Showing 111 - 120 of 274 annotations tagged with the keyword "Suicide"

Annotated by:
Mathiasen, Helle

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Gilbert begins her narrative with the event that inspired her to write: her husband's death in 1991 after a routine prostatectomy. "Though he was in robust health apart from the tumor for which he was being treated, Elliot died some six hours after my children and I were told that his surgeon had successfully removed the malignancy. And for the first six months after he died, death suddenly seemed plausible ... "(1).

But whereas her book Wrongful Death (annotated in this database) deals with Elliot Gilbert's death, the present work takes the author through death's door into personal reflection and research across a vast area, including personal, cultural, and literary aspects of death. Larger than a memoir, her work universalizes her personal experience with dying and death. And writing is what she does and what she has to do: "THIS is the curse. Write" (92).

Gilbert divides her material into three main sections, each containing several subsections: 1. Arranging my mourning: five meditations on the psychology of grief; 2. History makes death: how the twentieth century reshaped dying and mourning; and 3. The handbook of heartbreak: contemporary elegy and lamentation. The 27 illustrations she has selected range from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald to recent photographs by Dan Jury, to Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial. In these symbolic representations, Gilbert finds our universal fear of the process of dying, "If this is what it is, GrŸnewald seems to be telling the viewer, for Our Lord to die the death, what must it be for those of us less staunch, less noble - in short, less divine?" (115).

Traditional elegy, by John Milton and Percy Bysshe Shelley, on the other hand, seeks to comfort the poet and reader with the hope of a life hereafter, but modern secular poets like William Carlos Williams and Samuel Beckett offer no solace at all. The older term "expiration" gives hope that our spirit may survive our death. But "termination," the twentieth-century word for death, describes how humans and animals die, in our post-Darwinian world. Her word for this is nada. The holocaust stands as the ultimate ex-termination, or death by technology.

Seeking to understand Sylvia Plath's disease- and death-filled poetry, Gilbert travels literally to Berck-Plage, France, and figuratively, through the notorious "Daddy," "Lady Lazarus," and "Getting There." As a woman and a writer, Gilbert is fascinated by Plath: "For perhaps more than anyone else - more even than her much-admired Wallace Stevens himself - she really did articulate not just the vision but the 'mythology of modern death' that Stevens tentatively proposed" (310). The author contrasts Plath with nineteenth-century Walt Whitman who said, "... to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier" (332). Whitman seems to be ambivalent or even positive towards death; Emily Dickinson, of his same century, finds death terrifying.

Ultimately, modern death is embarrassing; death avoidance prevails, notably among doctors. This despite the fact that the first patient a medical student sees is a cadaver. Death is a doctor's failure and it is easier to blame the patient than to accept the death. Death in an American hospital is a "humanectomy", or physical removal of the individual's humanity as she/he is attached to IVs, monitors, feedings tubes, and other mechanical devices.

Modern hospital death is demeaning, because patients are granted little privacy, their TV sets are set to blaring; all personnel, including doctors, enter their rooms unannounced: "Whereas the patient is emotional - fearful, angry, needy - the doctor is detached, abstract, 'objective' " (189). Clearly, the author still lovingly mourns her dead husband bleeding to death alone in a hospital room. Energized by lost love, she writes and documents and works her way toward death.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Oswald and Oliver Deuce (Brian and Eric Deacon) are brothers, separated conjoined twins, who are both zoologists. Their wives are both killed in a car crash. The driver of the car, Alba Bewick (Andréa Férreol), collides with a swan escaped from the zoo where the brothers work. As a result of the accident, one of Alba's legs is amputated.

The grieving brothers become obsessed with decomposition as evolution's logical complement, and begin exploring, by means of time-lapse photography, the process of decay of life forms of increasing complexity (while they watch, obsessively, the David Attenborough TV series, "Life on Earth"). As their experiments require more animals, they become involved in a shady scheme for procuring animal corpses from the zoo, a process involving a prostitute / teller of erotic tales who is sexually obsessed with black-and-white animals.

Alba, now with one leg, becomes obsessed with symmetry. She takes both Oswald and Oliver as lovers, becomes pregnant, and bears twins. She is persuaded by a Vermeer-obsessed aesthete veterinary surgeon to let him amputate her second leg. She decides to commit suicide and plans to have the twins film what happens to her body after death. When her family prevents them from taking her, Oswald and Oliver instead set up their time-lapse photography equipment and kill themselves, choosing to decompose together.

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The Turn of the Screw

James, Henry

Last Updated: Sep-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The narrator’s friend Douglas reads a memoir entrusted to him by his young sister’s governess when he was in college: to oblige a handsome bachelor, she agrees to care for his orphaned niece and nephew in a lonely country house. She becomes convinced that Flora and Miles (ages 8 and 10) are haunted by the evil spirits of their former governess, Miss Jessel, and a former valet, Quint.

The housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, tells the governess of the servants’ "corruption" and "contamination" of the children, Miss Jessel’s suspected pregnancy and mysterious death, and Quint’s fatal, drunken fall. The governess’s obsessive struggle with the ghosts over the children culminates in Flora’s descent into a fever and a climactic battle with Quint over the soul of Miles, who dies of heart failure even as the governess asserts her triumph.

