Showing 211 - 220 of 354 annotations tagged with the keyword "Freedom"

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 Darling

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Olga is a lovely, plump, and friendly girl; the kind of girl whom everyone wants to squeeze and cry delightedly, "You darling!" She marries Kukin, the manager of the amusement park, and lives quite happily, selling tickets to his shows and parroting Kukin’s opinions about the theater.

But Kukin dies while in Moscow on a business trip. Olga goes into deep mourning, but within a few months she marries Pustovalov, the timber merchant. Now Olga adopts Pustovalov’s opinions--all business, no theater. When Pustovalov dies, Olga begins an affair with Smirnin, an army veterinary surgeon who is separated from his wife. While she lives with Smirnin, Olga is full of talk about animals and their diseases.

Finally, Smirnin is transferred elsewhere; Olga is left with nothing to talk about--the darling has no opinions of her own. Many years later, Smirnin returns to the town with his wife and son. Olga becomes attached to the young boy and her eyes light up again. She has something to talk about!

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The film is an adaptation of an award-winning play by Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean writer forced into exile in 1973. Through revelatory events affecting the three characters, audiences learn about atrocities committed by the Fascist government that had, until recently, ruled the unnamed country where the story is set.

Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) had been a political prisoner during the oppressive period who was tortured by her captors. After gaining her trust by treating her kindly and playing a tape of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, Dr. Miranda, a physician (Ben Kingsley) cruelly participated in the abusive treatment of his powerless victim. Gerardo Escobar (Stuart Wilson), then her boyfriend, now her husband, had been editor of the underground newspaper and target of the absolutist regime. In spite of torture, she did not disclose his whereabouts and, in effect, saved his life.

Currently, Paulina lives with Gerardo in a desolate coastal setting. At the film’s onset, viewers note Paulina’s agitation concerning a news bulletin about the presidential appointment of a human rights commission charged with investigating abuses by the previous regime. According to the report, her lawyer husband has been appointed committee chair. The remainder of the film concerns victim, physician, and husband of that oppressive period who through strange circumstances are brought together during the night.

Reminiscent of a Lear-like heath, past terrors are howled out against a raging storm. On his way home Gerardo’s tire became flat and he was picked up and brought home by Miranda, a good Samaritan. When Paulina, who had been blindfolded during her captivity, recognizes his voice and pet phrases, she steals his car and pushes it over the cliff into the sea. Totally perplexed by the Paulina’s actions, the men pace about in the living room where the doctor delivers derisive diatribes about women in general and wives in particular. Gerardo, to a lesser extent, expresses condemnation and embarrassment for his wife’s inexplicable behavior.

When she returns, both men have had too much to drink; she finds a gun in their house, tapes the groggy physician to a chair, pistol whips him as he resists and shouts, stuffs her panties into his mouth, and begins a heated exchange with her incredulous and very angry husband. He wants evidence for her seemingly preposterous charge. She can "smell" him she screams; she found a tape of the Schubert String Quartet in D Minor in his car; and he quotes Nietzsche just as he did when she was strapped to a table. Under much strain, her husband agrees to a taped trial in which he will represent the accused and force a confession.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

((Note: This film has a surprise ending that will be discussed below.) Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) are friends, two sex-obsessed 17-year-olds boys who flirt with the beautiful and somewhat older (and married) Luisa (Maribel Verdú), at a wedding and invite her to drive with them to an imaginary beach. She pays little attention, but after discovering that her husband has cheated on her again, she decides to flee her crumbling and childless marriage and calls the boys to see if the invitation is still good. The boys quickly make real plans and all three take off to a remote destination.

There is a lot of driving, and the three talk a lot about sex, and then have it. When things threaten to blow apart because of jealousy between the immature boys, Luisa steps in aggressively to take control of the road trip to make it continue to work for her. After she imposes her rules, there are some fine moments of peace at the beach, with Luisa enjoying the natural beauty of the waterfront and also a more mature relationship with the boys. She even attempts a tender if unhappy telephone farewell with her unfaithful husband.

