Showing 201 - 210 of 354 annotations tagged with the keyword "Abandonment"

Doctor Faustus

Mann, Thomas

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.

Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.

In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."

Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.

Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.

The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),

Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.

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The Death of the Hired Man

Frost, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this domestic epic, a man and woman converse on the porch of their farmhouse. The man is just coming home in the evening; his wife meets him at the door to warn him that Silas, the old ne’r-do-well hired hand, had returned that day. She found him "huddled against the barn door, fast asleep, / A miserable sight, and frightening, too--"

Silas looked terribly ill, yet he didn’t ask for help. Instead, he told her he would cut the upper pasture, and he kept inquiring about the college boy he worked with on the farm a few years back. He and the boy argued all the time; now the old man wants to "make things right."

The husband shakes his head. No, he will not take Silas back. The old man walked away one too many times. You can’t depend on him to stay and finish the job when someone comes around offering him a little "pocket money" to go elsewhere. Indeed, Silas’s brother is the president of a bank; why doesn’t he go to his brother for help? At last the husband quiets down and goes in to see the old man, who is presumably asleep beside the stove. A few moments later, he returns to the porch. To his wife’s query, "’Dead,’ was all he answered." [175 lines]

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Doctor Zhivago

Pasternak, Boris

Last Updated: Aug-09-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This complex novel is difficult to summarize. The main characters are introduced separately. We meet Yurii Andreievich Zhivago (Yura) when he is ten, at his mother’s funeral. He goes on to study medicine, write poetry, and marry a young woman named Tonya. We first encounter Larisa Foedorovna (Lara) as the adolescent daughter of a widow who has been set up in a dressmaking business by Komarovsky. Komarovsky later harasses and seduces the young woman. In her anger and guilt, the impulsive Lara tries to shoot Komarovsky at a grand Christmas party, but she misses and inadvertently wounds another man. Subsequently, Lara marries Pavel Pavlovich (Pasha), her childhood sweetheart.

All this takes place against the background of social upheaval in pre-World War I Russia. When the war begins, Yura joins the Army medical corps. Pasha leaves Lara and their daughter Tanya to enlist in the army. When Pasha is reported lost behind enemy lines, Lara becomes a military nurse in order to search for him. Thus, Lara and Yura meet at a hospital where his wife Tonya has just delivered a baby boy. Lara and Yura feel attracted to one another, but neither one expresses it. At this point the Revolution breaks out in Petersburg.

As the fighting rages, Lara and Yura are posted to a hospital in a small town, where Yura struggles with his feelings. When he reports his friendship with Lara, Tonya assumes incorrectly that they have become lovers. Over the winter there are food shortages and the threat of a typhus epidemic. As the war ends, Yura returns home to Moscow, and to his old job at the hospital, but his co-workers are suspicious of him. Influenced by Bolshevism, they dislike his use of intuition instead of logic. The family resolves to travel to the Urals. Amidst Marxist rebellions, Yura's family finds room in a cargo train. During the long train ride, Yura reflects on the suffering of peasants and prisoners caused by the revolution. He shares the desire for equality and freedom, but is disenchanted by the revolutionaries' pedantic, insensitive opinions.

The family safely arrives in the Urals and set up a farm. During the long winters, Yura returns to writing poetry. While visiting the local library, he re-encounters Lara. They begin an affair, sharing a common joy in a fully-lived existence. Lara is aware that her husband is still alive, having become a feared member of the Red faction under another name (Strelnikov). Yura resolves to tell his wife about his unfaithfulness and to ask forgiveness, but as he rides home, he is kidnapped by a faction in the Civil War (the Reds) and forced to serve as their doctor.

After some years, Yura escapes from the Reds and walks back to find Lara, who still lives in the same place.  To escape being informed upon, Lara and Yura flee to the farm house where Yura and his family once lived. Again, Yura turns to his poetry, expressing his fears, courage, and love for Lara. He learns that Tonya and a new baby daughter have been deported from Russia. One night, Lara's old lover, Komarovsky, appears and tells them that the triumphant revolutionaries know where they are and will inevitably kill them both. He offers to take them abroad, where Yura could rejoin his family. Yura refuses to accept help from Komarovsky. To save Lara's life, though, he tells her that he will follow them out of the country, but actually remains behind. Alone, he turns to drink.

