Showing 201 - 210 of 297 annotations tagged with the keyword "Poverty"

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In 1950 London, lower middle-class (but upper middle- aged) Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) devotes herself to family and "helping" others. With empathic cheeriness, she visits shut-ins, provides tea for the bedridden, feeds lonely men, and "brings on their bleeding" for girls in trouble. She also tends her cantankerous, ailing mother, who has never revealed the identity of Vera’s father.

The men in Vera’s life are bruised and confused by end of the war. Exuding affection, she cooks, irons, sews, and listens to their litanies of loss and derring-do. Her son, Sid, is an extroverted clothing salesman and her dowdy daughter, Ethel (Alex Kelly), is a pathologically shy factory-worker; neither seems adequate for the task of living alone. But Vera and her husband, Stan (Phil Davis), are happy in each other, their offspring, and their modest existence.

Only the friend, Nellie, knows of the help for young girls. She extracts a secret two-guinea fee for advising the girl, but Vera receives not a penny. Over the years, the two women have solved problems for mothers with too many children, mothers with no man, and mothers who were raped. They also safely abort insouciant party girls who are blas?about men, sex, and consequences.

But a young girl falls seriously ill following an abortion and is sent to hospital. Under pressure from police, the girl’s mother divulges Vera’s name. The police barge in to arrest her just as the Drake family celebrates Ethel’s engagement to one of the lonely men, Reg (Eddie Marsan).

The criminal charges come as a complete surprise to the family. Sid seethes with anger and disbelief, but Stan’s implicit faith in his wife brings him and the others to support her through the long trial. The judge hands her a stiff thirty-month sentence intended "as a deterrent." But in prison, Vera meets two other abortionists who tell her that she is lucky: both are serving much longer, second sentences, because their "girls" had died.

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Summary:

Moller is a sociologist who takes us into the world of the urban poor; he focuses on half a dozen individuals, giving intimate and moving portraits of them. An opening character is called Cowboy (a pseudonym); he lives under a bridge with his dog Cowgirl and dies a slow death of lung cancer. In an Epilogue (pp. 163-184) Moller calls him "an urban Thoreau." This respect for the dying poor pervades the book.

Besides descriptions of the characters, there is much dialogue, including extended quotations, but also some 100 small photographs, usually close-ups, inserted into the text. One photo shows a man in his coffin. Clearly Moller gets close to his characters, and so does the reader.

Moller argues that the dominant society--to its shame--neither supplies adequate care for this sector of society nor even recognition that such people exist. He calls the dying poor "an invisible world." It's a disturbing world, with the pain and neglect, but also an inspiring one, because of the caregivers such as social workers and nurses and the heroism and dignity of the patients presented.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In four lengthy chapters, the biographies of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert are carefully presented. Special attention is given to health, both physical and psychological, throughout life and at its end. Autopsy information is included. In particular, the author emphasizes the impact of illness on the composers' relationships with family members and doctors, and on their musical composition.

Evidence is derived from a wealth of primary sources, often with long citations from letters, poetry, musical scores, prescriptions, diaries, the remarkable "chat books" of Beethoven. Neumayr also takes on the host of other medical biographers who have preceded him in trying to retrospectively 'diagnose' these immortal dead.

Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Vienna emerges as a remarkable city of musical innovation and clinical medicine. The composers' encounters with each other link these biographies. Similarly, many patrons, be they aristocrats or physicians, appear in more than one chapter, such as the Esterhazy family and Dr Anton Mesmer.

The disease concepts of the era, prevalent infections, and preferred therapies are treated with respect. Rigid public health rules in Vienna concerning burial practices meant that ceremonies could not take place in cemeteries and may explain why some unusual information is available and why other seemingly simple facts are lost.

Biographical information about the treating physicians is also given, together with a bibliography of secondary sources, and an index of specific works of music cited.

