Showing 201 - 210 of 392 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

Jane Eyre

Bronte, Charlotte

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Young Jane Eyre was orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, who dies shortly after her arrival. Her step-aunt despises her and sends her to Lowood School so that she can become a governess. She wins the friendship of everyone there, but her life is difficult because conditions are poor at the school. Not until typhus kills many of the students do conditions improve.

Jane completes her education there and obtains a position as governess at a house called Thornfield. Jane’s student is Adele Varens, a petulant but loving ward of the master of the house, Edward Rochester (and possibly his illegitimate child). Rochester is rarely at home and Jane spends most of her time with Adele and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. When Rochester does come home, he is often moody and imposing.

One night, Jane wakes to strange noises and the smell of smoke. She finds Rochester unconscious in his bed, which is on fire. Other odd things happen in the house: Jane often hears strange laughter and thuds. Jane has meanwhile realized that she loves Rochester but in her pride refuses to confess it.

When Rochester invites a group of friends to the house, including Blanche Ingram whom he is expected to marry, Jane is treated like a servant by the guests. One of the guests, Mr. Mason, is mysteriously injured. Jane is also troubled when her former guardian, Mrs. Reed, calls her to her death bed and admits that several years earlier she had received a letter from one of Jane’s distant relatives, John Eyre, a wealthy man who lives in Madeira. Mr. Eyre had offered to adopt Jane, but Mrs. Reed maliciously told him that Jane had died in the typhus epidemic.

When Jane returns from this visit, Rochester asks her to marry him and Jane joyfully assents. Two nights before their wedding, she wakes to find someone in her room, wearing her wedding veil. She faints in fear, but Rochester convinces her it is her imagination. At the wedding, a man interrupts the service, saying Rochester is already married. Rochester admits it and takes the wedding party to the attic. His wife is a Creole, Bertha Mason, who went mad immediately after their wedding fifteen years before. Now she is imprisoned in the attic.

Jane decides she must run away. Penniless, she becomes a beggar until Reverend St. John Rivers and his two sisters generously take her in. She lives with them under an assumed name, and it is only by accident that she learns simultaneously that John Eyre has died and left her his fortune and that the Rivers are her cousins. They share the fortune. Rivers presses her to marry him and join him as a missionary. He admits that he does not love her, but he thinks Jane smart and useful. Jane feels she must do her duty, but she does not want to marry Rivers.

One night, Jane hears Rochester’s voice calling to her. She returns to Thornfield and finds the house burned to the ground. Bertha had set fire to it and Rochester became blinded in his unsuccessful attempt to save her life. Jane and Rochester marry. It is intimated that Rivers will die gloriously for his cause.

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Illness as Metaphor

Sontag, Susan

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Sontag argues against the use of illness as metaphor. She states her main point on the first page of this long essay : "The most truthful way of regarding illness--and the healthiest way of being ill--is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking."

Tuberculosis and cancer serve as her two central examples of the human tendency to use metaphoric thinking about illness. In the 19th century, tuberculosis was considered a disease of passion, of "inward burning," of the "consumption" of life force. Sufferers were thought to have superior sensibility; the illness purified them of the dross of everyday life. The romantic image of the TB sufferer became "the first widespread example of that distinctively modern activity, promoting the self as an image" (p. 29). Metaphoric thinking about TB declined in the early part of the 20th century as the disease succumbed to science and public health measures.

Cancer has now become the predominant disease metaphor in our culture. Cancer is considered a disease of repression, or inhibited passion. The cancer sufferer characteristically suppresses emotion, which after many years emerges from the unconscious self as malignant growth. As in Auden’s poem, Miss Gee, reproduced on page 49, (see annotation in this database): "Childless women get it, / And men when they retire . . . . " Sontag uses the 19th century view of insanity as another example of malignant metaphoric thinking, while metaphor related to syphilis was somewhat more benign. She concludes the essay with an eloquent prediction that, as we learn more about the etiology and treatment of cancer, its metaphorical system will die on the vine. (I wonder if Sontag would consider my "die on the vine" an appropriate metaphor here?)

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This short play is set in rural Spain at the turn of this century. The characters, all women, exist in a cloistered household managed by a newly widowed mother of five daughters. Under the shadow of the church and the tyranny bred from a need to protect the reputation of the family, the matron (Bernarda Alba) represses her daughters by enforcing an eight year mourning period. The tensions build rapidly among the imprisoned women, with a demented grandmother playing a role resembling that of a Greek chorus. Eventually, the natural spirits of the daughters circumvent Bernarda, but the result is violence and a suicide.