One night Lara's husband, Strelnikov (Pasha), who is fleeing the new government, arrives. When he learns of Yura and Lara’s love, he leaves the house and shoots himself. Yura then goes to Moscow where he strikes up an affair with Marina and becomes a writer of literary booklets.  His brother finds him a job at a hospital, but on his way to his first day at work, he dies, presumably of a heart attack. Lara, who had been living in Irkutsk, has returned to Moscow and wanders accidentally into the house where his body lies waiting for burial. After several days, Lara disappears, presumably captured and sent to a concentration camp.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Warren Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson, is a middle level officer in an Omaha insurance company who faces retirement and, shortly afterward, the sudden death of his wife of 42 years. He struggles with emotional chaos and mental confusion and with the nagging thought that his life is over and that he has failed to make the world better in any way.

An additional complication is that his only child, Jeannie (Hope Davis), is planning to marry a man (Randall, played by Dermott Mulroney) Schmidt strongly feels is below her. He tries several times to prevent the marriage but fails at that, too. Returning home from the wedding in despair, Schmidt finds a piece of mail with a drawing made by a young boy in Tanzania he had begun to support just after he retired, and the final scene shows him deeply moved.

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Absence of Mercy

Stone, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mackay’s story begins in the 1940s when, at age 5, he was sent to a "boarding school" run by the Catholic order of the Pauline Brothers. Mackay’s mother had herself been institutionalized for paranoid schizophrenia and his father was not in the picture. In the school Mackay was exposed to pervasive violence: "intramural" violence wherein the stronger children taunted and beat up the weaker ones; classroom violence in which the instructors slapped or beat with a razor strop those boys they deemed to be errant in any respect; organized boxing matches; and, most feared, "statutory evening punishment" where students had been selected out by a Brother to be humiliated and beaten after the evening meal and prayers. The latter violence was characterized by "the absence of mercy" and a sadistic ritualism that induced "sick-making terror" in its victims.

We follow Mackay through additional episodes of violence as he progresses through delinquent adolescence--now living in a welfare hotel with his mother--through a stint in the Navy, marriage and fatherhood, and, finally, to an episode in the New York City subway that is the crisis point of the story. In the Navy he is once again victimized by a drill instructor who humiliates Mackay into losing the "instinctive cringe" he had developed during his years at the institution.

Mackay reads in the newspaper that an old buddy--"they had suffered shame and pain together that could never be explained to anyone (38)"--has been murdered in the subway while coming to a woman’s aid. Mackay is terribly troubled by this incident, not only because of the earlier close relationship, but also because he finds himself intrigued by the story. A year later, Mackay is in a similar situation--in his presence, a well dressed but deranged man is threatening a woman in a subway station.

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Misgivings

Williams, C. K. (Charles Kenneth)

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

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The poet C. K. Williams enters the room where his father has just died and exclaims to the corpse, "What a war we had!" (p. 1) Soon thereafter, his mother comes into the room and quietly lies down beside her dead husband, their bodies close but not touching. Thus begins Williams's memoir about his parents' deaths and his grieving. In the process of working through his grief, the poet finally comes to "see" his parents and to understand the nature of his feelings toward them and their feelings toward each other.

"You used to be such a nice man," he remembers his mother once telling his father. Indeed, when Williams was a child (and the family poor), his father was engaged and attentive. But as he evolved into a very successful businessman, he emotionally withdrew from the family. Throughout Williams's adult life, he and his father were alienated, their interactions consisting of verbal warfare, made much worse by the young man's choice of profession (writing poetry). It was only after the father had his first "stroke" (indicating brain metastases) that he was able to declare a truce. At one point he said, bemusedly, to his son, "We were kids together, you and I" (p. 37). However, during this truce, Williams's father, unable to bear his suffering, repeatedly pleaded with his son to help him end his life, an act that Williams was unable to perform.

