Showing 101 - 110 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is one of three of Poe's tales that deal with mesmerism, an increasingly common practice of the early nineteenth century. This tale evolves around a young gentleman of Virginia, who has developed a rapport, a dependent relationship centered on mesmerism, with a physician who had been converted to the practices of Mesmer.

One day, after taking his usual morning dose of morphine, the gentleman leaves for his daily walk in the Ragged Mountains. He returns with the tale of a bizarre foreign encounter in which he dies from a snake bite to the temple.

As the "dead" man tells his tale, the doctor confirms that it was not a dream despite the fact that the subject seems quite alive. Within a few days the gentleman is dead, presumably because of the accidental application to his temple of a poisonous leech. The twist at the end of the tale, which includes allusion to reincarnation, will not be revealed here.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a tight, short poem that takes its central metaphor from the uncredited quote, ". . . a madman attacked Michelangelo's Pietà with a hammer." The speaker is presumably a physician who, with a pathology report on his desk, contemplates the task before him. He likens himself, as bearer of grim news, to an avenging creature about to assault his patient, the Pietà, with a catalogue of cutting and pounding tools as images for the effect of such news on the recipient. The speaker also reflects on his own anger, the anger he feels about his patient's bad fortune, yet ". . . not wanting to judge / the cracked face of God."

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The Masque of the Red Death

Poe, Edgar Allan

Last Updated: Oct-08-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

During the course of a plague, Prince Prospero calls together his friends to come to his castle for fun and frolic until the danger of pestilence has passed. A masquerade is planned, and in typical "Poesque" fashion the great halls are described in imagery that foreshadows a horror to follow. The night of the ball comes, the guests arrive in their costumes and the festivities begin.

The gaiety is interrupted by the arrival of a guest, dressed in the garments of the grave besprinkled with the scarlet blood associated with the plague of "red death." The intruder stalks the halls until confronted by the host in (of course) the black hall. Without explanation, the host falls dead at the masquer's feet and the revelers, setting upon the intruder, find that the costume is "untenanted by any tangible form." Whereupon, the guests began to die in their tracks as they acknowledge the presence of the Red Death.

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Stones from the River

Hegi, Ursula

Last Updated: Apr-29-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Trudi Montag is a Zwerg, a dwarf. Born to a mentally disturbed woman who dies when Trudi is a small child, the girl reaches adulthood under the loving care of her father, a pay-librarian in a small German town. (A pay-librarian is one who runs a library as a business and charges the patrons to borrow books.) Trudi is angry, deeply resentful of her "differentness," and she uses her unique status in a variety of ways, both helpful and vengeful toward others.

For example, Trudi tells stories, some of which enchant and comfort frightened children during the war, others of which harm the lives and personal security of the townsfolk whom the story teller doesn't like. World War II comes and goes in Burgdorf; Trudi finds and loses romantic love; her father dies; and she begins, at the end of the tale, to reflect on the ways in which she has contributed to her own suffering and that of others.

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The Assault

Mulisch, Harry

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the winter of 1945 during the last days of the Nazi occupation of Holland, a Nazi collaborator is assassinated.

In retaliation, the Germans execute the adults in a Dutch family but eventually deliver one 12 year old son to safety. The Assault traces the lifelong repercussions of this event on Anton's life. It examines his attempts to forget and the strange periodic "episodes," little chance events, that continue to force the memory to surface long enough to become complete enough that he, as an aging adult, can finally effect closure and true "forgetting."

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Imagining Argentina

Thornton, Lawrence

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This mystical tale of memory and imagination in the face of personal tragedy is set in Argentina during the political upheavals of the 1970's. It is a story of the disappeareds, police prisoners spirited away for questionable offenses, tortured, and usually killed. The plot revolves around a man who has the gift of imagining the locations and the futures of many of the missing persons, but he cannot locate, by the same means, his own beloved wife. The power of memory and imagination in guiding an oppressed people through the darkest days of their struggle is the central concern of the work.

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Doctor Zay

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A Boston attorney is injured on the road while traveling by buggy in Maine. His rescuer, who stabilizes his fractures and transports him to town for continued care, turns out, much to the patient's dismay, to be not only an attractive woman, but a very competent physician. As the attorney becomes increasingly aware of the quality of medical care he is receiving, he also finds himself falling in love with his doctor.

The work is replete with demonstrations of Dr. Zay's skill as physician, her humanity, and her professional commitment. Eventually her resistance to her suitor's offers of marriage is worn down, but she demands a contract which guarantees she will be able to continue the practice of medicine after the wedding. Set in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the novel romanticizes the practice of rural medicine and the contemporaneous view of late Victorian women pursuing this "masculine" profession.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In his study, Professor Starr examines the evolution of the practice and the culture of medicine in the United States from the end of the colonial period into the last quarter of the twentieth century. His major concerns are with the development of authority, and the Janus image of professionalization as medicine has gained power, technical expertise, and effective modes of diagnosis and treatment and at the same time seems to be getting further from the patient.

At the time of publication, our society had finally begun to take a hard look at the impracticality and the inhumanity of continuing on the trajectory of American medicine developed one hundred years ago. Starr invites the reader to consider the impact of modern stress on the profession and, more intently, on the constituency it is dedicated to serve.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short narrative is told in the first person, the person of the quack. The tale opens with the narrator in the public hospital ward, suffering from what his doctors say is Addison's disease, composing the tale of his adventures which makes up the bulk of the work. The narrator tells us about his training as a physician and his first practice, which was sufficiently non-lucrative that he determines to alter his career direction.

He moves through a series of increasingly seamy scams in search of quick and easy money--including claiming to be a homeopathic physician, then an expert in vegetable remedies and "electromagnetic" treatment, falling through a multitude of suspect activities culminating in his setting up shop as a spiritualist. His shady career is cut short by his illness, from which he abruptly dies, thus ending the narrative.

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The Horse and Buggy Doctor

Hertzler, Arthur

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Hertzler leads the reader, topically and generally chronologically, through the nature of the practice of medicine in rural America from the 1880's through the 1930's. His early narratives are those of a child observing the ravages of epidemic diseases in the face of medical futility.

The remainder of the work, divided into subject headings, is devoted to anecdotes and observations on such things as horse and buggy home visits, kitchen surgery, the proprietary hospital and physician education. Having served not only as a rural practitioner, but as a professor of pathology at academic centers and a consulting surgeon, Hertzler draws on a wide experience over a period of time known for rapid advances in basic biological science which would, near the end of the narrator's life, open the way for technological medicine as we know it today.

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