Showing 211 - 220 of 293 annotations tagged with the keyword "Obsession"

William Wilson

Poe, Edgar Allan

Last Updated: Dec-19-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

As the narrator, an "outcast among outcasts," begins to recount his story, he cautions the reader that "William Wilson" is not his real name; he doesn't want the page to "be sullied with my real appellation." The miserable man tells of his childhood and his life at school, where he encountered another boy who looked exactly like himself and had the same name and birthday.

All the children at school recognized the narrator's preeminence among them, except for this strange double. While the first William Wilson was aggressive, witty, and imperious, the double presented himself as quiet, gentle and wise--but unthreatened. In the end their feelings towards each other "partook very much of positive hatred."

Many years later, as the narrator was busily engaged in cheating at a game of cards, the second William Wilson suddenly appeared out of nowhere and revealed Wilson's scam to everyone present. Subsequently, time after time, just as Wilson was about to achieve some nefarious end, this anti-Wilson unerringly stepped in and destroyed Wilson's chances.

The last straw occurred in Rome during Carnival; just as Wilson was about to seduce a married woman, his double arrived to squelch the affair. Wilson flew into a rage and killed his nemesis, only to discover he had stabbed a mirror--but the dying image in the mirror whispered, " . . . How utterly thou hast murdered thyself."

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Anthology (Essays)

Summary:

The editor, herself a writer and one who has suffered depressive episodes, collects a series of personal essays or illness narratives about experiences with depression. Her contributors are all artists, primarily writers, who generally but not exclusively speak to the relationship between their art and their mood disorders. Some of the essays included have been previously published, but most are original contributions to this collection. The collection is introduced by Kay Redfield Jamison whose academic work has examined the relationship between creativity and depression, including manic-depressive disease.

View full annotation

Rain Man

Cruise, Tom; Levinson, Barry; Hoffman, Dustin

Last Updated: Dec-17-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), a young businessman aggressively pursuing his fortune in collector automobiles, hears that the wealthy father from whom he has been estranged for years, has died. He attends the funeral planning to remain only long enough to hear the will and receive the fortune he believes is coming to him. He is shocked to learn that most of the fortune has been left in trust to someone whose name is not disclosed. Investigations lead him to a home for the mentally handicapped where he discovers he has a brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic savant, who has been housed there since Charlie's early childhood.

Charlie kidnaps him, planning to keep him "hostage" until the institution delivers the half of Raymond's inheritance he believes rightly to be his. On the road, two things happen: 1) he is baffled, angered, and confused by the paradoxical behavior of this genius with no emotional vocabulary and no social skills and 2) he uncovers early memories of Raymond as the "Rain man" who comforted him when he was very small. He takes Raymond to Las Vegas to exploit his card-counting skills, wins enough at blackjack to get kicked out of the casino, and ends up calling Raymond's guardian out to California, hoping to be entrusted with his guardianship.

He is finally convinced, however, that Raymond is indeed incapable of progressing in relationship much beyond where he is, and that he, Charlie, is not sufficiently equipped to care for him. He sends him back to the institution, committed to maintaining relationship not for the money, but for its own sake. Mystified as he is by the brother whose humanity he can't quite fathom, something like love has been awakened in him in the course of his painful journey in caregiving.

View full annotation

Chekhov's Sister

Wetherell, W. D.

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Anton Chekhov died in 1904. His sister Marya (or "Maria" in this novel) survived the Communist Revolution and two World Wars to die in 1957 at the age of 94. After Anton's death, the unmarried Maria assumed his role as head of the extended Chekhov clan and she devoted the remainder of her life to the protection and advancement of her brother's literary legacy. To do so, she had to plead his case with the Russian authorities and later adapt to the political (and literary) orthodoxy imposed by the Communist regime. Early in the Soviet era, Maria successfully lobbied to have the Chekhov house at Yalta turned into a State museum, thereby insuring that the author's books and papers would be preserved.

The action of this novel takes place during the Great Patriotic War in late 1941 when the Germans occupied Yalta. Maria lives at the Chekhov museum, where she presides as curator. Also living at the house is Peter Kunin, a medical student and would-be writer who is Maria's protégé. In preparation for the Germans' arrival, Maria arranges the house to make it seem that Chekhov was pro-German. For example, she has Kunin dig up an old portrait of Goethe to hang over the mantelpiece.

Despite these machinations, the Germans fully intend to billet soldiers in the museum until a mysterious man named Diskau shows up. Diskau, who works for the German Ministry of Culture, insists that the Chekhov household be spared. In fact, he proposes to win over the local population to the German "liberators" by staging a New Year's Eve production of The Seagull in the abandoned Imperial Theater.

The remainder of the novel traces preparations and rehearsals, culminating in the single catastrophic performance of The Seagull, during which all is revealed.

View full annotation

The Fixed Period

Trollope, Anthony

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the late 20th century, Britannula, an island near New Zealand, has achieved its independence from Great Britain. Settled by a group of young men some 30 years before the action of this novel, Britannula has developed into a prosperous land governed by a President and a single-house legislative body, the Assembly. They have adopted a great social experiment called the "Fixed Period," by which the society and its citizens will avoid the suffering, decrepitude, and expense of old age. At age 67 each person will be "deposited" into a lovely, carefree "college" (Necropolis) where he or she will spend one delightful year before being euthanized.