Williams remembers whispering "I love you," when he first viewed his mother's corpse. Yet during life he saw her as a "completely and unquestioningly self-centered" woman (p. 58) whose life was filled with constant anxiety that she wouldn't get enough out of life, or that she'd lose what she had. She was a careless mother and a fretful and vain person. Yet there was more than that. Williams connects with his mother as a suffering person during her final illness: "Someday I'll thank her for how much of herself she risked to have divided herself when she was so young, so unprepared, so vulnerable, into the double creature she and I were...and the linked beings we always would be." (p. 166)

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About Love

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jun-22-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In "About Love," two friends who were caught in a storm while out walking have sought shelter in a third friend's country home. They stayed the night and at lunch the next day their host, Alehin, tells them a story about his lost love. It seems that when he was young, he worked closely with Luganovitch, the vice-president of the circuit court, and became close friends with Luganovitch and his beautiful wife Anna Alexyevna.

Over the years, Alehin and Anna spent a great deal of time together; he fell passionately in love with her and felt confident that she reciprocated his feelings. Yet, they never acted on their passion. At last, after many years, when Anna was setting out on the train to join her husband, who had been transferred to a distant province, Alehin took her into his arms and proclaimed his love. They collapsed in tears. But alas, the train left: "I kissed her for the last time, pressed her hand, and parted forever."

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Remnant

Lieberman, Michael

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a sequence of 45 poems on the Holocaust. Of course, "on" is impossible. These poems suggest, approach, reflect and consider. They range from the tale of the Maker of Walls in Krakow who chooses to make his new wall out of "jewstone," which is cheap and conveniently sized, since it consists of gravestones; to a paean in which the poet asks the blessing of "the god of small poets" to take pity on him: "May a self-righting gyroscope inhabit me and guide me. / May I smell the lilacs of my parents' yard."

The poems situate themselves in gnomic utterance ("Black Forest Cake" and "Women"), narrative movement ("Amsterdam" and "Grace Note"), ironic lyricism ("Idyll" and "Spring"), and reflective toughness; take "Nothing" for example: "He leaves us nothing / as a remnant of His people."

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Clock Without Hands

McCullers, Carson

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the early 1950's, Milan, Georgia is a racially divided town where secrets are plentiful and the meaning of justice is muddled. J. T. Malone, a 40-year-old pharmacist who failed his second year of medical school, is diagnosed with leukemia and told he has only 12-15 months to live. In some ways, Malone's last year of life parallels the declining fortunes of the town's leading citizen, Judge Fox Clane, an overweight and elderly former Congressman who suffers from diabetes and a previous stroke. Judge Clane's wife died of breast cancer, his only son committed suicide, and his daughter-in-law died during childbirth. He raises his grandson, John Jester Clane, and aspires to restore the grandeur of the South in conjunction with redeeming his personal hoard of Confederate currency.

Judge Clane hires Sherman Pew, a "colored boy" and orphan, as his personal assistant, but Sherman eventually resigns from the position when he can no longer tolerate the Judge or his prejudice. Sherman moves into a house located in a white neighborhood. A group of townspeople including the Judge plots to get rid of him. A local man bombs the building and Sherman dies. Shortly after his death, the United States Supreme Court announces its decision supporting school integration.

The Judge is infuriated and goes on the radio station to express his opinion, but he has not prepared a speech. Instead, he begins babbling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The radio station cuts him off. Malone has been listening to the Judge on the radio, but his wife turns it off. Integration no longer matters to Malone. Near the end of his life, Malone finds solace in the renewed love for his wife, Martha. He finally appreciates the order and simplicity of life. The pharmacist dies peacefully in his own bed.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Nathaniel Lachenmeyer’s memoir is a reconstructed account of his father Charles’s battle with paranoid schizophrenia and Nathaniel’s inability or unwillingness to recognize his father’s need for help. After his father’s death, Nathaniel contacted many of the people who had known his father, both when he was a student and college professor and later when his illness forced him into mental hospitals, squalid apartments, and homeless living on the streets. Nathaniel’s search to understand his father after his death led him to interview the many health care workers, police, street people, restaurant staff, and others who knew Charles when he was very ill.

Charles was delusional, often hearing voices and talking to his mother, who had been dead for years. Typical of people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, Charles did not see himself as mentally ill. Therefore he did not like to take medications and would refuse treatments when he could, although his health care workers could see substantial changes for the better when he was on medication. He believed he was the victim of a mind control experiment, forced on him by his persecutors. He died out of touch with his family, having suffered almost twenty years on his own with his illness.

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