Showing 101 - 110 of 209 annotations tagged with the keyword "War and Medicine"

The Murderer

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Doctor Yashvin sits with his colleagues and admits, "I have killed a man." The story of his resistance activity during the Bolshevik revolution ensues. The young doctor was called to serve as the personal physician of an enemy colonel. In this command the doctor witnesses horrible atrocities against common people as well as resistance fighters, the last straw being the brutal beating of a woman who comes demanding to know why her husband has been shot. Called upon to attend to a knife wound sustained by the colonel and finding the latter in a vulnerable position, Yashvin takes advantage of the moment, shoots the colonel dead, and escapes.

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Summary:

This anthology frames a rich selection of fiction and nonfiction with astute and helpful introductions to issues in nineteenth-century medicine and the larger culture in which it participated. The fiction is comprised of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Steel Windpipe in its entirety; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, "The Doctors of Hoyland" from Round the Red Lamp; and selections from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Sarah Orne Jewett’s A Country Doctor, Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, W. Somserset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, George Moore’s Esther Waters, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris, and Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne [the full-length versions of many of the above have been annotated in this database]. The nonfiction consists of two versions of the Hippocratic Oath, two American Medical Association statements of ethics, and selections from Daniel W. Cathell’s The Physician Himself (1905).

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Losing Julia

Hull, Jonathan

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Losing Julia is narrated by Patrick Delaney, age 81, a World War I veteran, who lives, somewhat independently, in Great Oaks, an assisted living facility. Still able to go into town to get new clothes, books, etc. and enchanted with the kindness and loveliness of Sarah and other female staff members, the well-educated and quick-witted protagonist offers a fresh perspective on "institutional" care.

Much of Patrick’s story, however, concerns Daniel, a war-time buddy, and other soldiers in his embattled unit prior to and during the hellacious Battle of Verdun. Several soldiers are carefully and memorably drawn by the stories they tell about life at home and their aspirations. Daniel stands out as Patrick’s closest friend in the trenches, a young man who is courageous, rational, fearful, and in love with Julia.

Like his peers, Patrick listens to Daniel’s lyrical recollection of the woman others can only imagine. Patrick realizes that he has fallen in love with Julia’s image. Most of the men, including Daniel, are killed brutally in one of the war’s most savage battles. When Patrick’s post-war efforts to find the elusive Julia fail, he marries, works as an accountant, and has two children. Like the war, Julia remains, however, a constant shadow throughout his life.

When a war monument is constructed ten years later on the site of the last atrocious battle, Patrick, his wife, his toddler son, and his sister-in-law journey to Paris. With his family happily detained in Paris, Patrick goes to Verdun alone for the monument’s unveiling ceremonies with many other veterans and grieving family members. It is here that Julia appears and the two become lovers during the time at Verdun and then for a short time in Paris.

The story, non-sequential in its presentation, weaves the various elements of aging, memory, war, love, and loss together for readers to untangle and follow.

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Hospital Sketches

Alcott, Louisa May

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novelette

Summary:

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.

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The Hasty Heart

Patrick, John

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Written in 1944 and first staged on January 3, 1945 with Richard Basehart and Anne Burr and Earl Jones as Basuto, The Hasty Heart grew out of the playwright’s experiences in an ambulance unit on the Burma front in World War II. The play was made into a movie in 1949 (with Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan) and was revived on Broadway in 1984.

The Hasty Heart concerns, initially, six characters in a British General Hospital in the rear of the Assam-Burma front: a nurse (Sister Margaret--"Sister" is a British term for a nurse; she is not a religious--and five Allied patients: Kiwi (a New Zealander), Tommy (a Brit), Digger (an Australian), Yank (an American), and Blossom (an indigenous Basuto) who understands and speaks no English, an important fact for later developments in the play.

Patrick introduces us to Sister Margaret and the five original patients who are, for all their good-natured bickering and nationally directed gibes, clearly a cohesive unit characterized by the camaraderie of an in-patient ward with residential patients. For instance, Tommy, who is chronically kidded about his obesity, claims to be proud of it and accuses Digger of being jealous about Sister Margaret’s giving Tommy therapeutic back rubs.

