Showing 1161 - 1170 of 1212 Fiction annotations

Cousin Bette

Balzac, Honore de

Last Updated: Jan-13-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Bette is a poor spinster, a frequent visitor at her cousin Hulot’s household. When the story opens, the Hulot family fortune has been decimated by Baron Hulot’s mistress. He spends all his money on her, leaving his wife, Adeline, and daughter, Hortense, to struggle meagerly along. Hortense, whose dowry is shrinking daily, mindlessly amuses herself by teasing Bette about her "lover", the sculptor, Count Steinbock, who lives above Bette’s apartment. Bette treats the sculptor maternally but loves him with a jealous affection.

Hortense decides she must meet Steinbock and the two fall in love at first sight. Though Steinbock has little money, Adeline agrees to their marriage, but the engagement is kept from Bette. Baron Hulot’s mistress leaves him and he becomes invoved with Madame Marneffe, the wife of one of his employees.

Cousin Bette is bitter towards the Baron and his family because they treat her like a servant. When she hears about Hortense’s engagement to her friend Steinbock, she determines to destroy the whole family. Bette introduces Crevel (whose mistress Hulot once stole) to Madame Marneffe and he becomes a rival lover. Bette also anonymously has Steinbock imprisoned for his unpaid debts.

Meanwhile, Madame Marneffe seduces Steinbock. She then secures her power by telling each of her lovers that he is the father of her unborn child. Hulot reaches the end of the line shortly thereafter, when it is discovered that he has been stealing money from the government. Hulot’s brother dies of grief and Hulot himself goes off to live with a seamstress in the slums.

Madame Marneffe and Crevel also meet miserable ends. Several months later, Adeline discovers her missing husband while on a charity mission. He comes home, but soon seduces the maid. Adeline then dies, her emotional reserves exhausted.

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Revelation

O'Connor, Flannery

Last Updated: Dec-31-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mrs. Turpin and her husband enter their doctor's waiting room and immediately Mrs. Turpin begins to assess the other patients present: a pleasant, well-dressed lady; a "white trash" woman and her mother and son; a fat adolescent with acne. She and the pleasant woman strike up a conversation about the importance of refinement and good disposition. They discuss, for example, how you have to be nice to "niggers" to get them to do any work. The "white trash" woman counterpoints with comments that indicate her ignorance and poor breeding.

Suddenly, the fat adolescent throws her book at Mrs. Turpin and tries to strangle her. The girl is subdued by the nurse and her mother and the doctor sends her by ambulance to the hospital, but before being taken away, she whispers to Mrs. Turpin, "Go back to hell where you belong, you old wart hog." At home, Mrs. Turpin confronts God. Was this experience a message from Him? She demands of God, "Who do you think you are?" As the sun sets, a "visionary light" comes over her and she has a vision in which the "niggers" and "white trash" march on the bridge to heaven ahead of good, respectable people like her.

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The Sepulchre

Oates, Joyce Carol

Last Updated: Dec-31-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A frantic phone call from an elderly mother to her middle-aged daughter opens this somewhat surreal and menacing short story. What follows is the daughter’s search for her father who has been missing for one and one-half days. Is he lost because of the stroke he had suffered or merely being wickedly mischievous as his wife suggests? Or is he hiding in anger or seeking revenge? Or, is he dead?

The menacing tone to this story is a result of the author’s skillful use of the second person voice: "Dad? Daddy? you whisper. You imagine you hear low, throaty laughter--unless it’s the wind . . . the door to the closet is open, your mother preceded you here, desperate in her search; you know no one is hiding inside but you can’t stop yourself from peering in, holding your breath. Then you switch off the closet light, you switch off the lights in the room, shut the door and walk away."

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Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A man called "The Counselor" is wandering the deserts, plains, and villages. He teaches scripture and rebuilds churches, like a monk, eating and sleeping very little. He attracts an odd group of followers--cripples, murderers, fanatical boys--and leads them to Canudos where they build a town and a glorious cathedral. The town is designed in imitation of Jerusalem. Many people flock to the site to see The Counselor; he heals them with a touch and washes them clean of sin.

