Showing 171 - 180 of 297 annotations tagged with the keyword "Poverty"

The Poem of Chalk

Levine, Philip

Last Updated: Sep-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In the heart of New York City the narrator comes across a tall, Senegalese man "speaking to a piece of chalk." The man is "neatly dressed / in the remnants of two blue suits . . . " and regal in his bearing. The man’s language is French, and he speaks "so slowly and precisely" that the narrator, no longer young, is reminded of his high school French class. He is also reminded of writing his name on the blackboard after returning to school, following his father’s death. The man knows "the whole history of chalk"; he knows "what creatures had given / their spines to become the dust time / pressed into these perfect cones . . . " The narrator knows that they are both elderly men "sharing the final poem of chalk . . . " [58 lines]

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Miss Rosie

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry — Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Miss Rosie is homeless, a street person surrounded by her foul-smelling possessions. She is not a stranger to the narrator, who has thought long and hard about her present circumstances and how she might have been long ago before she became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. Now reduced to rags, this "wet brown bag of a woman," says the narrator, once was "the best looking gal in Georgia." The narrator "stand[s] up" for her through her "destruction."

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A Natural History: A Novel

Oatley, Keith

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

After working with the Parisian physiologist, François Magendie, Dr. John Leggate returns to England to practice in the town of Middlethorpe in the late 1840s. He is obsessed with making a research discovery that will help humanity and establish his name. He falls in love with the intelligent and gifted Marian Brooks who aspires to a career as a concert pianist after study in Leipzig with Felix Mendelsohn. They marry and find happiness at first, but she is troubled by discovery of his past affair in France, and he is troubled by her abandoning music simply to be the type of wife he never wanted.

Leggate has a theory about the origins of cholera, but his painstaking work shows him two things: 1. his original idea is mistaken, and 2. the disease is spread by water. He does not publish, though he announces his intentions to do so. Intimidated by skeptical colleagues, he is unable to write, and the problem is exacerbated by a newspapermen who makes unwarranted accusations because he holds a grudge against Leggate’s wife.

Marian wants to help him, but he rejects her offers and retreats into himself. Their marriage is threatened. Just as cholera returns and the town learns from Leggate’s insights, John Snow publishes his famous observations on cholera. Leggate is scooped. He and Marian migrate to Canada where he is accepted for his skills and desire to be of service and she establishes a conservatory of music. Their marriage is restored.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This troubling narrative opens with, "They say you see your whole life pass in review the instant before you die. How would they know? If you die after the instant replay, you aren’t around to tell anyone anything" (120). The narrator, a newborn girl on her way down the garbage chute from the 10th floor of an apartment building, reflects on what might have been had she lived long enough to have experienced life.

The structure of the piece moves the reader from floors ten, nine, into the game of chance played with dice, to "The Floor of Facts." At this juncture, the newspaper account of the newborn dead in the trash is iterated in its cold truths. The narrator laments, "As grateful as I am to have my story made public you should be able to understand why I feel cheated, why the newspaper account is not enough, why I want my voice to be part of the record" (123). The narrator shifts gears and begins to explore what her life might have been had she lived beyond these few hours.

She enters a "Floor of Opinions," where her own beliefs must be voiced and for which there must be room on the "Floor of Facts." She speculates, based on the experiences of her socioeconomic--and possibly racial--situation, whether her death will serve any purpose. On the "Floor Of Wishes" she imagines things she would have likely loved, such as Christmas. From this point, the narrative, in quick and painful anecdotes, draws the reality of the powerlessness, the limitations of love, and the brutality suffered by those in the clutches of urban poverty. Then the narrator enters the garbage compactor at the bottom of the chute, inviting us all to join her "where the heart stops."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

In their introduction to this anthology, the editors write that their goal is "to illustrate and to illuminate the many ways in which medicine and culture combine to shape our values and traditions." Using selections from important literary, philosophical, religious, and medical texts, as well as illustrations, they explore, from a historical perspective, the interactions between medicine and culture. The book is arranged in nine major topical areas: the human form divine, the body secularized, anatomy and destiny, psyche and soma, characteristics of healers, the contaminated and the pure, medical research, the social role of hospitals, and the cultural construction of pain, suffering, and death.

Within each section, a cluster of well-chosen (and often provocative) texts and drawings illuminate the topic. Specifically, literary selections include poems by W. D. Snodgrass ("An Envoi, Post-TURP"), William Wordsworth ("Goody Blake and Harry Gill: A True Story"), and Philip Larkin ("Aubade"); and prose or prose excerpts by Robert Burton ("The Anatomy of Melancholy"), Zora Neale Hurston (My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience), Sara Lawrence Lightfoot ("Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer"), William Styron (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness), George Orwell ("How the Poor Die"), Ernest Hemingway (Indian Camp), and Paul Monette (Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir). (The full texts of the pieces by Hurston, Styron, Hemingway, and Monette have been annotated in this database.)