Enter Colonel "Cobwebs," the medical officer. He solicits the group’s help and cooperation in keeping a new patient "contented." It seems the Colonel has just successfully removed a patient’s kidney damaged by shrapnel only to discover that the soldier’s remaining kidney is "defective." The wounded soldier, Lachie, a Scottish Sergeant, will therefore die in only six weeks of uremic poisoning. The Colonel has "decided against telling him" since "[W]orry won’t help him."

The Colonel tells the men and Sister Margaret that "The only help anyone can give him now, [sic] will come from you." When Yank asks, "And he thinks he’s well, sir?" the Colonel replies, "In a sense--he is. But it would be criminal to release him just to collapse up forward. Do what you can to keep him contented--and happy."

With the arrival of Lachie, an incredibly difficult, abrasive and unfriendly Scot with pathological chips on both shoulders, the scene is set for "an archetypal story about friendship under fire." [Mell Gussow as quoted in a 1984 NY Times review in the obituary above, op. cit.] Despite all their earnest attempts at striking up a friendship, the other patients find themselves rebuffed, often quite rudely, by Lachie. Eventually, at the insistent urging of Sister Margaret, they are successful. A birthday gift of a complete Scottish highlander outfit touches Lachie who admits that he’s never had friends and is, to no reader’s deep surprise, a truly lonely man.

Near the end of the play, the Colonel, following orders, tells Lachie his diagnosis and prognosis, and his superiors’ desire for Lachie to return home, despite his wishes to remain with his friends, in order to become a military hero to be honored before his death. Lachie understandably retreats into a shell of resentment, blaming the men for treating him with pity instead of friendship. Eventually things right themselves and the play ends happily.

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Good Form

O'Brien, Tim

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, a writer who was a soldier in Vietnam, discusses what he calls "story-truth" and "happening-truth." Telling stories, he says, can "make things present." The narrator challenges the reader to determine whether or not the tragic wartime episode that he describes really occurred. At the same time, he makes clear that it is "story-truth" that gives meaning to life.

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Guernica

Picasso, Pablo

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

This 25-foot-wide by 11 foot high mural was created in one month. Picasso’s most famous work depicts the Spanish Civil War event in which Fascist dictator Francisco Franco hired the Nazi Luftwaffe to destroy the small Basque town of Guernica. Thousands of civilians were slaughtered and wounded as the undefended town was razed in a single 3-hour bombing attack. Commissioned to design a mural for the Spanish Pavilion on any subject of his choosing, Picasso drew on photographs and published accounts of this bombing to provide the symbolic images and theme. (Pablo Picasso, A Retrospective, ed. William Rubin, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1980. p. 303). The black and white newspaper text is suggested in the patterned treatment of the horse’s body.

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Fragments

Wilkomirski, Binjamin

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Note, entered 12/99: The authenticity of this account has been called into question. Legal documents and school records contradict the author’s claim of being a Holocaust survivor. The author, however, maintains that his story is true. News accounts of this controversy first appeared in Weltwoche, a Swiss publication, in an article written by author, Daniel Ganzfried, who researched Wilkomirski’s background (August 27, 1998). Among later reports are those in The Times of London (Sept. 8, 1998), and The New York Times (Nov. 3, 1998). In October, 1999 (Oct.,14, 1999 NY Times report) the German publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag, withdrew from stores all hardcover copies and Schocken Books suspended publication on November 1, 1999.

My Summary and Commentary below were written under the assumption, which appears to be false, that Fragments is a memoir, and not fiction. All indications are that Wilkomirski believes his story to be true. Readers might consider the metaphoric significance of the Holocaust in ongoing individual suffering.

Note, entered 10/01: Interestingly, in relation to my final comment of 12/99 above, a recent article places Wilkomirski’s book within the context of scholarly work on trauma, memory, and testimony. See "Beyond the Question of Authenticity: Witness and Testimony in the Fragments Controversy" by Michael Bernard-Donalis (Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 116/5, October 2001: 1302-1315).

