Showing 1051 - 1060 of 1141 annotations tagged with the keyword "Human Worth"

A Midwife's Tale

Lee, Kaiulani; Rogers, Richard

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This docudrama traces the life and work of Maine midwife, Martha Ballard (Kaiulani Lee), through the account of her own diary from 1785 to 1812. She and her surveyor husband, Ephraim (Ron Tough), moved from Massachusetts to the frontier of Maine during the Revolution; the rapid social changes in their new republic are felt at the domestic level. Ballard cared for many sick people, more than a thousand women in labour, and their infant children. She also becomes a witness for a woman who was raped by a judge.

A local doctor makes a brief appearance as a bungling meddler; other doctors perform an autopsy of her own deceased niece, which the midwife attends; but most often Ballard works alone. Her five surviving children leave home, and she comes to relate the experiences of her patients to those of her own life.

Her husband shares the slow decline into age surrounded by the frictions of proximity with an uncaring son and his months in debtors' prison. The recreation is interspersed with interviews and voice-over with historian and author, Laurel Ulrich. Ulrich describes her discovery and fascination with the Ballard diary, the difficulties in interpretation, and the still unanswered questions.

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Old Folk's Home, Jerusalem

Dove, Rita

Last Updated: Oct-21-1997
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Visiting an old folk's home in Jerusalem, the narrator notes the details of life and of nature--evening, the bees' buzzing busy-ness gone for the day, "the honeysuckle / in its golden dotage, all the sickrooms ajar." There ends, however, the "normal," for in the next lines we are brought up short with "Law of the Innocents: What doesn't end, sloshes over . . . even here, where destiny girds the cucumber." What are the Innocents doing in an old folk's home? And are the honeysuckle and cucumber vines the "destiny"--the liquid life-lines of feeding and IV tubes--that "gird" the occupants?

In the second stanza, the narrator recognizes that no matter what the occupants (or the narrator himself/herself) have ever accomplished, nothing of worldly success matters here. What is real are "horned thumbnail[s] hooked into an ear" and "gray underwear wadded over a belt."

The third stanza shows the narrator trying to come to terms with what he or she has seen and learned: old age is "minimalist," like the night air and the desert; light cannot overcome darkness; all that remains is the moment, itself nothing of any great magnitude: "finch chit and my sandal's / inconsequential crunch." The last stanza, one line, reads: "Everyone waiting here was once in love."

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The God of Small Things

Roy, Arundhati

Last Updated: Oct-16-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This first novel is written in English by a native Indian who makes her home in India. It is the tale of Esthappen (Estha for short) and his fraternal twin sister, Rahel, and their divorced mother, Ammu, who live in the south Indian state of Kerala. Ammu, a Syrian Christian, has had no choice but to return to her parental home, following her divorce from the Hindu man she had married--the father of Estha and Rahel.

The story centers on events surrounding the visit and drowning death of the twins' half-English cousin, a nine year old girl named Sophie Mol. The visit overlaps with a love affair between Ammu and the family's carpenter, Velutha, a member of the Untouchable caste--"The God of Loss / The God of Small Things." (p. 274)

Told from the children's perspective, the novel moves backward from present-day India to the fateful drowning that took place twenty-three years earlier, in 1969. The consequences of these intertwined events--the drowning and the forbidden love affair--are dire. Estha at some point thereafter stops speaking; Ammu is banished from her home, dying miserably and alone at age 31; Rahel is expelled from school, drifts, marries an American, whom she later leaves. The narrative begins and ends as Rahel returns to her family home in India and to Estha, where there is some hope that their love for each other and memories recollected from a distance will heal their deep wounds.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This history of western medicine focuses on British life in the eighteenth century. Williams begins his treatise by wondering if "we realize sufficiently what we have escaped by being alive in the twentieth, not the eighteenth, century." He then catalogues in the subsequent 12 chapters the agonies not only of illness but also of medical treatment in the 1700’s.

Topics are wide-ranging and include blood-letting, parturition, infant malnutrition, rampant infectious diseases, maltreatment of the insane, surgery prior to anesthesia, water therapy, and military medicine. Primary source quotations interspersed in the narrative add to the drama. For example, the deposition of a widower (his wife died while pregnant) is quoted: " . . . Being taken ill of a paine in her right side under her short ribb together with a great difficulty of breathing having but 14 weeks to go with Child Mr Hugh Chamberlen Senr was sent for to take care of her, who thereupon gave her in the space of nine days four vomitts, four purges, and caused her to be bled three times to the quantity of eight ounces each time: Then gave her something to raise a spitting after which swellings and Ulcers in her mouth followed . . . . " (p. 31)

A few medical advances at the close of the century are also described, notably the smallpox vaccine developed by Jenner and the administration of First Aid to wounded soldiers at the frontlines (developed by Larrey). The text is accompanied by black and white illustrations, such as an inside view of Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital) by William Hogarth (A Rake’s Progress, plate VIII).

