Showing 1221 - 1230 of 1299 annotations tagged with the keyword "Family Relationships"

The Bell Jar

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Feb-17-1997
Annotated by:
Schaffer, Amanda

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this autobiographical novel, Plath's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, sinks into a profound depression during the summer after her third year of college. Esther spends the month of June interning at a ladies' fashion magazine in Manhattan, but despite her initial expectations, is uninterested in the work and increasingly unsure of her own prospects.

Esther grows disenchanted with her traditional-minded boyfriend, Buddy Willard, a medical student who “had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up, whether they needed it or not . . . . ” Returning home to a New England suburb, Esther also discovers that she's been rejected from a Harvard summer school fiction course. Her relationship with her mother is painfully strained.

Suddenly, Esther finds herself unable to sleep or read or concentrate. She undergoes a few unsuccessful sessions with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon, as well as terrifying electroshock therapy. She becomes increasingly depressed, thinks obsessively about suicide, then attempts to kill herself by crawling into the cellar and taking a bottle of sleeping pills: "red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down." Esther vomits, however, and so, does not die. She is taken to a city hospital and then, through the financial intervention of a benefactor, to a private psychiatric institution.

There, Esther begins gradually to recover. She enjoys the pleasant country-club surroundings and develops a closeness with her analytically-oriented psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan. Esther also undergoes a more successful regimen of shock therapy, after which she feels the "bell jar" of depression lifting.

The stigma of attempted suicide and hospitalization seems to free Esther to behave less traditionally; defiantly, she loses her virginity to a man she's met on the steps of Harvard's Widener Library. At the novel's end, Esther is preparing to leave the psychiatric hospital and is describing herself, optimistically, as transformed.

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The Youngest Doll

Ferre, Rosario

Last Updated: Feb-04-1997
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A maiden aunt never marries because a river prawn bites her calf and, due to minimal treatment by her physician, nestles there to grow. She devotes her life to her nieces, making for them life-sized dolls on their birthdays and wedding days. When only the youngest niece is left at home, the doctor comes to see his patient and brings his son, also a physician. When the son realizes the father could have cured the leg, the doctor says, "I wanted you to see the prawn that has paid for your education these twenty years."

The young doctor becomes the aunt's physician and marries the youngest niece, taking her and her wedding doll to live in a house like a cement block, requiring his wife to sit on the porch so passersby can see he has married into society. The doctor sells the doll's diamond-eardrop eyes, and when he wants to sell its porcelain, his wife tells him the ants ate the doll because it had been filled with honey.

The doctor grows older, but his wife keeps the firm, porcelained skin she's always had. One night he watches her sleep and notices her chest isn't moving. Placing his stethoscope over her heart, he hears a distant swish of water. "Then the doll lifted up her eyelids, and out of the empty sockets of her eyes came the frenzied antennae of all those prawns."

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Elizabeth Carpenter is preparing for her fiftieth wedding anniversary and hoping that her children will come home for the event. She nurses her irritable, invalid husband, a retired teacher, who has been a rigid father and is now bedridden with a chronic illness. He is too proud to ask for the things he needs or wants, and spends his vacant hours comparing what he perceives as the dull, dutiful Elizabeth to the "other woman" he loved long ago.

Their oldest child, Victoria, once a fragile beauty full of promise, is institutionalized for a chronic mental illness characterized by irrational fears and self-doubt. The middle child, Jason, is a psychiatrist who has been unable to establish trusting relationships and seeks affirmation through multiple sexual adventures. The youngest child is Emily, a concert violinist whose way of achieving peace is to live abroad, avoiding commitments and her family from whom she is hiding the fact of her own son, Adam. But the reunion leads them to revisit relationships and events in the past and results in some surprises for their present and future.

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Shadow in the Sun

Grohskopf, Bernice

Last Updated: Feb-04-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fran, a fourteen-year-old from New York, is finally allowed to spend a month of her summer vacation with her aunt of Cape Cod. As yet she is unaware that her parents have put off such a visit because her aunt, a lively, empathetic teacher, has a long-term lesbian partner. Among Fran’s new acquaintances is a girl her age, Wilma, who is confined to a wheelchair and, apparently because of the way her disability sets her apart, as well as her famous father’s divorce and remarriage, is extremely demanding and difficult.

Wilma’s stepmother hires Fran to be Wilma’s "companion" a few hours a day while she rests, being in the final stages of her first pregnancy. With the help of some pivotal conversations with her aunt and a new friend, Jack, Fran finds her way through her own anger and bewilderment at Wilma’s behavior to the beginning of an authentic friendship with her, as well as an understanding of the imagination caregiving demands. Along the way she becomes aware of her aunt’s lesbianism and finds that her other experience has helped open her to acceptance of this difference as well.