Note: 2/02: The recently published book, A Life in Pieces, by Blake Eskin (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002) tells the story of Wilkomirski, Fragments, and the research into Wilkomirski’s claims, and places the affair into sociohistoric context.

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Subtitled "Memories of a Wartime Childhood," this Holocaust memoir unveils the memory "shards" of a childhood spent in the Nazi death camps of Poland. The author, now a musician living in Switzerland, believes himself to have been born around 1939, in Riga, Latvia. He can’t be certain because his father was shot by militia as young Binjamin watched; later he was separated from his brothers; he remembers his mother only from one brief, forbidden visit with her in Majdanek concentration camp when they were both confined there.

Because the memoir is narrated primarily in the present tense, from the perspective of a confused, frightened child, in disjointed flashbacks, the reader viscerally experiences the bewilderment, physical hardships, the viscious cruelty of the guards, the sickening realities of existence (rats, lice, beetles; standing barefoot, ankle-deep in excrement), the fear and guilt [yes, guilt!--for inadvertently betraying another child]. But there was kindness as well--the wise older child, Jankl, who taught Binjamin survival techniques; the women inmates who hid Binjamin and other children under cloths in the laundry room--for weeks on end.

Near the end of the war, camp guards deserted and the surviving inmates staggered out--Binjamin was literally dragged along, against his will, by a camp inmate who recognized him. Somehow he ended up in an orphanage in Krakow, Poland. Here, there was fear of a different kind--distrust of all adults, fear of being "discovered" as a camp survivor (to be held responsible for another child’s death, and for abandoning his mother), total unfamiliarity with the habits of "normal" life.

Wilkomirski’s memoir begins and ends in Switzerland, where he was placed in foster care. In Switzerland there are other nightmares. Spastic attempts to verbalize his experiences are ridiculed, disbelieved, squelched. Not until a high school teacher--a German who fled to Switzerland during the war--shows documentary footage of the allied liberation of Mathausen concentration camp, does Binjamin realize that HE was never liberated. "Where was I when everyone else was being freed? . . . nobody tended us . . . the way it happened in the film. Nobody ever told me that the camp was . . . finally, definitely over . . . that . . . I could go forward without fear or threat into a new time . . . Not even later."

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Dr. Haggard's Disease

McGrath, Patrick

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this first person narrative, Dr. Edward Haggard addresses his story to James, the son of his former lover Fanny Vaughn. Haggard, once a surgical registrar at a major hospital in London, has isolated himself in a coastal town, where he serves as a general practitioner. The "present" of Dr. Haggard’s story is the early stages of World War II, when James Vaughn, a Royal Air Force pilot, lies dying in Edward Haggard’s arms.

The story’s "past" has multiple dimensions. The outermost, framing story recounts the relationship between James and Edward that began several months before the war and a year or so following Fanny Vaughn’s death from kidney disease. James sought out the reclusive Dr. Haggard to discover the "truth" about Haggard’s relationship with his mother.

The inner story consists of Haggard’s description of his reckless and passionate love affair with Fanny, an ultimately hopeless liaison between a young registrar and the wife of the hospital’s senior pathologist. Their few brief months of happiness ended when Dr. Vaughn learned of the affair, and Fanny made the realistic choice to remain with her husband and adolescent son. In a confrontation between the two men, Vaughn knocked Haggard to the floor, causing a leg injury that resulted in chronic pain and permanent disability.

Haggard resigned from the hospital and withdrew to a solitary life, in which "Spike" (the name he gives to his deformed and painful leg) is his only companion. He must constantly "feed" Spike with intravenous morphine to quell the emotional, as well as physical, pain. The situation only worsens when Haggard learns of Fanny’s death from kidney failure.

The obsession worsens further still after James Vaughn shows up at his door. As Haggard treats the young pilot for a minor wound (he has become the local RAF surgeon), he notices that James has a feminized body habitus--gynecomastia, lack of body hair, broad hips, narrow shoulders, and pre-pubertal penis. He interprets this as "a pituitary disorder" and attempts to convince James that he needs treatment. James is repulsed by these advances, which eventually escalate.

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Doctor Faustus

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.

Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.

In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."

Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.

Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.

The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),

Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.

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