Showing 11 - 20 of 37 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Retardation"

The Pastures of Heaven

Steinbeck, John

Last Updated: Nov-07-2009
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

One of Steinbeck's earliest published works, The Pastures of Heaven is a collection of stories about the inhabitants of a fertile valley in California, beginning with the Spanish corporal who first stumbles across the "long valley floored with green pasturage on which a herd of deer browsed" and concluding with the families living there during the first stages of the great depression.  Most of the stories take place in 1928-1929, although many are rooted in flashbacks and narratives that span the generations before.  

The novel consists of short stories that describe particular times and places within the valley, and collectively form multiple different perspectives on life there; they are linked by the valley but also by the relationships between the families, and in particular, the Munroes, whose pleasant, mild appearance in almost every story heralds disaster.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author's mission is to investigate, understand, explain, describe, and puzzle over the nature of phobias -- his own, and that of other sufferers. Allen Shawn is a composer, pianist, and teacher, and is a member of a gifted family: his brother, Wallace Shawn, is a playwright and actor; his father was William Shawn, for many years editor of the New Yorker Magazine. As a musician and academic, Allen Shawn is "successful." And yet, his life is severely limited by agoraphobia, "a restriction of activities brought about by a fear of having panic symptoms in situations in which one is far from help or escape is perceived to be difficult" (13). The author interweaves sections that summarize his extensive readings on the fight-flight reaction, evolution, brain and mind, Freud's theories on phobia--with his personal history, especially as he believes it relates to his phobia.

Shawn's descriptions of how he experiences agoraphobia are vivid and informative, detailing the situations that trigger his physiologic symptoms of panic and disconnectedness: driving on unfamiliar roads, any kind of travel that is unfamiliar, walking across or on the edge of open spaces, traveling across long bridges, being in enclosed spaces (claustrophobia). The agoraphobe, he writes, "feels at risk, as if at risk of sudden death or madness" (14). Shawn tells about what he must do in order to strike out on unfamiliar trips, that is, when he gathers up the courage to take them. He must venture up to the point where panic sets in, turn back, then on another occasion repeat the process but attempt to go further, pushing through the panic, until, one day, he can make the entire journey without turning back. Sometimes he never makes it to the desired goal.

The author points to several different factors that seem to predispose people to phobias: heredity, unconscious imitation of a phobic parent, upbringing. In his own case, in retrospect, his father showed symptoms of agoraphobia. Shawn discusses the underlying repression that was pervasive in his household -- his father carried on a long-term relationship with a woman while remaining married. Shawn's mother knew about the relationship from early on but any discussion of it was forbidden, even after it became common knowledge.

Perhaps more important in Allen Shawn's perception of repression is what happened to his twin sister, Mary, who was born with what is now considered to be autism, and mental retardation. Allen felt close to this girl, even though her behavior was unpredictable and baffling. When he was about eight years old, his parents sent her away to a special boarding school without warning Allen, or offering explanations. From then on he rarely saw her; 10 years later she was institutionalized. The family did not speak much about her and her "'exile' . . . added yet another layer of mystification to an already really mystifying atmosphere. It turned out that even in our temperate environment something extremely violent could occur" (177). Not long after that, Allen began to experience severe anxiety in certain situations.

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The Village Watchman

Williams, Terry Tempest

Last Updated: Aug-14-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a short piece, a scant twelve pages, in which Williams remembers Alan, an uncle who had mental deficits. During his breech birth, Alan’s brain was starved of oxygen. In the dominant American culture, Alan is called “retarded, handicapped, mentally disabled or challenged.” Williams concludes, “We see them for who they are not, rather than for who they are.” (p. 29) The title of the work refers to an Alaskan totem pole figure whose expression reminds her of Alan. In Tlingit culture, there’s a story of a kidnapped boy who lived with the Salmon People. When he returned twenty years later, he was seen as a holy man, not an “abnormal.”

To the young Terry Tempest, Alan demonstrated enthusiasm and spontaneity, for example bowling with reckless glee, regardless of where the ball went. When she asked him how he was feeling, he said, “very happy and very sad,” explaining that “both require each other’s company.” (p. 31) She liked his direct answers, those of a person we sometimes call a wise fool. Later, he lived in a “training school,” a joyless, ugly, and smelly place where abnormal children in Utah were sent and warehoused. Suffering from epilepsy, he wore a football helmet to protect him from sudden falls.

At age 22, Alan made the choice to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Williams describes the ceremony and how the family supported him through it (including yet another violent epileptic episode). When Alan died at age 28, Williams was 18. Looking at the totem pole, she remembers Alan, seeing him for who he truly was.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Harry (Daniel Auteuil) is a successful sales consultant for a large bank, but his marriage is over. After he forgets to pick up his little daughters at the railway station, his wife (Miou-Miou) quite understandably bars him from further contact. Angry, depressed, and driving alone on a wet night, he literally "runs into" Georges (Pascal Duquenne), an adult with trisomy-21.

Georges has escaped the institution where he was placed by his sister at the death of his beloved mother four years ago. Reduced to ineffectiveness and irrational behavior, Harry is simply unable to rid himself of Georges, allows him to take over his life, and accepts him as a friend on equal terms.

Georges draws Harry into an escapade with his fellow inmates that ends in a late-night frolic at a beach carnival and a spectacular display of fireworks for Harry's children that lures the family back. Georges is in love with Nathalie, a fellow inmate also with trisomy-21, and they share wonderful, neatly ironic daydreams of leading roles in a Mongol horde.

But Georges knows that they can never find happiness together. He eats a box of chocolates, to which he is greatly allergic, and calmly steps off the roof of Harry's skyscraper bank. Thanks to Georges, Harry's life is not only restored, it is vastly improved.