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The Black Swan

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The setting is Germany in the late 1920s. Rosalie, the central character, is a "sociable," cheerful 50 year old widow who lives with her adult unmarried daughter and her adolescent son. Her manner is youthful but "her health had been affected by certain critical organic phenomena of her time of life." Rosalie is keenly aware of all that menopause implies: the loss of sexual allure and of a (biologic) purpose in life. She feels "superannuated."

Along comes a young man, well-built, who is the American-born tutor for her son. She is overwhelmed by physical attraction for him, becoming infatuated, much to the disapproval of her repressed, cerebral daughter. She feels young and attractive once more, believing that her heightened state of sensuality has resulted in the resumption of what appears to be menstrual bleeding.

Planning to declare her love to the tutor, Rosalie arranges a family excursion to the Rhine castle where the black swans swim. In the decaying alcoves of the castle, she does so; the pair will rendezvous that night. The rendezvous never takes place; Rosalie has hemorrhaged. She is found to have a large, metastatic uterine tumor.

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Called Out

Mojtabai, A. G. (Ann Grace)

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel relates how a catastrophe involving strangers perturbs the lives of people who live in or near the site where the disaster occurs. The event is an airplane crash; the site, the small town of Bounds, Texas. Told as an inner monologue by each person who either witnessed the crash, or became directly involved in its aftermath, the well crafted narrative weaves back and forth among a widowed postmistress into whose field the plane falls; a priest who is questioning his calling and who administers last rites to all of the victims; a skeptical newspaper reporter; a reclusive young man who ghoulishly hunts souvenirs in the wreckage.

The postmistress hovers between dismay at the ruination of her field and curiosity and concern over the far-flung surviving relatives who come to visit the site long afterwards. Her thoughts are filled with memories of her husband and of the evolving relationship with her married son. She ponders that before the crash, ". . . seemed like I'd lived in a fishtank. "Then, "something shattered" and ". . . the whole world poured in."

The priest keeps the church doors open to strangers, including mourners from far away. This runs up the utility bill, drawing criticism from the parish council. So shaken is he by their small-mindedness and by his vocational doubts that he cannot say Mass. The reclusive souvenir hunter, who pocketed a body part, a hand, from the crash site, is haunted by ". . . that hand against my hand . . ." The newspaper reporter feels compelled to re-visit the scene months later.

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Out of Mind

Bernlef, J.

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the first person narrative of Maarten, a seventy-one year old man who is experiencing a rapidly progressive loss of intellectual function. It is a harrowing yet poetic account of mental deterioration, revealed in an on-going chronicle of daily life and disjointed memories. The reader experiences what Maarten experiences, not only through descriptions of what life is like, but through the sequencing of thoughts and actions.

At first Maarten is just aware of being uneasy and anxious, "this feeling of being absent while being fully conscious" and he knows, from the comments of his wife, that he must be behaving absent-mindedly. His hold on familiar certainties becomes shaky--he’s not sure of how the rooms in his house are arranged. His wife, Vera, is his anchor and he realizes that his behavior has become deeply disturbing to her, as well as incomprehensible to himself. As Maarten becomes increasingly forgetful and unable to function, Vera is alternately worried, exasperated, and profoundly understanding.

Finally, Maarten is institutionalized--his thoughts disintegrate--yet we know from his observations of "the utterly moronic community" that he still has some awareness of what is happening. Although he no longer recognizes his wife, he listens to "a woman" whisper that "the spring is almost beginning . . . ."

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Dwarf House

Beattie, Ann

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

James, a dwarf, lives in a dwarf house and has a dwarf girl-friend. His brother, MacDonald, thinks of James as a dwarf first and a person second. MacDonald is really bothered by James wanting to marry--as if marriage and sexual relations were something dwarfs shouldn't do. When MacDonald tells his mother James has other people to talk to in the dwarf house, she says, "Dwarfs, not people. He's hiding from the real world." She too does not see dwarfs as real people, and sees herself as punished by giving birth to a dwarf. Yet at the wedding itself, the bride is genuinely happy, as MacDonald recognizes to his surprise.

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The Traveler

Gilchrist, Ellen

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An overweight, young teenager whose mother is having a nervous breakdown, and whose father doesn't know what to do, is invited to spend the summer with her cousin in Mississippi. Through telling lies about her background, she works her way into popularity on her cousin's coattails. Then a boyfriend tells her she should lose weight, and she pretends there is something wrong with her thyroid. Still, she jumps at the challenge of swimming across the lake (five miles) with him, which she accomplishes to great applause, but when she gets back, her parents are there to take her home. Back in Indiana, she tries to keep the glow of the summer dream.

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The Good Doctor

Mates, Susan Onthank

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Twelve contemporary stories set in Rhode Island and New York City. Major themes include the pain of cultural dislocation and cross-cultural experience ("Theng," "Shambalileh," "My German Problem"); human frailty and self-deception ("Sleep," "Juilliard"); and the personal and moral dimensions of medical practice. See the separate annotations for Laundry, The Good Doctor and Ambulance--three stories which are particularly relevant to Literature and Medicine.

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