The story takes place just as the time approaches for Gabriel Crasweller, a wealthy landowner and good friend of President Neverbend, to be deposited. Crasweller is the first citizen to have lived out his Fixed Period, and the President, whose brainchild the Fixed Period is, experiences a conflict between his love for Crasweller--who inexplicably does not want to die--and his determination to carry out the law. Mounting resistance to the Fixed Period among the older citizens (including his wife) also surprises Neverbend, although the Assembly, composed mostly of young people, reaffirms the law. Just as Crasweller is led off to Necropolis, a British gunship arrives in port to relieve Neverbend of his duties as President and re-establish direct control of Britannula.

View full annotation

Pilgrim

Findley, Timothy

Last Updated: Sep-18-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel opens with a man known only as Pilgrim hanging himself in London in 1912. Despite being pronounced dead by two physicians, he somehow lives. Pilgrim has attempted suicide many times before but is seemingly unable to die. He claims to have endured life for thousands of years but has tired of living and only longs for death. He has crossed paths with many historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Teresa, Oscar Wilde, and Auguste Rodin.

After his most recent suicide attempt, he is admitted to a psychiatric facility in Zurich as a patient of the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Pilgrim eventually escapes from the institution and masterminds the successful theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Next, he sets the cathedral at Chartres on fire. The novel ends with Pilgrim driving a car into a river on the eve of World War I. His body is never found.

View full annotation

The Victim

Bellow, Saul

Last Updated: Aug-29-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The tale is that of two men who have had some business and a bit of social relationship in the past who are brought together after some long time in the course of the book. Allbee, who has disappeared into the underworld of skid row, submerged in his own alcoholism, suddenly reappears in the life of Leventhal, a fearful, up-tight man who struggles to maintain himself in a middle-class job and apartment. Allbee appears to have lost everything--wife, job, self-esteem, while Leventhal plods along in a respectable, but scarcely enthralling life.

Leventhal doesn't really owe Allbee anything, but he cannot rid himself of a sense of guilt. He is "successful," questionably at the expense of Allbee, and he allows the latter to plague his days and nights. Interwoven among the threads of this strange entanglement are family stresses, including the untimely death of a nephew, dragging at Leventhal's time and patience.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Motivated at first by an attachment to her strict and demanding ballet teacher, as well as frustration and disgust with her own body compared to other dancers', Francesca develops an obsession with weight loss and increasingly ritualized forms of self-discipline in eating and exercise that lead to severe anorexia nervosa. It takes her family several months to see and acknowledge what is happening in front of them, during which she has trained herself to eat less and less, to throw up after meals, and to push herself to the point of exhaustion.

She becomes secretive, isolates herself from friends, and puts up a wall between herself and her parents, who are unable fully to understand the degree to which her behavior has gone beyond her control, but are worried. A compassionate male therapist with clear boundaries and a non-judgmental approach finally succeeds in disengaging Francesca from the mutually destructive downward spiral of family conflict around her illness;

he helps her to envision and desire her own health and to take responsibility for recovery. The story is told in the third person, but from Francesca's point of view.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Katie is a promising figure skater whose divorced mother drives her relentlessly to perfect her skills, at almost any expense. What her mother and coach don't know, but her English teacher begins to figure out, is that when Katie gets to an emotional edge, she hides and cuts herself; the pain and blood help focus her mind. Not until she goes over that edge one day at school and begins slamming her locker door on her hand and then banging her head on the wall does she begin to get the professional help she needs.

After a couple of false starts, she finds a psychiatrist experienced in working with teens in trouble who enables her to tell truths she hasn't for years been able to admit to herself or speak of to anyone else. Her mother resists other adults' help and almost succeeds in getting her out of therapy, especially group therapy with girls her mother labels "delinquents." But Katie finally manages to make some choices against her mother's wishes--an immense step out of the depths of years of co-dependence.

As the story ends, she has come to realize the girls in the group are capable of being real friends--something she hasn't had for a long while--and she is capable of making choices toward her own healing, the first of which is to seek and accept real help and to distinguish it from pleasing adults who are using her to assuage their own pain.

View full annotation

Stevie in the Mirror

Wittlinger, Ellen

Last Updated: Aug-13-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story for Young Adults

Summary:

This first-person narrative of a runaway girl's short stay in a residential mental health center develops her impressions, resistances, and accommodations from her admission ("I can see right away it's a nuthouse") to her release. These include reluctant interviews with the staff counselor, uncomfortable encounters with nurses, observations of other patients' erratic behavior, and efforts, finally, to communicate with a very detached roommate.

"Stevie" speaks from a place of anger and mistrust. She attempted suicide in the girl's bathroom by slicing her wrists, but regards herself as otherwise quite competent. A turning point comes for her when her silent roommate sings a song she's written which ends with the words, "Don't forget to cry." This moment of vulnerability, which also unveils surprising talent and beauty, moves Stevie from anger toward curiosity and sympathy.

She takes steps toward friendship with her roommate, and finally toward reconciliation with her mother who, she realizes, really wants her home. As she leaves, Zena really addresses her for the first time, reminding her, "Don't forget to cry."

View full annotation