Showing 11 - 20 of 107 annotations contributed by Moore, Pamela
Sitting around the dinner table one evening, the Toumeville family receives news that the Marquis de Fumerol, Mrs. Toumeville’s brother, is dying. The Marquis squandered his money and reputation on a series of loose women; as a consequence, he has not seen his sister in years. Nevertheless, the Toumevilles leave immediately for his bedside in fear that the Marquis will die without having reunited with God. The Toumevilles are not so much concerned with the Marquis’ eternal life as with the possibility that the "freethinkers" and socialists will make the Marquis a hero for turning his back on the morality of the aristocracy.
The Marquis receives his nephew kindly, but when the priest enters he flies into a rage. The priest is forced to retreat. While the family is considering another plan of attack, they hear screams from the sick man’s room. A Protestant clergyman had entered and the Marquis grew so angry that he collapsed. His nephew thinks he is dead. His mother and the priest, however, act as though he is still alive. The priest administers extreme unction and Mrs. Toumeville cries out that her brother has squeezed her hand, recognizing her and accepting religion.
Laqueur argues that in the course of medical history there has been a shift from the one-sex to the two-sex model. Prior to the seventeenth century, scientists of all kinds believed that there was only one kind of human body. Men and women were the same.
In drawings made during dissections, for example, scientists from Aristotle to Galen identified female genitalia as male genitalia which were simply inside the body rather than outside of it. Thus, the vagina was identified as penis and the uterus as testes. Women’s organs were internal, it was believed, because they were colder (and therefore inferior). It was possible for a woman to turn into a man if she over-exerted herself and became hot. After the seventeenth century, this one-sex model slowly transformed into the two-sex model popular today according to which men and women have different bodies and different attributes that follow from those bodies.
Laqueur does not think that earlier scientists were mistaken. They carefully performed dissections and recorded what they saw. Their drawings are correct. However, because their world view did not allow for two sexes, the parts are identified differently. In later centuries it became politically necessary to create a greater, natural distinction between men and women, a distinction that could not be remedied by greater heat. The material evidence of the body was thus interpreted differently.
Set in 1665, Journal of the Plague Year is a fictional account of the plague that set upon London that summer. Defoe, one of the first British novelists, walked a thin line between fact and fiction. His book poses as a firsthand account and contains statistical information on the plague, but is primarily fictional.
His novel charts the development of the infection, its spread, and the destruction it left in its wake. He provides gruesome accounts of medical practice in the era, including graphic descriptions of women dying in childbirth and vast burial pits. Doctors tried to stop the spread of the disease by killing 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats who they assumed carried the disease.
Young Jane Eyre was orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, who dies shortly after her arrival. Her step-aunt despises her and sends her to Lowood School so that she can become a governess. She wins the friendship of everyone there, but her life is difficult because conditions are poor at the school. Not until typhus kills many of the students do conditions improve.
Jane completes her education there and obtains a position as governess at a house called Thornfield. Jane’s student is Adele Varens, a petulant but loving ward of the master of the house, Edward Rochester (and possibly his illegitimate child). Rochester is rarely at home and Jane spends most of her time with Adele and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. When Rochester does come home, he is often moody and imposing.
One night, Jane wakes to strange noises and the smell of smoke. She finds Rochester unconscious in his bed, which is on fire. Other odd things happen in the house: Jane often hears strange laughter and thuds. Jane has meanwhile realized that she loves Rochester but in her pride refuses to confess it.
When Rochester invites a group of friends to the house, including Blanche Ingram whom he is expected to marry, Jane is treated like a servant by the guests. One of the guests, Mr. Mason, is mysteriously injured. Jane is also troubled when her former guardian, Mrs. Reed, calls her to her death bed and admits that several years earlier she had received a letter from one of Jane’s distant relatives, John Eyre, a wealthy man who lives in Madeira. Mr. Eyre had offered to adopt Jane, but Mrs. Reed maliciously told him that Jane had died in the typhus epidemic.
When Jane returns from this visit, Rochester asks her to marry him and Jane joyfully assents. Two nights before their wedding, she wakes to find someone in her room, wearing her wedding veil. She faints in fear, but Rochester convinces her it is her imagination. At the wedding, a man interrupts the service, saying Rochester is already married. Rochester admits it and takes the wedding party to the attic. His wife is a Creole, Bertha Mason, who went mad immediately after their wedding fifteen years before. Now she is imprisoned in the attic.
Jane decides she must run away. Penniless, she becomes a beggar until Reverend St. John Rivers and his two sisters generously take her in. She lives with them under an assumed name, and it is only by accident that she learns simultaneously that John Eyre has died and left her his fortune and that the Rivers are her cousins. They share the fortune. Rivers presses her to marry him and join him as a missionary. He admits that he does not love her, but he thinks Jane smart and useful. Jane feels she must do her duty, but she does not want to marry Rivers.