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Operation Wandering Soul

Powers, Richard

Last Updated: Sep-18-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Richard Kraft is about as burnt-out as a fifth-year resident in pediatric surgery can be. Overwhelmed by his stint in an inner-city, public hospital in Los Angeles, he seeks to hide from the misery of his patients by avoiding any personal connection with them. Then he meets twelve-year-old Joy, an Asian immigrant trying desperately to learn the puzzling ways of her new culture. She speaks words that trigger memories from Kraft's own childhood as the son of a U.S. agent in Joy's country, and he loses his distance.

He performs surgery on a life-threatening cancer in her leg, pulling back at the last minute in an unreasonable fear that he will hurt her if he cuts too deep. The implied result: incomplete excision of the cancer and a death sentence for the child he now tries, unsuccessfully to avoid. His avoidance is repeatedly foiled by Linda Espera, the physical therapist with whom he is falling in love and who will not let him abandon the emotional needs of any of the children in Joy's ward.

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The Virus

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The author knows that the virus's attack "is not personal." His individuality means nothing to the virus. Yet, for three years he has been ill, he has been "occupied by an unseen / enemy," he has lost control. Thus, being human, he must take it personally.

In fact, as a result of the infection, he is no longer the self he once was, but has seen "the banks / of self erode." Though the virus has changed the story of the writer's life, the virus does not really need him "to live any more than faith / needs a body of truth / to thrive." [50 lines]

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The Universal Donor

Nova, Craig

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Terry McKechnie works in the emergency room in a Los Angeles hospital in the early 1990’s, and is having an affair with Virginia Lee, the new wife of an old friend of his from medical school. Virginia works with snakes. She is attracted to danger. She falls in love with Terry immediately after deciding to marry the reliable Rick, with his predictable dermatologist’s hours and habits.

Virginia is bitten by a rare snake and drives herself to Terry’s hospital. The drive is terrifyingly described, time seeming to move at two speeds at once, as Virginia sits stuck in traffic trying not to panic, the terse prose capturing her efforts at clarity even as the rapid effects of the venom begin to cloud her thoughts. Because she is allergic to horses, the antivenom, made of horse serum, cannot be given to her, and she begins to bleed. Unfortunately, she also has an extremely rare blood type.

As well as being a doctor, Terry is a "universal donor": his blood can be given to people with most other blood types without danger of rejection. His gift fails him at this point, however: Virginia must be given blood of her own type. One person has such blood: a psychopath on the run from the police whom Terry had previously allowed to escape. The novel’s plot culminates in Terry’s search for and encounter with the convict, in which he persuades him to give his blood (and, necessarily his freedom--he is arrested in the hospital) and Virginia survives.

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A Story about the Body

Hass, Robert

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short prose poem (a single paragraph) concisely tells a powerful story. A composer at an artist's colony believes he has fallen in love with a woman of almost sixty, a Japanese painter. One night, late, at her door, she acknowledges their mutual desire, but warns him that she has had a double mastectomy. He leaves her, apologizing. In the morning he finds that she has left a bowl on his doorstep, filled with dead bees covered by a layer of rose petals.

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Summary:

This is a collection of twenty-six first-hand accounts by women institutionalized in mental hospitals or "asylums" in America between the mid-nineteenth century and the end of World War II. The book is divided into four historical periods, each introduced by the editors with an essay contextualizing the narratives in relation to the history of the psychiatric establishment, and to the roles, perceptions, and experiences of women in American culture.

The accounts are all extracts from works published by the writers, usually as attempts to expose the injustices of the mental health system. Most of the writers are not well known, with the exceptions of the author Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the actress Frances Farmer, whose account concludes the book [see film annotation in this data base: Frances].

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) is a shy researcher working for a huge pharmaceutical firm with a team of sympathetic, but unusual personalities. He discovers a substance that makes people (and the company executives) very happy. Promoted as "Gleemonex," the new "brain candy" rapidly begins to make money, and Chris becomes a hero; however, the team soon realize that their wonder drug can render its users comatose.

Their "good" efforts to stop their own creation are opposed by their employer, especially the "bad" chief executive (Mark McKinney) and his cloying "yes-man" (Dave Foley), who relentlessly pursue sales to a craving market. After many tragicomic and slapstick escapades, good mostly prevails in the end.

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