At the beach, Luisa becomes close to a local fisherman, his wife, and their young child, and when the boys have to get back, Luisa announces she is staying at the beach with the fisherman's family. A month later the boys hear that she has died from cancer. A voice-over tells us that the boys will eventually split up with their girlfriends and never see each other again. Luisa's achievement is what remains.

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Totally

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Jul-10-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a poem that celebrates the divided self and disconnection. The speaker wonders whether his tendency to be scattered--to not "find out till tomorrow / what you felt today"--is natural, is in fact, "what makes our species great." Is this "dividedness" what allowed "surgeon Keats to find a perfect rhyme / wrist-deep in the disorder / of an open abdomen"? The poem ends with another kind of disconnectedness: a deliberate separation of self from "the whole world in unison" that is preparing itself for the onset of winter: "I have this strange conviction / that I am going to be born."

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Abstinence

Cecil, Richard

Last Updated: Jun-28-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem describes how drinking skewed the speaker’s perspective on life (blurring night and day distinctions, etc.) and isolated him from others. The poem goes on to illuminate the speaker’s recovery, the result not of an Alcoholics Anonymous-type "higher power" but of the speaker’s own dark epiphany: "I recognized the night as night and chose it."

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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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A Country Doctor

Jewett, Sarah Orne

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nan Prince is an orphan who becomes the ward of the local general practitioner, Dr. Leslie, upon the death of her elderly aunt. Nan and Dr. Leslie develop a close emotional bond. She is a bright young woman who enjoys accompanying him during his long day's work as a country doctor in Oldfields. They often discuss medicine and healing. Dr. Leslie encourages Nan to read medical books, while instilling in her an understanding of the intimacies of his patients' lives and a love of caring for them. He would like to see her become a physician, an ambition she soon begins to pursue despite many obstacles. She goes away to medical school in the city.

After her first year at medical school, she spends part of the summer in the town of Dunport where she is introduced to her closest relative, Miss Prince (her father's sister), and the "smart" society she has never experienced in the country. Miss Prince and Nan's new friends are all amazed and scandalized by the thought of a woman becoming a physician. They think the whole idea is utterly outrageous, especially for a young, attractive woman like Nan.

She meets and falls in love with a young lawyer, George Gerry, who asks her to marry him. With great emotional pain (but no hesitation), Nan chooses medicine over marriage. She returns to medical school and, after graduation, to spend a year in Oldfields practicing with Dr. Leslie. In the end she stands by the river on a beautiful summer day, raises her hands to the sky, and exclaims, "O God . . . I thank thee for my future!"

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Girl, Interrupted

Kaysen, Susanna

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Written with controlled elegance, this is an absorbing autobiographical account of psychiatric hospitalization. Twenty-five years after the fact, the author describes the two years during her late adolescence in which she "slip[ped] into a parallel universe." The surreal nature of the experience is reflected in darkly comedic recollections of her inner life, the other patients, their families, the staff, and of forays into the outside world.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Set in the 1950s Eisenhower era, this film creates an enlarged snapshot of a model suburban household in Connecticut as well as a companion negative of two suppressed social issues lurking beneath the painfully smooth surface. In his effort to portray dominant values, as well as the melodramatic look and feel of the period, Director Hayes appropriates visual effects and music associated with fifties films by Douglas Sirk such as "All That Heaven Allows" with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Colors are too vivid; music heavily underlines emotional elements; and stylistically designed sets reflect superficial ideals. Too perfect.

Moving from the margins and into the center two disruptive shadows gradually emerge, one dealing with race, the other with homosexuality. In the years preceding racial protests and riots and in a time when few could imagine public conversation about sexual orientations, use of condoms, or AIDS, the story reveals unspeakable abuses, intolerances, and injustices that have subsequently been addressed but not resolved.

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