One night, Jane hears Rochester’s voice calling to her. She returns to Thornfield and finds the house burned to the ground. Bertha had set fire to it and Rochester became blinded in his unsuccessful attempt to save her life. Jane and Rochester marry. It is intimated that Rivers will die gloriously for his cause.
Alcott briefly served as a nurse during the Civil War. These three brief "sketches" recount her experiences, though she gives herself a pseudonym and presumably embellishes her tale. The first sketch recounts her decision to become a nurse and her journey from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. Despite her support of female equality, she finds her tasks go more smoothly when gentlemen help her.
The second sketch describes her job at the hospital. When the wounded are brought in, it is her duty to help wash and feed them, assist the doctors, and cheer the men up. She calls the men her "boys" and treats them maternally. In the third sketch, she falls ill herself and is brought home by her father.
In a postscript, she talks a bit more about the hospital. She criticizes its disorganized management and mocks the doctors, many of whom treat the patients as interesting problems to be solved rather than as people. Caring is left to the nurses. She mentions that she expected to be treated poorly by the doctors herself, but finds that they treat her well (though she also says they receive much better food and sleeping quarters). This section also contains lengthy reflections on the "Negroes" who help at the hospital.
Louis Trevelyn, a wealthy and respected Englishman, marries the poor, but spirited, Emily. They live happily together for about a year, and have a son. Emily begins to accept regular visits from Colonel Osborne, an old friend of her father’s, who claims to visit Emily only as a family friend. However, his age sits lightly on him and he has a reputation for breaking happy homes.
Louis, in a jealous rage, instructs his wife to refuse all further visits from Osborne. Emily believes that he is accusing her of infidelity and is extraordinarily angry. She insists that Osborne is simply a friend. Neither partner will apologize. Eventually, Louis can no longer live with his wife. He sells the house, sends Emily and Louis, Jr. to live in the country and sets himself up in a squalid boarding house.
Emily does not wish to be separated from her husband and grows less prideful. She will gladly obey Louis’ command to no longer see Osborne, but she will not apologize for having seen him, as she believes it would be tantamount to confessing adultery. Louis, meanwhile, grows increasingly obsessed with her "disobedience" and hires a private detective to keep an eye on his wife. The detective finds that Osborne insisted on a visit to Emily-- visit that was public and lasted ten minutes, but that nevertheless leads Louis to steal his son and flee to Italy.
Louis’s obsession makes him mentally and physically ill. When Emily and her family track him down in Europe, he is deathly thin and seems mad, convinced that his wife, his friends, and even the private detective are against him. This wretched marriage is contrasted to several other relationships that develop in the course of the novel. These are based on mutual respect and love rather than self-pride and so flourish. These happy couples also physically and mentally change, but for the better.
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead. Sometime in the future, conservative Christians take control of the United States and establish a dictatorship. Most women in Gilead are infertile after repeated exposure to pesticides, nuclear waste, or leakages from chemical weapons. The few fertile women are taken to camps and trained to be handmaidens, birth-mothers for the upper-class. Infertile lower-class women are sent either to clean up toxic waste or to become "Marthas," house servants. No women in the Republic are permitted to be openly sexual; sex is for reproduction only. The government declares this a feminist improvement on the sexual politics of today when women are seen as sex objects.
The novel focuses on one handmaid, Offred (she is given the name of the man whose children she is expected to bear--she is of Fred). Offred became a handmaid after an attempt to escape with her daughter and husband from Gilead. They fail; her daughter is given away to a needy woman in the upper circles, and Offred does not know whether her husband is alive or dead, whether he escaped or was captured. Offred is in the service of the General and his wife, Serena Joy. Serena Joy hates that she is unable to bear children and hates Offred for taking her husband seed. If Offred does not become pregnant promptly, Serena Joy will undoubtedly take revenge by sending her away, possibily to the toxic colonies.
Offred does not become pregnant, but she does develop an unexpected relationship with the General. He plays games of Scrabble with her (all forms of writing are officially denied handmaids) and gives her gifts of cosmetics and old fashion magazines. One night he dresses her in a cocktail dress and takes her to an illegal nightclub where Offred runs into an old female friend, now a prostitute in the club.
Serena Joy, desperate for children, finally arranges for Offred to sleep with the chauffeur. The two are happy together; she thinks she is pregnant. Soon after, Serena Joy finds the cocktail dress the General gave to Offred. She knows her husband is to blame, but accuses Offred anyway and sends for the police to take her away to certain death. When the van arrives to take her away, however, it is driven by rebels who carry Offred to safety.
