Showing 161 - 170 of 325 annotations tagged with the keyword "Marital Discord"

Dr. Haggard's Disease

McGrath, Patrick

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this first person narrative, Dr. Edward Haggard addresses his story to James, the son of his former lover Fanny Vaughn. Haggard, once a surgical registrar at a major hospital in London, has isolated himself in a coastal town, where he serves as a general practitioner. The "present" of Dr. Haggard’s story is the early stages of World War II, when James Vaughn, a Royal Air Force pilot, lies dying in Edward Haggard’s arms.

The story’s "past" has multiple dimensions. The outermost, framing story recounts the relationship between James and Edward that began several months before the war and a year or so following Fanny Vaughn’s death from kidney disease. James sought out the reclusive Dr. Haggard to discover the "truth" about Haggard’s relationship with his mother.

The inner story consists of Haggard’s description of his reckless and passionate love affair with Fanny, an ultimately hopeless liaison between a young registrar and the wife of the hospital’s senior pathologist. Their few brief months of happiness ended when Dr. Vaughn learned of the affair, and Fanny made the realistic choice to remain with her husband and adolescent son. In a confrontation between the two men, Vaughn knocked Haggard to the floor, causing a leg injury that resulted in chronic pain and permanent disability.

Haggard resigned from the hospital and withdrew to a solitary life, in which "Spike" (the name he gives to his deformed and painful leg) is his only companion. He must constantly "feed" Spike with intravenous morphine to quell the emotional, as well as physical, pain. The situation only worsens when Haggard learns of Fanny’s death from kidney failure.

The obsession worsens further still after James Vaughn shows up at his door. As Haggard treats the young pilot for a minor wound (he has become the local RAF surgeon), he notices that James has a feminized body habitus--gynecomastia, lack of body hair, broad hips, narrow shoulders, and pre-pubertal penis. He interprets this as "a pituitary disorder" and attempts to convince James that he needs treatment. James is repulsed by these advances, which eventually escalate.

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Tolstoy, Leo

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Tolstoy’s short novel is more than a classic portrayal of dying and suffering. While those issues are central in most discussions of this work, an equally important and overlapping theme concerns choices made in life. Ivan, the protagonist, followed a well-traveled road, adhering to "comme il faut" (as is expected) or doing what one was supposed to do in career matters, selection of clothes, choosing a wife, raising children.

There is little to admire about this generally successful but thoughtless and selfish man. Ivan’s inability to invest meaningfully in family, social, or professional relationships leads to frightening consequences when he becomes gravely ill, probably with pancreatic cancer. Five different physicians with attitudes that range from arrogant to dishonest offer little assistance or compassion.

His family soon loses patience with his suffering and tends to blame him for the onset of illness. Only Gerasim, a peasant hired to assist him in his most basic needs, provides the kind of care and understanding required by the dying and increasingly isolated or deserted sufferer. The first chapter is masterful in its presentation of responses to death by friends and family members and prepares readers for the consequences of shallowness in an unlived life.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The film is an adaptation of an award-winning play by Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean writer forced into exile in 1973. Through revelatory events affecting the three characters, audiences learn about atrocities committed by the Fascist government that had, until recently, ruled the unnamed country where the story is set.

Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) had been a political prisoner during the oppressive period who was tortured by her captors. After gaining her trust by treating her kindly and playing a tape of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, Dr. Miranda, a physician (Ben Kingsley) cruelly participated in the abusive treatment of his powerless victim. Gerardo Escobar (Stuart Wilson), then her boyfriend, now her husband, had been editor of the underground newspaper and target of the absolutist regime. In spite of torture, she did not disclose his whereabouts and, in effect, saved his life.

Currently, Paulina lives with Gerardo in a desolate coastal setting. At the film’s onset, viewers note Paulina’s agitation concerning a news bulletin about the presidential appointment of a human rights commission charged with investigating abuses by the previous regime. According to the report, her lawyer husband has been appointed committee chair. The remainder of the film concerns victim, physician, and husband of that oppressive period who through strange circumstances are brought together during the night.

Reminiscent of a Lear-like heath, past terrors are howled out against a raging storm. On his way home Gerardo’s tire became flat and he was picked up and brought home by Miranda, a good Samaritan. When Paulina, who had been blindfolded during her captivity, recognizes his voice and pet phrases, she steals his car and pushes it over the cliff into the sea. Totally perplexed by the Paulina’s actions, the men pace about in the living room where the doctor delivers derisive diatribes about women in general and wives in particular. Gerardo, to a lesser extent, expresses condemnation and embarrassment for his wife’s inexplicable behavior.

