Showing 171 - 180 of 328 annotations tagged with the keyword "Marital Discord"

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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Health and Happiness

Johnson, Diane

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The site of the multiple stories interwoven in this novel is a teaching hospital in San Francisco. One of the featured characters is a young single mother who comes in with a swollen arm and finds herself in more medical trouble than she anticipated. She suffers a mild stroke after debatable treatment. Two doctors attend her, but differ markedly in their ideas of how to treat her and their human responses to her. One ends up having a brief affair with her that changes his life.

In addition to these there are stories of a comatose young man and the family that refuses to believe he will not awaken (he does); a volunteer coordinator who observes the politics of hospital life from a privileged margin, and sundry staff people who represent alternative points of view. The single mother recovers, but only after a stay in the hospital has convinced her she may not yet be too old to go to medical school to find a life not in marrying a doctor, but in being one.

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Opera Therapy

Evison-Griffith, Traicee

Last Updated: Mar-29-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This documentary video follows the making of an opera, based on the illness experiences of four Australians who have been diagnosed and treated for cancer. Their feelings about these experiences are translated into music (with lyrics) as they work closely with music therapist/composer, Emma O'Brien. As the three women and one man tell their stories of physical debility and emotional pain, the music therapist asks them to think in terms of color (they choose purple, black) and tones and rhythms that she plays for them on the piano.

When the narratives and their musical representations have evolved sufficiently, trained singers take on the roles "written" for them by the four former patients; the latter continue to be intimately involved in the opera's production, directed by David Kram. At the end of the project, which is also the conclusion of the film, the opera is performed in front of an audience (with musicians playing instruments, singing, and dramatic enactment) and the four people whose illness experience is performed take their bows together with the singers.

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Summary:

The devoted, and antagonistic, bond between a dramatic, charismatic widow (Shirley MacLaine) and her quietly rebellious daughter (Debra Winger) is the focal point of this film's exploration of a range of human relationships and their changes over time and under various pressures, including that of serious illness. The major focus of the last part of the film is the illness and death of the daughter from cancer and its impact on her mother, her husband and children, and their immediate circle of friends and lovers.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When their young son dies from kidney failure, Stewart and Sharon Mackaney funnel their grief into a business--transporting donated organs for transplant patients. Sharon has put on weight and not cut her long hair since the death of her child, Matthew. The fortyish woman likes to read about vertebrate organs in a worn copy of Gray's Anatomy. She totes a red cooler on her trips crisscrossing the country. Inside of it is a precious organ--a kidney, liver, or pancreas.

Sharon spends lots of time in airplanes, hotels, and bars. Although they continue to share a house, she and her husband have been estranged since Matthew's death three years earlier. Stew suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic flatulence that began at his son's funeral and has not improved a bit despite psychiatric treatment.

Stew and Sharon receive an award for their work as organ transporters. During a speech at the fundraising event, Sharon criticizes the audience for hoarding their kidneys. On returning home, she spends time in Matthew's bedroom and later has a variation of the recurrent nightmare that has plagued her since her son's death. Sharon dreams that her hair is gone, and she rises, unencumbered, until reaching the ozone layer where she is incinerated.

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Semi-Private

Yglesias, Helen

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Half-waking from surgical anesthesia, a woman named Mary realizes that she has had a breast removed. She immediately begins to imagine how this will affect her already troubled marriage. When she is fully awake, other women on the ward try to comfort her, each with a strategy for bearing up under suffering which Mary finds unacceptable because these strategies represent values about marriage, submissive gender roles, or religion which Mary cannot quite swallow.

Later, talking with her brusque surgeon and her family doctor, Mary learns that the mastectomy may not have been necessary, that the tumor was benign. At the end of the story, husband Matt hustles in to ask: "Well, baby, are you still going to divorce me?"

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Dying: An Update

Brodkey, Harold

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

A chronicle of the author's perceptions, thoughts, memories, and personal relationships during the months after he was diagnosed as having AIDS. Brodkey's mind and prose are as sharp as a knife's edge. Beginning with the desperate struggle for breath that signaled pneumonia and, retrospectively, "how my life ended. And my dying began," continuing with the reactions and decisions of himself and his wife, the first half of the essay spins out an observant, introspective, cerebral, even amusing account of his particular experience.

But AIDS is often a disease associated with more emotional baggage than other fatal illnesses, and in Brodkey's case we learn that he traces both his dying and his homosexual experiences to "the major drama of [his] adolescence", daily sexual abuse by his adoptive father, with the implied knowledge and acquiescence of his mother. Writes Brodkey, "I experimented with homosexuality to break my pride, to open myself to the story." "Now I will die disfigured and in pain."

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Ma, a Memoir

Freed, Lynn

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The middle-aged narrator is caught in the maelstrom of tending to her father, who is dying of cancer; coping with her demented mother; mediating between her parents, for whom "[S]ixty years of marriage had only heated the furious war between them"; and dealing with her own grief. This glimpse of an increasingly common family dilemma is superbly rendered.

Although it is narrated in the first-person, the narrator is never intrusive as she allows the situation to unfold through dialog and unadorned description. The mother's dementia lends the story its bizarrely humorous moments, as well as its poignancy. This little "memoir" of a complex family dynamic is written with skill, insight, and a light touch.

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