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On Official Business

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Sep-05-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Starchenko, a country doctor, and Lyzhin, an acting coroner, travel through a snowstorm to reach the village of Syrna, where they are to hold an inquest regarding the death of Lesnitsky. Three days earlier, Lesnitsky had shot himself in the office of the village council.

When the two officials finally arrive after sundown, the witnesses have gone home for tea; only the talkative old constable remains. Starchenko and Lyzhin eventually proceed to the von Taunitz mansion for comfortable quarters and an evening of entertainment. The storm is so severe that the next day they remain at the mansion, rather than conducting the inquest.

On the third day, as they prepare to return to the village, where the witnesses have been waiting for them, they see the old constable standing in the snow. "Very restive them peasants are," he says. "Have pity on them, kind sirs."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet describes a loving scene "entwined with you / on the long sofa . . . . " She playfully clips hairs from her husband’s nose as they listen to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Later the same year, he kills himself, "you were dead / by your own hand . . . / I have never understood."

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'night, mother

Norman, Marsha

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

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

A daughter and her mother play out a psychological drama that is the culmination of a lifetime of poor communication and limited understanding. Laced with humor and a bit of the macabre, the scenes in this short, two-act play work inexorably toward the climax--suicide of the daughter and incomplete resolution of the mother’s confusion.

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Montana 1948

Watson, Larry

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This little novel is the retrospective tale of a childhood event told by the protagonist 40 years later. Family relationships and bonds in conflict with professional and community obligations vie with the shadow of racism and sexual abuse in the doctor/patient relationship for the core tensions in the book. The setting is a small rural community where the pioneer family about which the tale evolves controls the law and the medicine. The boy narrator relates his view of the breakdown of family as its secret--a physician uncle who is suspected of sexually abusing his native-American women patients--becomes a force that demands action from the doctor’s brother who serves as the sheriff.

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Mount Misery

Shem, Samuel (Stephen Bergman)

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this sequel to his earlier seem-autobiographical novel, House of God, Shem (this time using both his pseudonym and his real name) describes the experience of a physician in the first year of a psychiatry residency in a prestigious private psychiatric hospital. In this first hand account it is assumed that the author is the resident, Dr. Roy Basch; he describes not only his experiences with a variety of patients but also with the other doctors and the staff members of the institution. It is not a happy place and in the telling of the story there is a biting irony and a sense of the absurd.

It is obvious from the first that Dr. Basch is very serious about becoming a psychiatrist but that he is also searching for meaning and connections. He finds that colleagues may often hurt you more than your patients. Another issue addressed is that of competing psychiatric theories, particularly the competition between pharmacologic treatment and psychoanalysis. Issues about drug treatment trials and the questionable way in which they are conducted also receive attention, as does the problem of insurance coverage for hospitalization.

The fact that psychiatrists often specialize in their own defects becomes a reality to Dr. Basch. There are not many exemplary people in this book--hopefully it exaggerates the real situation. There is, surprisingly, a sort of poignant positive ending.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is trying to avenge the rape and murder of his wife. She was, as far as he can recall, killed by the same intruder who injured Leonard’s head, leaving him with "anterograde amnesia": he remembers everything up until the injury but no longer has short term memory. "I can’t make new memories. Everything fades."

Leonard’s single purpose now is to find and kill the person responsible for his wife’s death and his own disability. He remembers this purpose, and the steps in his progress towards it, by keeping annotated Polaroid photographs and tattooing important facts onto his body. At the end of the story--which is the beginning of the film--Leonard kills a man he believes to be the murderer, but who is probably not.

The story is narrated in reverse chronology, beginning with Leonard shooting the suspected killer, in short segments corresponding more or less to the length of Leonard’s ability to remember. These scenes are interspersed with parts of a longer scene that follows regular chronology, shot in black and white, in which Leonard sits in his motel room, talking on the telephone and telling the story of Sammy Jankis, a man he seems to remember from his earlier life as an insurance investigator.

Sammy suffered from anterograde amnesia after a car crash and Leonard dismissed his condition as psychological rather than physical, resulting in the refusal of Sammy’s insurance claim (the company doesn’t cover mental illness). Sammy’s diabetic wife, thinking that if the condition is mental it must also be voluntary, tries to get him to "snap out of it" by testing him in various ways: finally she tricks him into administering her insulin shot over and over until she dies. Sammy ends up institutionalized.

As we piece the story together, we realize that Leonard’s method for keeping track of his revenge plot is inadequate. Because the bits of information that substitute for memory can be manipulated, others are able to use him as an unwitting assassin. We also deduce that the story of Sammy Jankis may in fact be the story of Leonard Shelby, and that perhaps Leonard’s own wife was killed not by a murderer but by Leonard himself, the revenge motivation possibly planted by Teddy (possibly a cop) in order to make of Leonard a very efficient killer.

The story ends (where it begins) with Teddy’s plot turned against him by Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a mysterious woman who has revenge motives of her own. Leonard takes Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) for the killer and shoots him. Our chilling realization is that Leonard will soon forget he has achieved his objective and again begin looking for someone to kill.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Life on the Line relates the experience of 228 writers who express in their work the deep connection between healing and words. Walker and Roffman have organized their anthology into eight topical chapters: Abuse, Death and Dying, Illness, Relationships, Memory, Rituals and Remedies, White Flags From Silent Camps, and a chapter of poems about the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. This hefty volume contains a very broad selection of contemporary poems, stories, and essays by both well-known and relatively unknown writers on the experience of illness and healing.

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