Showing 1101 - 1110 of 1142 annotations tagged with the keyword "Human Worth"

The Excrement Poem

Kumin, Maxine

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator observes that we all, from the worm to the brontosaurus, have excrement. As she cleans the horses' stalls of "risen brown buns," she contemplates that sparrows will come to pick "redelivered grain" from the manure, that mushrooms will "spring up in a downpour" from it, that "However much we stain the world," shit indicates that we go on.

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Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Laqueur writes about his experiences as a volunteer at the Home for Jewish Parents. The elderly he meets there have lived fantastically broad lives, many having fled from eastern Europe in front of the German armies of World Wars I and II. Laqueur explains how different their impressions of world events are from his.

He notes the variety of responses the residents have to their own aging process and that of others. Those who are still mobile and mentally alert avoid those who are not. Some residents cling to life and self-respect, others abandon it. Over all, Laqueur is reassured by his visits. If these people have made it this far through such a crazy century, certainly he, too, can go on.

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A Report to an Academy

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A former ape presents his report to a meeting of the scientific Academy. Less than five years ago, he was captured in the jungles of West Africa. While on the ship returning to Europe, the ape came to the realization that there was no way out: "I was pinned down." Even if he should escape from his cage, he knew there would be no way to go home.

However, the ape developed a profound inward calm, thanks in part to the kindness of the ship's crew. His close observation of the crew and other humans allowed him to imitate them. In general, they were easy to imitate, although some of the viler human habits like drinking schnapps were more difficult to get used to. Finally, he realized that the only way to stay out of the zoo was to become human enough to perform as an ape-turned-human on the vaudeville stage. That's what he did.

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A Hunger Artist

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A 'hunger artist' explains the decline of interest in the art of fasting. In the old days people would enthusiastically observe the artist as he fasted, some of them watching carefully for surreptitious snacking. In those times 40 days was the limit of fasting; on the 40th day, the artist's cage was decked in flowers as he emerged to the ministrations of doctors and the crowd's applause.

But the public now has lost interest. The artist left his impresario and hired himself out to a circus where his cage is placed near the cages of animals. He dreads the onslaught of customers, some of whom stop and watch him, but others rush right past him to see the animals.

At the end, the overseer finds the hunger artist among the straw when he enters the cage. Just before he dies, the artist admits that there was no honor in his fasting; he just never found the food that he liked. Had he found it, he would have stopped fasting. He dies and is replaced by a panther.

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Annandale Again

Robinson, Edwin Arlington

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this long poem (47 quatrains), Annandale visits his doctor after years of absence and tells the doctor his story. When his wife Miriam died, he mourned her, "wept and said that all was done." Then he met Damaris, "who knows everything, / Knows how to find so much in me." Damaris, who became his second wife, comforts and accepts him. Even though sometimes "her complexities / Are restive" and she becomes angry, soon "She folds her paws and purrs again.

Annandale tells this story of late life happiness, then leaves the doctor's office. He never reaches home: "There was a sick crash in the street, / And after that there was no doubt, / Of what there was." In the last five quatrains, the doctor reflects on what he did for Annandale after the accident ("the one thing to do")--euthanasia.

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The Shipping News

Proulx, E. Annie

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns, where the novel begins. In these few years Quoyle metamorphoses from the human equivalent of a Flemish flake--a one layer spiral coil of rope that may be walked on if necessary--to a multi-layered presence with the capacity for constantly renewed purpose and connection. Grief, love, work, friendship, family, necessity, and community effect this transformation, as does Quoyle’s ancestral home of Newfoundland, a place of beauty and hardship, of memory and reverie.

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Pursuit of Excellence

Yount, Rena

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

It is sometime in the future of genetic engineering, at the point at which, for a high enough price, one can buy physical and intellectual characteristics for one's fetus. This is the story of a young American couple of average means who have one "normal" son and are negotiating a supernorm status for their female fetus. The action centers around the stresses placed on the young family by the financial sacrifices required to engineer a daughter who would be able to compete in the growing population of engineered people. Husband and wife disagree increasingly, and ultimately the family breaks up over the wife's obsession with having a perfectly engineered child.