Cohn surfaces from a deep-sea dive to find that the world has been destroyed by nuclear war. His boat is still there, though all the crew members are gone. He hears the voice of God say that He is creating a second flood to wipe out the humans who have once again disappointed him. Yet Cohn is not another Noah, merely someone overlooked. He waits for his death or the ebbing of the flood, whichever comes first.
He discovers that a highly trained chimpanzee, Buz, has also survived and lives on board. Soon, Buz and Cohn sight a tropical island. Crusoe-like, they set up a home on the island, which apparently has no animal life. The two survive on fruits and rice. Cohn discovers that Buz’s former owner, an eccentric German scientist, implanted a voice box in the chimp’s throat. Cohn connects the wires that jut from his throat and the chimp begins to speak fluid English. Other animal life begins to appear on the island, all of it simian. A gorilla shows up first, a troop of chimps follows. Buz teaches them English.
Cohn imagines that chimpanzees are meant to replace man as the dominant creature on earth and he tries to teach them to avoid the mistakes of man. But the chimps have their own agenda. The dominant male, Esau, tries to "rape" the female when she first comes into heat and threatens all the other chimps. When Cohn mates with the female, producing a human/chimp child, the jealousy of the other chimps becomes a destructive force. Baboons appear by the shore and the young chimps hunt, kill, and eat the baboons, calling them dirty, stupid creatures. When Cohn complains, they steal his child, finally killing her. They then force Cohn to carry wood up the mountain. They slit his throat and throw him onto the fire, built from the wood he carried.
As the story opens, Raphael enters a gaming house and loses the last of his money. He decides to drown himself in the Seine. As he waits for the crowds to leave the evening streets, he wanders into an antique shop, where he tells the shop keeper that he is going to kill himself and the man shows him a mysterious-looking skin hanging on a wall. It is inscribed with a message in "Sanskrit" that one who owns the skin will have any wish granted, but that each wish will cause the skin to shrink. When the skin disappears, its owner dies.
Raphael brashly decides to take the skin. He wishes for a rich dinner, a fortune, and women. As he leaves the shop, he is stopped by friends who invite him to a dinner. Raphael tells his history. He is the son of a fairly wealthy man, but he squandered his fortune. He has spent the last three years studying in a garret and trying to win the love of Foedora, a cold society woman. His garret was warmed by the friendship of Paulina, his landlady’s daughter.
As the dinner party ends, Raphael receives word that he has inherited a vast fortune. His wishes are coming true and the skin is shrinking. Raphael now clings to life and arranges it so that his servants supply his wants before he even realizes them. One evening, he encounters Paulina; she too has inherited money and he is struck by her maturing beauty. Foedora seems ugly next to Paulina’s purity. Raphael wishes that Paulina will love him. They marry, but the skin continues to shrink.
Doctors are called to treat Raphael as his health fails and they argue over whether his disease is caused by his mind or whether his mental obsession is caused by a physical disturbance. They cannot resolve the dispute, but as their patient is a millionaire they decide to treat him anyway. They suggest applying leeches and traveling to "take the waters."
Raphael does travel and at one point duels with another young man. He warns his enemy to ask his forgiveness for otherwise, Raphael’s bullet is bound to kill him while the others’ bullet will surely miss. The other refuses and Raphael, though he shoots randomly, kills him. He takes refuge in a country cottage, but still has desires which the skin satisfies without Raphael’s conscious intention.
He returns home to Paulina and tells her about the skin. Knowing he is going to die, he indulges in a final burst of passion for her. She sees that such desire will kill him and tries to kill herself to spare him, but fails. Raphael dies.
A doctor has become fascinated by mesmerism. He is curious to see what would happen to an individual put under hypnosis while dying. Would it stave off death? Would dying make hypnosis impossible? A friend agrees to be the subject of this experiment.
Seven months later, the doctor is called to the dying man’s bedside. As the patient’s breath and heartbeat slow, the doctor successfully hypnotizes him. The dying man feels no pain and responds to questions without rising from his trance. He asks the doctor not to wake him, but to let him die without pain. The next day, the patient’s eyes roll upward, his cheeks lose their color, and his mouth falls open. The man is apparently dead.
As they prepare him for burial, however, the tongue begins to vibrate and a minute later, answers the question the doctor put to the patient just before his death. "Yes; - no; - I have been sleeping - and now - now - I am dead," says the corpse. The amazed doctors leave the patient in exactly the same state for seven months. Finally, they resolve to wake him. As he begins to wake, the doctor asks what the patient’s wishes are. The dead man cries out that he is dead and must be awakened. The doctor wakes him and the corpse immediately falls apart into "a nearly liquid mass of loathsome - of detestable putridity."