"Dr. Pawel Obarecki returned home in rather a bad temper from a whist-party, where he had been paying his respects to the priest, in company with the chemist, the postmaster and the magistrate, for sixteen successive hours, beginning the previous evening. He carefully locked the door of his study so that no one, not even his housekeeper, aged twenty-four, should disturb him. He sat down at the table, glared angrily at the window without knowing why, and drummed on the table with his fingers. He realized that he was in for another fit of his " metaphysics.
It is a well-established fact that a man of culture who has been cast out by the irresistible force of poverty from the centres of intellectual life into a small provincial town succumbs in time to the deadening effects of wet autumn, lack of means of communication, and the absolute impossibility of sensible conversation for days together. He develops into a carnivorous and vegetable-eating animal, drinks an excessive quantity of bottled beer, and becomes subject to fits of weariness resembling the weakness that precedes physical sickness. He swallows the boredom of a small town unconsciously, as a dog swallows dirt with his food. The actual process of decay begins at the moment when the thought " Nothing matters " takes hold of the organism. This was the case with Dr. Obarecki of Obrzydtowek. At the period of his life when this story begins, he had already come to the end of the resources of Obrzydlowek as regards his brain, his heart, and his energy.
He had an unconquerable horror of intellectual effort, could walk up and down his study for hours together, or lie on the couch with an unlighted cigar in his mouth, straining his ear to catch a sound which would foretell an interruption of the oppressive silence, anxiously longing for something to happen: if only someone would come and say something, or even turn somersaults! The autumn usually oppressed him specially; there was something painful in the silence brooding over Obrzydlowek from end to end on a late autumn afternoon " something despairing that roused one to an inward cry for help. As though a fine cobweb were being spun across it, his brain elaborated ideas which were sometimes coarse and occasionally positively absurd.
Dr. Pawel's " metaphysics," with which he was seized from time to time, consisted in a few hours' severe self-examination. This was followed by a violent inflowing of memories, a hasty amassing of shreds of knowledge, and a furious struggle of all his nobler instincts against the stifling inactivity; he indulged in reflections, outbursts of bitterness, firm resolutions, and projects. Naturally all this led to nothing, and passed in time like any other more or less acute illness. A good sleep would cure him of " metaphysics " as of a headache, and enable him to wake up fresh the next morning, with more energy to meet the tedium of daily life, and with a greater mental capacity for the invention of the most savoury dishes. This endemia of " metaphysics " the doctor realize, however, when his mind was filled with the philosophy of strong common sense, that beneath his existence as a well-fed animal there was a hidden wound, incurable and unspeakably painful, like that of a diseased bone."
Żeromski's "Stronger sex" tells of a poor, idealistic doctor who opens a practice in a small provincial town. The overwhelming ignorance, superstition, and conservatism of the peasant populace deadens his intellect and robs him of any professional drive he once possessed.