When she returns, both men have had too much to drink; she finds a gun in their house, tapes the groggy physician to a chair, pistol whips him as he resists and shouts, stuffs her panties into his mouth, and begins a heated exchange with her incredulous and very angry husband. He wants evidence for her seemingly preposterous charge. She can "smell" him she screams; she found a tape of the Schubert String Quartet in D Minor in his car; and he quotes Nietzsche just as he did when she was strapped to a table. Under much strain, her husband agrees to a taped trial in which he will represent the accused and force a confession.

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The Abortion

Walker, Alice

Last Updated: Jun-15-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story does concern an abortion, but, more so, the failure of the protagonist’s husband to participate in essential discussions relating to their marriage. Imani, a well-educated black woman, and her husband, Clarence, have a two-year old child and a seemingly good life. The marriage, however, is on uneasy ground because Clarence’s focus has shifted from family to job. Busy as a key advisor to the mayor, he has not thought about this, but Imani, now pregnant, has had time to reach this disturbing conclusion. She decides that unless Clarence will fight to save this child, she will abort the pregnancy. When he fulfills her expectations, quickly acquiescing to her termination plans, Imani recognizes that the partnership is over.

For Imani, abortion is no small matter nor is it new. While still in college, she had undergone a brutal experience with severe hemorrhaging. This time it is an "assembly line" event with no complications, but, again, she is alone. Clarence, oblivious to her smoldering rage about his complacency, subordinates her needs to those associated with his job.

The abortion concretizes the distance between them: "She had known the moment she left the marriage, the exact second. But apparently that moment had left no perceptable mark." Twice Imani had been scarred by abortion, and Clarence, oblivious to these marks, remained in uncomprehending disbelief as the marriage deteriorated and, then, dissolved.

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Floating Bridge

Munro, Alice

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story takes place on a drive home to the country from a medical appointment in town. Jinny has cancer and is on chemotherapy; she feels unwell and wears an uncomfortable hat because she has lost her hair. Her visit to the doctor ends with disconcerting news, but her husband, Neal, seems uninterested. In a supposed effort to be cheerful, he plays up to Helen, the young woman whom they are taking home to help while Jinny is ill. She senses that Neal will have a life and loves beyond her existence.

In the van, Neal becomes obsessed with teasing Helen about a forgotten pair of shoes; over her objections, he insists on picking them up from friends. Neither the girl nor Jinny are eager to visit this place, which turns out to be a bleak trailer-home surrounded by unfriendly dogs and occupied by a garrulous, obese couple that invite them to visit. Jinny just wants to go home and stays in the van, but Neal ignores her wishes and goes inside for a beer, which extends into a meal.

The teenage son, Ricky, returns to find Jinny waiting. More sympathetic than anyone else has been that day, he offers to drive her home. She surprises herself by leaving with Ricky at the wheel of Neal's van and by not caring what the others might think. He chooses a back-road that passes over a floating bridge. They stop. The dusk turns to dark and the stars emerge over dark water; exquisite beauty in a simple spot.

Jinny suddenly realizes that she has been without her hat all the while. The lad then kisses the much older woman. He admits it is the first time he has kissed a married woman; she tells him it will not likely be the last, and, soberly, he agrees. The tiny adventure of betrayal--an innocent form of sexual retaliation against her husband--brings a sense of hilarity, self-worth, and well being "for the time given."

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Paris Requiem

Appignanesi, Lisa

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

James Norton travels from Boston to Paris at his domineering mother's urging to bring home his fragile sister, Ellie, and their journalist brother, Rafael. He discovers Rafael devastated by the death of his Jewish lover, Olympe. Suicide, accident, or murder? Ellie is confined to a wheelchair owing to an unexplained paralysis. James is drawn into finding solutions to both problems and his investigations lead him to seedy brothels, the bureau of a hypnotist, the morgue of aspiring neurologists, and the wards of la Salpetrière, the famous neuropsychiatric hospital for women. The autopsy reveals that Olympe had been pregnant and the questions about her death multiply. The exoneration and return to France of Dreyfus plays as a backdrop.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Set in the 1950s Eisenhower era, this film creates an enlarged snapshot of a model suburban household in Connecticut as well as a companion negative of two suppressed social issues lurking beneath the painfully smooth surface. In his effort to portray dominant values, as well as the melodramatic look and feel of the period, Director Hayes appropriates visual effects and music associated with fifties films by Douglas Sirk such as "All That Heaven Allows" with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Colors are too vivid; music heavily underlines emotional elements; and stylistically designed sets reflect superficial ideals. Too perfect.