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He Knew He Was Right

Trollope, Anthony

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Louis Trevelyn, a wealthy and respected Englishman, marries the poor, but spirited, Emily. They live happily together for about a year, and have a son. Emily begins to accept regular visits from Colonel Osborne, an old friend of her father’s, who claims to visit Emily only as a family friend. However, his age sits lightly on him and he has a reputation for breaking happy homes.

Louis, in a jealous rage, instructs his wife to refuse all further visits from Osborne. Emily believes that he is accusing her of infidelity and is extraordinarily angry. She insists that Osborne is simply a friend. Neither partner will apologize. Eventually, Louis can no longer live with his wife. He sells the house, sends Emily and Louis, Jr. to live in the country and sets himself up in a squalid boarding house.

Emily does not wish to be separated from her husband and grows less prideful. She will gladly obey Louis’ command to no longer see Osborne, but she will not apologize for having seen him, as she believes it would be tantamount to confessing adultery. Louis, meanwhile, grows increasingly obsessed with her "disobedience" and hires a private detective to keep an eye on his wife. The detective finds that Osborne insisted on a visit to Emily--  visit that was public and lasted ten minutes, but that nevertheless leads Louis to steal his son and flee to Italy.

Louis’s obsession makes him mentally and physically ill. When Emily and her family track him down in Europe, he is deathly thin and seems mad, convinced that his wife, his friends, and even the private detective are against him. This wretched marriage is contrasted to several other relationships that develop in the course of the novel. These are based on mutual respect and love rather than self-pride and so flourish. These happy couples also physically and mentally change, but for the better.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This unique "miscellany" of prose from journals and essays, poems, stories, music, paintings (reproduced in black and white), drawings, and cartoons illustrates countless ways that medicine and the arts, in tandem, "stretch the imagination, deepen the sympathy . . . enrich the perceptions" and give sheer, unadulterated pleasure. Organized by Robin Downie, renowned Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, the anthology is grouped in eight categories: "The Way We Are," "Disease and Mental Illness," "Doctors and Psychiatrists," "Nurses and Patients," "Healing," "Last Things," "Research," and "Ethics and Purpose."

Excerpts include the classic lore [Charles Lamb’s essay, "The Convalescent"; Florence Nightingale’s diary, "Notes on Nursing"; W. H. Auden’s poem, Musee des Beaux Arts (see this database); Theodore Roethke’s poem, In a Dark Time (see this database); C. S. Lewis’s journal, A Grief Observed (see this database); Sir Luke Fildes’s painting, The Doctor (see this database)] and refreshingly new nuggets from John Wisdom’s radio talk, "What is There in Horse-Racing" ("For a game of croquet is not merely a matter of getting balls through hoops, anymore than a conversation is a matter of getting noises out of a larynx,"); Robert Pirsig’s treatise, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"; physician Roy Calne’s tender sketches of his own patients; composer Richard Wagner’s letter, "Biscuits as Therapy"; Janice Galloway’s novel, "The Trick is to Keep Breathing"; and expressions by patients and artists who happen to be patients of their particular illness experiences.

Lest "commentary be intrusive," except as brief introduction to each section, Downie deliberately omitted them, placing illustrations and extracts so as to provide commentary on one another. (Readers cannot help but be stimulated, however, to rearrange and create their own juxtapositions.)

The section on "Healing" considers not only the expected operations, spiritual healing, traditional cures, music and art as therapy, but also "spells, hope, and mothers." Richard Asher’s essay on why medical journals are so dull (British Medical Journal 23 Aug. 1958), or on whether or not baldness is psychological, and the comic strips of Posy Simmonds (the double entendres of "Medical Precautions," the "Minor Operation" burlesque on Shakespeare’s "All the Ward’s a Stage,") remind us yet again that birthing, aging, illness and dying are not pathological events or mere medical processes, and that the arts and humanities are bountiful reservoirs of moral discourse, inspiration, and renewal.