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Listen Carefully

Levine, Philip

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker, a young male, relates how he and his 26 year-old sister live together. They both work; she rises before dawn, he, later, returning home after one a.m. They sleep in the same bed. The sister is an assembly-line worker, skilled at her job, but "let me be frank about this: . . not smart." He helps her with the chores of daily life--answering the mail, cooking (cookbooks are too confusing for her). She has been unlucky with men, some of whom have physically abused her: " I've rubbed / hand cream into the bruises on her shoulders . . . I've even cried / along with her."

There is a fond intimacy between them. But is it sexual? "By now I believe I know / exactly what you're thinking" says the brother, three-quarters of the way through the poem. How could they resist sexual intimacy? His sister is beautiful, he admits to being curious about her body, she is vulnerable and needy. Well, if that is what you think, says the speaker "you're / the one who's wrong. You haven't heard a word." [41 lines]

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Summary:

The narrator of these short stories is a social worker who works for an agency for the blind, many of whose clients are diabetic, alcoholic, or mentally disabled as well. Over the course of the stories, the narrator leaves this work to go back to school in the arts, a personal ambivalence that may play some role in her continual, often dry critique of her clients, her work, and herself. Mostly, though, she casts a gruffly compassionate eye on the hard yet often rich and triumphant lives her clients lead, faced with financial and physical hardship as well as social ostracism.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A stray dog bites the left ankle of 12-year-old Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles. She and her peculiar parents live in a country near the Caribbean Sea during colonial times. Her father belongs to the class of decaying nobility. He is a weak man with poor judgment. Her scheming mother is a nymphomaniac who abuses cacao tablets and fermented honey. Sierva Maria is more or less raised by the family's slaves whose culture she assimilates. The youngster has luxuriant copper-colored hair and a penchant for lying--"she wouldn't tell the truth even by mistake" according to her mother. (p. 16)

Before long, the dog dies of rabies. When Sierva Maria begins exhibiting bizarre behavior, no one is quite sure of the cause even though everyone seems to have his or her own theory. Is the girl displaying signs of rabies? Is she possessed by a demon? The physician Abrenuncio doubts either diagnosis. The powerful Bishop believes the girl may require an exorcism. Perhaps Sierva Maria is simply eccentric or maybe even crazy. Ninety-three days after being bitten by the dog, she is locked in a cell in the Convent of Santa Clara.

The Bishop appoints his protégé, 36-year-old Father Cayetano Delaura, to investigate the matter. The priest is immediately infatuated with the girl. When the Bishop learns of Cayetano Delaura's love for Sierva Maria and his unacceptable actions, the priest is disciplined and then relegated to caring for lepers at the hospital. The Bishop next takes matters into his own hands by performing the rite of exorcism on Sierva Maria. After five sessions, she is found in bed "dead of love." (p. 147)

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Recitatif

Morrison, Toni

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

"My mother danced all night and Roberta’s was sick. That’s why we were taken to St. Bonny’s." Thus begins Twyla’s narrative of her long-term, intermittent relationship with Roberta, another eight-year-old who shares her failing grades and "not real orphan" status at St. Bonaventure’s, the shelter where they live for a few months.

The two girls become fast friends despite the discomfort occasioned by the situation, their problematic mothers (Roberta’s is hyper-religious and unfriendly; Twyla’s is pretty but childlike, an embarrassment to Twyla because of her casual clothing and behavior), and their racial differences (one is white, one African-American). They also share a defining moment, in which they watch bigger girls assault Maggie, a disabled woman who works in the institution’s kitchen.

The girls meet by accident four more times; as young adults in a Howard Johnson’s, where Twyla works and Roberta stops in with two young men on the way to the coast for "an appointment with Hendrix"; in a grocery store in Newburgh, the blue-collar town on the Hudson river where Twyla lives (Roberta lives in white-collar Annandale); at a picket line against a busing plan (Roberta is protesting the busing; Twyla ends up picketing for it); and finally in a diner on Christmas Eve. Each time they meet, they piece together what has happened in their lives, but also return to the defining moment of Maggie, arguing about what really happened and what role they played in the abuse.

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Told in the Drooling Ward

London, Jack

Last Updated: Sep-12-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story is told by a man living in "the drooling ward," part of a California mental institution. The narrator has been in the ward over 25 years; he helps feed and care for the others. He calls himself a "feeb"--feeble minded--but believes himself to be better than the droolers and certainly better than the stuck-up "epilecs" who though they seem normal throw such terrible fits. He feels as if he could get released from the hospital at any time, but he would rather stay. He tells of the two times he left the hospital. The first time, he was adopted by a couple that ran a ranch. He was forced to do many chores and the man beat him. He snuck off and returned to the home. The second time, he ran away with two "epilecs," but they were hungry and afraid of the dark so returned.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A one-armed tramp, appropriately named "Mr. Shiftlet," walks up to a run-down farm where an old woman and her retarded daughter, Lucynell, are sitting on the front porch. Lucynell cannot talk. Mr. Shiftlet persuades the old woman to hire him for work around the farm and for repairing a car. She says she can feed him but not pay him. Over a period of a few weeks he repairs the car (which is what he really wants) and offers to marry Lucynell if her mother will give him some money.

After the wedding Mr. Shiftlet takes Lucynell on a honeymoon, but abandons her in a country diner the first day, claiming she’s a hitchhiker. As he drives towards Mobile, he picks up a boy and begins to lecture him about being good to his mother. The angry boy jumps out of the car, and Mr. Shiftlet prays that God will "break forth and wash the slime from this earth."

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