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Sweet Thursday

Steinbeck, John

Last Updated: May-05-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Returning to the scene of Cannery Row (see this database), made so famous in the eponymous novel, Steinbeck finds a few of his familiar old characters (notably Doc and Mack) and some new ones inhabiting a world that appears to have changed little during the intervening years, despite the closing of the canneries and a World War. Mack and the boys, still up to their usual self-sabotaging shenanigans, collude with Fauna, the proprietor of the local brothel, to bring together Suzy, a new prostitute recently arrived to Cannery Row, and an increasingly lonely and frustrated Doc.

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Children Underground

Belzberg, Edet

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

After the overthrow of the tyrannical Nicolae Ceaucescu in December, 1989, the world became aware of the horrendous conditions in which so many Romanian children were living. Thousands of handicapped and able-bodied children were living in squalid "orphanages" and thousands more, numbering at least 20,000, were living on the streets. A combination of crushing poverty and disastrous state policies regarding contraception and child care contributed to one of the worst tragedies of modern Europe.

This documentary film focuses on the lives of a group of children living in a Bucharest underground station, the oldest in her late teens, the youngest barely past toddlerhood. The camera captures how these children live, and the ways in which they care for each other and for themselves as they endure violence and abuse, huff paint fumes from paper bags, and try to survive.

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Stevie

James, Steve

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Steve James, director of the film, Hoop Dreams, spent four years filming the life of Stevie Fielding, a young man with a long and disturbing history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, learning difficulties and abandonment. The film is a reunion of sorts, chronicling how the director and Stevie get to know one another and each other's families after years have passed. Since they first met, Stevie seems to have turned from a troubled kid into a violent, cynical, debilitated young man and during the course of the film, Stevie is brought to trial for perpetrating child abuse. When the director Steve James was at Southern Illinois University, he was in the Big Brother-Little Brother programme: Stevie Fielding was his Little Brother.

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Late

White, Kelley Jean

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The front cover of this collection shows the outline of Africa completely filled with the names of patients ("Tyra Lynette Deja Nya Rovert Marqui Fatima Terry Alexia Michon Ty . . . ") On the last page, poem #120 consists of an outline of the United States of America, also completely filled with the names of patients, also African. The poems in this collection constitute a journey through these Dark Continents, both of which lie within.

Kelley Jean White stakes out her territory very clearly: "I suppose I embarrassed you / at all those mainline / plastic surgery parties / talking Quaker and poor and idealism" (3). There are no elegant parties, nor plastic surgeons, after page 3. Instead, persons like Shawanda live here: "At seventeen, Shawanda has never spoken. / Her brother easily carries her frail body / into the exam room--37 pounds" (36). And the nine year old girl who delivers her baby by C-section: "The nurses said it was the worst thing / they’d ever seen . . . She took her to her grandmother’s home / to raise. / The man did time / for assault." ("Freedom," 55)

But the poet hasn’t lost hope at all. She is filled with love and humor and imagination: "I dream I’m marrying this guy I used to work with who spent a lot of money on his hair" (73). "I musta been looking pretty down / when I left you today . . . " because the legless man pulling his wheelchair to his favorite begging spot said, "love, you gotta be always looking up . . . I just smiled and looked at / my too big shoe feet" (118).

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To a Distant Island

McConkey, James

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

During a sabbatical year in Florence, English professor and writer James McConkey immersed himself in reading Anton Chekhov’s works, as well as biographies of the Russian writer. He began to feel a particular affinity for Chekhov’s crisis of 1889-1890 and his resolution of that crisis by traveling alone to Sakhalin Island off the eastern coast of Siberia to investigate conditions in the penal colonies that the Russian government had established in that distant region. Perhaps because McConkey himself was recovering from a series of traumatic experiences in his own life, he felt a kinship to this depressed young Russian author and his search for a new direction in life.