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Summary:

This anthology frames a rich selection of fiction and nonfiction with astute and helpful introductions to issues in nineteenth-century medicine and the larger culture in which it participated. The fiction is comprised of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Steel Windpipe in its entirety; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, "The Doctors of Hoyland" from Round the Red Lamp; and selections from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Sarah Orne Jewett’s A Country Doctor, Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, W. Somserset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, George Moore’s Esther Waters, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris, and Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne [the full-length versions of many of the above have been annotated in this database]. The nonfiction consists of two versions of the Hippocratic Oath, two American Medical Association statements of ethics, and selections from Daniel W. Cathell’s The Physician Himself (1905).

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Slocum leads his readers through some of the high (and low) points of his 34 years of general medical practice in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. The work opens as he and his wife and nurse of as many years close the office they have shared for the last time. Then moving backward for a few chapters, the author discusses briefly his training, including a critical four-month period in Vienna in the year 1932. Slocum was awaiting the results of his Medical board examination and while doing some advance study, experienced first hand the early stages of Nazi activity against Jews in Austria.

After their return to the states and the doctor’s completion of his internship, the young couple located office and home in Manhattan. The remainder of the book is devoted to descriptions of critical events and important professional encounters in more than three decades, organized by chapter, most of which encapsulate a patient and, when present, his or her family.

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An Instance of the Fingerpost

Pears, Iain

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A mystery, set in the seventeenth century and told by four different eye-witnesses, all men. Two are the views of fictitious characters, two are imputed to be real figures from the past. Beautiful, but poverty-stricken Sarah Blundy is accused of having killed a professor, only remotely connected to her. Each of the observers reasons his way to a position on her guilt or innocence based on their skewed observation of the events, and on their own assumptions about women, religion, and justice. Post-Cromwellian tensions between Catholics, Protestants, and Quakers are explored.

A manuscript by the Italian, Dr. Cola, constitutes the first account. In the thrall of medical science and the great Robert Boyle, Cola is cast as the true "inventor" of transfusion which is "stolen" by the real and vibrant Richard Lower, generally credited by historians with its first use in England. Cola attends Sarah’s ailing mother gratis and transfuses her with modest success.

The other three writers react to his version of the tale which they read in manuscript. The mad Jack Prescott is intent on exonerating his probably inexonerable father for misdeeds in the Civil War, while the uncharitable cryptographer, John Wallis, is intent on divining nothing but evil in the cryptic forms of women, Catholics, and foreigners. Their versions are wondrously convoluted attempts to keep the impossible within the realm of the plausible. Pears puts the truth (such as it is) in the words of the real antiquarian, Anthony Wood, who explains that a fingerpost--like a pathognomonic sign--points to the only solution possible.

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Dirt Cheap

Miller-Lachmann, Lyn

Last Updated: Aug-28-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nicholas Baran, a one-time student activist, is now in his 40s, teaching at a community college in rural Connecticut after having been denied tenure at an Ivy League school. The tenure denial, despite consistent teaching awards and high performance was clearly politically motivated and instigated by a right-wing professor protecting his turf and the school from a labor-oriented, media-challenging progressive. Nicholas has leukemia, and, upon noticing that he appears to be living in a cancer cluster, begins a private investigation of the large chemical company located just upstream on the river that runs through the town near his neighborhood.

The investigation becomes more intense after he comes upon a local rescue squad retrieving the body of a small boy who has drowned in the river, but whose body reveals effects of considerable acid in the water. Though his wife fears for him and resists his efforts, even to the point of temporarily allying herself (and engaging in a dailliance with) a powerful local real estate broker, Nick finds an ally in his son's teacher, hesitant, but committed to finding out the truth.

Though Nick's disease is progressing rapidly, he and Sandy, the teacher, manage to break into the company's files and retrieve enough damaging evidence to expose deliberate deception of the public as well as documenting the high incidence of cancers in the immediate neighborhood. Before his death Nick manages to supply enough material to the major media to expose the scandal, and leaves a hard-won legacy of truthtelling to his children.

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Butterfly Effect

Humes, Harry

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems offer a rich series of impressions of the speaker's present life, surrounded by family, a garden, and pockets of natural life that evoke memory after memory of a childhood lived in relative poverty with a father whose years as a coal miner damaged his lungs and finally killed him. Allusions to his chronic and worsening illness and his death thread through the poems like a long shadow.

Recurrent images of his blood-stained handkerchief, his coal-smeared face and hands, are echoed in images of the death of an uncle, the deaths of animals, and of a mother strained by poverty and taking frugal measures to preserve small things. The final poem in the collection recalls her in old age, barely able to see, but still "stitching it all together."

The title poem, one of the best, pauses over the famous idea that the flutter of a butterfly's wings might be the source of large effects continents away. Together the collection invites us, without sentimentality, to consider how things are connected over time and come together in memory in compositions one couldn't have anticipated.

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