The newly-installed conservative government is suspicious of Canudos, seeing it as a bastion of progressive sentiment. They resolve to attack the town and wipe it out. The Counselor, however, has long warned his followers that the Dog and his forces of evil will try to ruin their sanctuary.

When the small branch of the army sent to destroy what they think is a band of cripples and madmen arrives, they are slaughtered with all the vengeance of a holy war. The angered government sends a larger force and the town is eventually destroyed, but the few survivors insist that they saw The Counselor ascend to heaven, and so his reign lives on.

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Johnny Got His Gun

Trumbo, Dalton

Last Updated: Dec-30-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This anti-war novel is written from the point of view of an injured World War I infantryman (Joe Bonham). As the plot progresses we realize how severe the injuries are (most of his face has been blown away and eventually his arms and legs must be amputated--leaving a faceless torso) and why the story is being told by an interior monologue voice.

Interspersed with recollections of Joe Bonham's life is a description of his amazing struggle to remain human. Joe's quest begins with a search for "time," and once time has been found, he begins to "organize" his world. After many years of struggle to orient himself, he tries to reach out to others by "communicating" with them. Unfortunately, his initial attempts to move his head in Morse Code are initially misconstrued as seizures, for which he receives sedatives. Eventually, a nurse new to his care realizes what he is trying to do and informs his doctors.

What Joe wants most is to let the world know about the horrors of war. He assures his keepers that he could support himself in this venture if only they would let him out (people would be glad to pay to see a "freak" such as himself). The answer he receives in return, one which had to be "literally" pounded into his forehead: "What you ask is against regulations."

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The Moths

Viramontes, Helena Maria

Last Updated: Dec-30-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is a reminiscence of the care provided to a dying grandmother when the Latina narrator was a teenager. She recounts the turmoil of her home life and the love and protection her grandmother provided. Grandmother's home, with its flowers growing wild on the front porch and smells of chiles frying in the kitchen, was a refuge of living things, a place where an awkward young woman could come into her own.

In the story's remarkable ending, after Abuelita (grandmother) dies, the granddaughter carefully undresses her, and then enters the cleansing waters of the bathtub with her. There she waits for the moths to come--the moths which Abuelita told her of "that lay within the soul and slowly eat the spirit up." The moths do come, and then she cries, sobs, for herself, her mother, and grandmother--"there, there, I said to Abuelita, rocking us gently, there, there."

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Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Humphry Clinker is an epistolary novel, a collection of letters, that charts the adventures of a family group traveling through Britain. The head of the family is Matthew Bramble, a gouty old man, who is constantly writing his doctor with his complaints and visiting areas supposed to be good for his condition. He is accompanied by his niece, Lydia, who is in love with a poor man, Wilson. Her brother, an Oxford student, also comes along, as does Bramble's unwed sister, Tabitha. Tabitha's maid, Winifred Jenkins, accompanies her.

The group travels to Bath, London, Edinburgh, and the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, they meet Humphry Clinker, a dull-headed creature who becomes devoted to Matthew Bramble, even saving his life. He turns out to be Bramble's illegitimate son. Lydia's lover is discovered to be the son of a wealthy man who is Bramble's friend; they are finally happily married.

Tabitha marries Lismahago, an eccentric captain. Winifred Jenkins joins the festivities by marrying Clinker. Relieved of the feminine presence and bother in his life, Bramble recovers his health, writing to his doctor that from now on he will go hunting rather than write letters.

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The Body Snatcher

Stevenson, Robert Louis

Last Updated: Dec-19-1996
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Four men sit drinking in a British tavern. There is a sick man in the house and a famous London doctor has been summoned to treat him. When one of the men, Fettes, hears the doctor’s name, Wolfe Macfarlane, he wakes suddenly from his drunken stupor and rushes to see the doctor’s face. He recognizes and threatens the doctor, who flees. Doctor Macfarlane and his accoster, Fettes, had studied medicine together under a famous--but unorthodox--anatomist.

