Magnificent Obsession  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Magnificent Obsession is a 1929 novel by Lloyd C. Douglas. It was one of four of his books that were eventually made into blockbuster motion pictures, the other three being The Robe, White Banners and The Big Fisherman.


Plot summary

Robert Merrick is resuscitated by a rescue crew after a boating accident. The crew is thus unable to save the life of Dr. Hudson, a physician renowned for his ability to help people, who was having a heart attack at the same time on the other side of the lake. Merrick then decides to devote his life to making up for the doctor's, and becomes a physician himself.

In the book

The book's plot portrays Mrs. Hudson, the widow, moving to Europe after her daughter, Joyce, is married. Merrick progresses in his career, and in the story's climax, gets involved in a railway accident in which Mrs. Hudson suffers serious injury. Merrick is instrumental in her recovery.

In the movie

The movie differs from the book in that before deciding to become a surgeon, Merrick not only alienates the physician's widow, with whom he has fallen in love, but also causes another tragedy. This makes him totally re-evaluate his life, and at that point, he decides to enter medicine.


The story behind the novel, and the identity of the surgeon on whose life it is based, is mentioned in articles in the American Association of Neurosurgeons' journal AANS Neurosurgeon, Magnificent Obsession and "Inspirations and Epiphanies"

The theme of the book is based on a passage from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 6:1-4):

"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.....That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."

The philosophy behind the book is also partly that of "pay it forward", the idea that good deeds received are not to be paid back to the doer of the deed, but to a needing person in the future.

Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal

Douglas later wrote a book in response to the flood of letters he received from readers who wanted to know where they could find the book to which he referred in the novel, Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal. The Robert Merrick character decoded the journal, from which he learned the secret of his extraordinary success as a doctor. (According to the book, the secret was the literal practice of doing good deeds secretly, and thereby reaping spiritual power to use in becoming an excellent doctor.)

Film, television or theatrical adaptations

Other uses of the title

  • Steven Curtis Chapman has a song called "Magnificent Obsession." It appears in the 2003 WOW Christian Hits album.
  • Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright's Buildings in Japan
  • Z Channel: Magnificent Obsession

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Magnificent Obsession" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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