Moving from the margins and into the center two disruptive shadows gradually emerge, one dealing with race, the other with homosexuality. In the years preceding racial protests and riots and in a time when few could imagine public conversation about sexual orientations, use of condoms, or AIDS, the story reveals unspeakable abuses, intolerances, and injustices that have subsequently been addressed but not resolved.

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The Shooting Party

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-26-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Chekhov wrote The Shooting Party during his final year in medical school, and it was published serially in 32 weekly segments during 1884 to 1885. The book's plot is essentially a murder mystery, although in its depictions of setting and character the story anticipates Chekhov's mature style.

"The Shooting Party" is the name of a manuscript that an unknown author, who appears out of nowhere, begs a publisher to read and publish. The author agrees at least to read it, and the author says that he will return in three months for the verdict. The body of the book then is this mysterious manuscript, which is written as a first person narrative. Its narrator and central character is the author recounting his own experience. In a "Postscript" the publisher tells us what happened when the author's returned three months later.

The narrator is the local magistrate in a rural region. His good friend and drinking partner, Count Alexei, has an estate nearby. Count Alexei's bailiff, Urbenin, is a middle-aged widower with two children. Also living on the estate are Nikolai Efimych, an old retainer who has gone crazy, and his beautiful daughter Olga. During the first part of The Shooting Party we learn that Count Alexei is a drunk and a lecher; Urbenin is a decent, hard-working, and lonely man; and Olga is caught between her presumably "true" love of the narrator and her desire to advance in life by marrying Urbenin. However, after marrying the bailiff, she takes another step upward by leaving her husband for a live-in affair with the Count, meanwhile secretly protesting her love for the narrator.

The climax occurs during a hunting party in the woods, when Olga goes off by herself and is later found murdered. All the evidence leads to her husband as the culprit. When an unexpected witness who might be able to implicate a different killer appears, the witness himself is mysteriously murdered. At the end of the manuscript, Urbenin is convicted of murder and sent to prison. However, in the "Postscript" the publisher, who proves to be a far better detective than the narrator/magistrate, identifies the real killer from clues that he has observed in the manuscript.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Williams's autobiography recounts his life from his first memory ("being put outdoors after the blizzard of '88") to the composition of "Patterson" and a trip to the American West in 1950. The book's 58 short chapters epitomize the writer's episodic and impressionistic style, presenting a series of scenes and meditations, rather than a narrative life story.

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Riceyman Steps

Bennett, Arnold

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Henry Earlforward runs a crowded, dusty bookstore. He meets his neighbor, Mrs. Violet Arb, when they haggle over the price of a cookbook. She refuses to buy the book as she finds every price too high. Henry is a miser and admires her steadfastness. They eventually marry.

Henry is outraged at the cost of the wedding breakfast and grows increasingly annoyed as his new wife insists on spending even more money to celebrate. Sensing a threat to his savings, Henry grows more miserly than ever, refusing to light the stove and eating almost nothing. Violet insists that the maid, Elsie, cook steaks and omelets for them. When her husband refuses to eat them, Violet refuses too.

Henry finally becomes ill. Dr. Raste urges him to go into the hospital, but Henry fears losing his autonomy and his life. He only consents after much arguing. When the doctor arrives to pick him up, however, Violet is much more ill than her husband. She is taken to the hospital, while Henry resolutely refuses to go.

To Dr. Raste, the family is ridiculous and annoying. They are business he must put up with. Henry still holds his purse-strings tight and Elsie is forced to steal money from him to send for news of Violet. Violet dies after an operation for the removal of fibroids from her uterus. She was too undernourished to handle the intervention.

Henry still refuses to change his ways and even leaves his bed to check on his books. He discovers Elsie’s theft. Neighbors find his body on the floor of his office. Elsie and her lover Joe go to work for Dr. Raste.

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