing accident in the summer of 1848. One day, when Gage was working on his daily duties he suddenly became distracted that he did not pay attention to what he was doing causing an explosion. A pointy, one quarter inches in diameter rod pierced through his left cheek towards the base of his skull and through his brain. Gage survived the instant and was taken for medical care. Gage seemed as he was fine. He was able to walk, talk, and was completely able to move. Gage returned to work after recovery and was shortly laid off. He’s personality completely changed, he was “Gage but no longer Gage”. He wasn’t able to think of the consequences of his own action or think about his best choices for himself.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Tingle published on December 27, 2010 11:52 AM.

Entry 1: Welcome was the previous entry in this blog.

Entry 3: Phineas Gage: What's the Main Idea? is the next entry in this blog.

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