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Dibs: In Search of Self

Axline, Virginia

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

This is the story of a successful use of play therapy with an emotionally disturbed five-year-old boy named Dibs. In nursery school Dibs is very withdrawn and resists his teachers' attempts to engage him. Dibs' parents and teachers had all but given him up as mentally retarded. Axline is brought in as a last resort, and in a series of play therapy sessions over a period of several months, cures him. (Dibs turns out to have an IQ of 168.) Axline takes an emotionally neutral approach to her patient, in spite of his obvious need for emotional support, in order not to interfere with his discovering of the self that had been severely repressed at home.

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Looking After: A Son's Memoir

Daniel, John

Last Updated: Jan-22-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this reflective memoir, a son in his mid-forties recalls the final years of his mother's life, the mystery of her changed being as she succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, and the long weeks and months he spent as caretaker, confronting the mystery of his own life and the role of memory in it by witnessing at close range the closing down of both life and memory in her. The book is candid about the whole range of feelings--including the most unexpected and unwelcome--associated with the difficult decision to bring an aging and infirm parent into one's household, care for her, reconfigure family life, and consent to the disconcerting inversion of parent-child roles.

Each of its forty short chapters is a lyrical moment. Daniel weaves memories of his mother's life--musing about those parts he can only know second hand--and exquisite portraiture, with ongoing reflection about his purposes in writing; what gifts there may have been in the difficult process of seeing her through a difficult passage into death; and how some of those gifts unfold only in the aftermath. His speculations about the inner life of an Alzheimer's patient add nothing to medical understanding, but model a deeply edifying kind of compassion and will to imagine beyond the failures of mind and body to a silent, inarticulate self that still deserves to be honored.

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Summary:

This is a film story in which non-professional actors play themselves. It concerns six old women and their bus driver, a middle-aged woman (Michelle Sweeney), who, when their bus breaks down, are stranded in an isolated countryside. In the two days that follow, they find shelter in an abandoned and derelict house, conspire to find food, and learn about each other and themselves through personal disclosure and storytelling.

Before meeting any of the women, the audience hears their child-like chatter and laughter as they emerge from a deep fog cover into the sunshine. Clearly the women are old, but viewers soon regard them as sisters at recess giggling at the novelty of their unexpected adventure, happy to be in good company. When they reach a dilapidated and deserted house, it offers no amenities: no beds, no electricity, no water, no food. Each woman approaches the situation in a different way, but there is a buoyancy and resourcefulness about them in spite of some possible apprehensions concerning rescue and survival.

Any notion that this is a group of interchangeable old women is quickly dispelled. Separate stories unfold against spectacular scenery and humble shelter, as they try to fix the bus, catch fish with pantyhose, hunt for frogs, collect hay for mattresses, paint, laugh, sing, and sigh. In contrast to the current portrait, additional glimpses of the women are provided by superimposed photographic montages or snapshots of each character when she was younger.

One woman (Mary Meigs) is a lesbian, another a nun, another a survivor of stroke. Some are braver than others, and some have moments in their past that, when alluded to, are profoundly moving. One, we believe, is especially vulnerable and ready to die. Another, Cissy (Cissy Meddings), makes us laugh out loud; stooped and stroke-addled, she is full of life and silliness, while enduring the quiet pain of a partially explained isolation from her son and grandchildren, only the facial expression and eyes letting on. Catherine (Catherine Roche) the nun, who will make the long walk for eventual rescue, brings a serenity to the group, while a good-natured and extremely resourceful Mohawk elder (Alice Diabo) demonstrates both strength in the face of adversity and unhappiness in recollections of her marriage.

Their outer bodies belie the inner sense of being. Except for one woman who wears a wig to cover her thinning hair, none of the characters are concerned about their appearances. We may see them as old, but their actions and spirit suggest playfulness, creative energy, and wisdom. Their options may be gone or diminished, but they think of themselves as ongoing persons with much more to say and do.

Except to say that the women survive the ordeal, there are no resounding triumphs. Viewers, possibly the strangers referenced in the film’s title, gather with the good company of old women to learn about life and themselves, especially the vitality and worth of persons frequently isolated from mainstream society. For a brief time, a new society gathers and sifts experience for mutual benefit. We know about the darkness to follow and wonder what their lives will be when they are found, when this moment has passed.

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