McConkey responded to this feeling of kinship by writing To a Distant Island, which is partly biographical, in that it retells the story of Chekhov’s six month long journey to Sakhalin Island in 1890; and partly a memoir, in that McConkey relates Chekhov’s life events to the feelings and events of his own life at the time. McConkey establishes this perspective from the beginning, when he explains why he refers to Chekhov throughout the book as "T": "I honor the man too much to call him by name throughout an account, which. . . is bound to be a fiction of my own" (8).

To a Distant Island dwells especially on the motivation for Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin, a question scholars have debated for a hundred years now. Of the many contributing reasons for the trip, McConkey chooses to highlight and fictionalize "the suicidal tendency that surfaced again a decade later in the marriage his health simply couldn’t afford" (26). McConkey refines this to "T. wants to escape--he wants out, at whatever the personal cost" (27). It is in this state of mind (or soul) that the brilliant and sensitive T. begins his journey to the end of the earth.

Perhaps as a metaphor that characterizes any human quest, McConkey devotes most of the writing and energy to T’s justification, preparation, and outward-bound journey. Only 37 pages remain for the story of what happens to his hero once the goal is achieved; and less than 6 pages for the homeward trek (or homeward "sail" in this case). [This is a technique, come to think of it, quite the opposite of Homer’s in "The Odyssey"!]

The conclusion? "Sakhalin, then, gave to T. nothing he hadn’t known all along. . . Perhaps despair--that absence of hope--is a requisite for any deepened understanding of a universal hope for something never to be found in the present time or place" (82).

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in 1928 and is best known in the English-speaking world for his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, which appeared early in his career in Spanish (1967) and later in English (1970). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 and in 1988 published the novel, 0008 (see annotation), which received considerable attention for its evocative story of love and memory.

Garcia Marquez's autobiography is recent (2002, 2003); it covers the first twenty-seven years of his life in Columbia, ending in 1955 when he is sent as a journalist to Geneva to cover the Big Four Conference for his newspaper in Bogota. Although he remained in Europe for three years after that the book does not cover that period.

Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, Columbia in his grandparents' home, the first child in a family that grew to include ten younger siblings. He had a hectic childhood being reared by his parents' large extended family, which included several children sired by his father with women other than his mother.

Finances were always tenuous; when he worked as a journalist he was an important supporter of the family. He received a broad classical education at the Jesuit College in Bogota, where he began his writing career. Later he studied law and journalism but did not finish law school. He read extensively from all genres of literature.

Garcia Marquez's family relationships and personal experiences were traumatic in many ways as was the political situation in Columbia. It was a tumultuous initiation to a life of creative writing. His words quoted on the flyleaf describe the book: "Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it."

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The Creature

O'Brien, Edna

Last Updated: Oct-11-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, a schoolteacher substituting in a "stagnant, godforsaken little place" in the west of Ireland, meets an old woman that everyone in town calls "The Creature." She decides to visit The Creature and listens to her story, eventually becoming a regular weekly visitor at her hut.

The Creature is a widow who has two children: a daughter who lives in Canada and a married son who lives a few miles away on a farm The Creature used to own. Her husband had been killed, a victim of The Troubles two years after they were married. Thus, she had to raise the children alone.

Originally her farm was relatively prosperous, but the animals had all developed hoof-and-mouth disease and died. Nonetheless, she managed to keep body and soul together and to send the children away to school. Her son returned from the city after marrying a woman who despised The Creature. He and his wife had moved into the farm, but the young couple argued every night about money and the mother's presence, so The Creature signed the farm over to her son and moved away. That was 17 years ago; he had never visited her since.

The narrator goes to the farm, meets the son (by this time a passive and depressed middle aged man), and arranges for him to visit his mother. He does this, but the visit goes poorly. The narrator finally realizes that she has actually removed the last little glimmer of hope the old woman had; before seeing her son again, she could always hope that someday the two would be reunited, but after he visits, she realizes that he doesn't care about her and will probably never come back.

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