They were in charge of obtaining bodies for dissection. Fettes regularly received and paid for corpses late at night from the men who robbed graves for them. One night, the body of a woman he knew was brought to his door; he was certain that she had been murdered but he said nothing. One day he met Macfarlane at a tavern. He was being strangely heckled by a man named Gray. The next night, Macfarlane showed up with Gray’s body and demanded payment for it. He had evidently murdered the man. Fettes was shaken but acquiesced. Soon the body was dissected, so the evidence of murder was gone.

Later, Fettes and Macfarlane were sent to a country church yard to exhume a recently buried woman. They sat their package between them as they traveled back. Suddenly, they perceived a change in the body. Unnerved, they got out a light and uncovered the face of the corpse. It was Gray.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Utterson is a London lawyer who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll gave up his regular practice to experiment with non-traditional medicine. Utterson is concerned because Jekyll has written a will that leaves all his money to his new partner Mr. Hyde. Utterson has heard bad things of Hyde and disliked him at first sight. The lawyer thinks his friend is being blackmailed.

One day, the lawyer is asked to identify the body of a murdered man, Sir Danvers Carew, one of Utterson’s clients. Hyde is suspected of the murder, but he has disappeared. Jekyll swears that he has not seen Hyde and has broken with him forever. The case remains unsolved and Jekyll becomes more sociable than he had been.

Suddenly, though, he locks himself into his laboratory, yelling to the servants through the door, directing them to gather chemicals for him. The servants recognize a change in his voice and think that their master has been murdered; another man has taken his place in the lab. They call Utterson who breaks down the door. On the floor lies Hyde, who has killed himself with poison. Sadly, Utterson assumes Hyde returned and killed Jekyll, but the doctor’s body is nowhere to be found.

He does find, however, a letter in which Jekyll explains his relationship to Hyde. Jekyll had sometimes indulged in debauches which, if discovered, could have ruined his reputation and of which he is ashamed. Pondering this split in his personality, he decides to find a way to separate his two beings. Jekyll creates a potion that releases his evil side, Mr. Hyde. Hyde is shorter and smaller than Jekyll, having not had as much exercise.

For a while Jekyll enjoys his two bodies; he can do whatever he likes without fear of discovery. His pleasure is stunted when Hyde kills Carew in a nonsensical fit, and he resolves never to take the potion again. Hyde is now strong, however, and emerges whether Jekyll will have him or not. Indeed, Jekyll must use the potion to be rid of him if only for a moment. Jekyll knows that it is only by killing his body that Hyde’s body, too, will die.

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Doctor Thorne

Trollope, Anthony

Last Updated: Dec-19-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Frank Gresham is the squire of Greshambury Manor in the fictional county of East Basetshire. His wife is the aristocratic Lady Arabella, daughter of Earl de Courcy. Because Lady Arabella's and her husband's tastes are more expensive than their means, Gresham goes heavily into debt and has to sell part of his property to the uncouth, but extremely wealthy, Sir Roger Scatcherd.

Thus, it is determined by Lady Arabella that their son, Frank Gresham Jr., must marry an heiress to restore the family fortunes. Doctor Thomas Thorne is the senior Gresham's close friend and advisor. Doctor Thorne is a bachelor who has raised his niece Mary as if she were his own daughter. In reality, she is the illegitimate daughter of Sir Roger's sister and the Doctor's brother. (Sir Roger had killed Henry Thorne in a fit of passion over his sister's shame; the Doctor sent Scatcherd's sister to America; and Scatcherd served time in prison before going from rags to riches in the railroad contracting business.)

The novel tells the story of the apparently hopeless romance between Mary Thorne and Frank Gresham; and Gresham's mother's attempts to have him marry into a wealthy family. Ultimately, both Sir Roger and his reprobate son, Sir Louis, die of complications of alcoholism. It then turns out that Mary Thorne is sole heir (as the "eldest child" of his sister) to Sir Roger's fabulous fortune. Eventually, Frank and Mary marry and establish their home at Boxall Hill, which is actually built on the land that Gresham had sold to Scatcherd.

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