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Heredity

Davidson, Jenny

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Elizabeth Mann, the daughter of a world famous fertility specialist whom she despises, hasn’t quite made it into medical school. She runs away to London, where she can revel in an orgy of self-destructive behavior, while working as a freelance writer for a travel guidebook. She soon develops two obsessions. In an obscure medical museum she encounters the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, a famous 18th century criminal who met his death by hanging. During the same museum visit, she runs across Gideon Streetcar, a young fertility specialist who once worked with her father. Though Gideon is "happily" married, he and Elizabeth soon begin a torrid affair.

Elizabeth’s obsession with Jonathan Wild grows when, through Gideon, she obtains a copy of the criminal’s second wife’s memoir. Through it, she learns that his first wife, who died in childbirth, was named Elizabeth Mann. She develops a scheme to obtain DNA from Wild’s skeleton and use it in association with an experimental cloning procedure to become pregnant with the 18th century criminal’s child (clone).

When the 25 year old Elizabeth reveals that her father tied her tubes when she was 16, after having aborted her fetus--a "slut," he called her--Gideon agrees to attempt in vitro fertilization with her eggs and his sperm. He transfers two blastocysts, plus one of the supposedly cloned Jonathan Wild cells. She becomes pregnant. Soon thereafter she returns to the USA when her father has a massive heart attack and she, apparently, has an opportunity to go to medical school.

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Summary:

This collection of sixteen Chekhov stories brings together in one volume many of Chekhov’s finest tales about doctors. The chronologically-arranged collection includes the famous novella, Ward 6, as well as such shorter classics as An Awkward Business and A Doctor’s Visit. In all sixteen stories, the doctor is a major figure, often at the center of a moral conflict.

Robert Coles , in his thoughtful forward, notes that Chekhov raises the "big questions" about "the meaning and purpose of life and the manner it ought to be conducted (and why)." Himself the editor of William Carlos Williams’s doctor stories, Coles recognizes and honors the comparison between Chekhov’s and Williams’s works and their dual careers as physician-writers. Jack Coulehan, in his introduction and comments, provides interesting biographical information on the great Russian writer as well as insightful interpretations of each story.

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The Scarlet Flower

Garshin, Vsevolod

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story opens with the protagonist, identified only as the "Patient," being forcibly carried into the insane asylum. Once there, he no longer protests, but seems to accept his incarceration in the huge, overcrowded hospital. The doctor and other staff members seem particularly kind. Because the Patient rapidly loses weight, despite his good appetite, he receives a special diet.

The Patient notices a single scarlet flower among the many beautiful flowers in the hospital garden. He suddenly realizes that all the evil in the world is condensed into the scarlet flower. His mission is to destroy it. But when he attempts to pick the flower, hospital personnel prevent him from doing so, since picking flowers is prohibited. Eventually, he manages to destroy the flower, but notices a second scarlet blossom in the garden. He destroys that one as well, but a third scarlet flower appears. Finally, the Patient sneaks out at night to deal with the third flower, and then is found dead in the garden the next morning, clutching the remains of the scarlet blossom.

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Summary:

A long hallway stretches almost all the way to the end of the viewer's perspective. One solitary figure about halfway down the hall makes a quick exit from our view as it ducks into an abutting room. The hallway is colored in somber tones--browns, greens, and muddy yellows make up most of the coloration. These colors make the hallway appear as though it is composed of awkward rivers flowing across the plane of the floor, suggesting a sort of moat or barricade across which travel might be difficult. Additionally, the archways are not stylistically consistent--the arch closest to the viewer is more plain, more bleak, and seems to cordon off the viewer's end of the hall from the remainder of the corridor.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Arabella is a young lady who has lived for a long while at her father’s secluded country home. She spends her time reading romances (in 18th century Britain, "romance" meant fictional works posing as historical accounts of tragic heroines, leibestods, and undying affection--usually French in origin).

She has come to believe the romances to be true and models her behavior after the rigid rules of womanhood contained in them. Moreover, she interprets others’ action or outside events according to romantic expectations.

When Arabella finally goes into society, all are struck with her wisdom and beauty, but are baffled by her behavior and constant references to various romantic characters. She scorns her persistent suitor, Mr. Glanville, since he does not, at first, pursue her according to the rules of romance. He neither pines away, nor allows her to send him to the far ends of the earth to think of her without hope, forever. He soon learns to humor her caprices.

Arabella goes through many adventures all of which depend on her obsession. When she falls ill after diving into a river to save her honor, a doctor is called in to treat her. Learning of her obsession, he resolves to cure her. Using cold logic, he dissolves Arabella’s misconceptions.

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