Showing 221 - 230 of 297 annotations tagged with the keyword "Poverty"

To Brooklyn with Love

Green, Gerald

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a story of a day in the life of 12-year-old Albert Abrams in Brownsville, Brooklyn, during the Depression summer of 1934. Albert’s father is an irascible middle-aged general practitioner whose practice is getting smaller and smaller. Most of his patients can’t pay; and many have left Dr. Abrams to go to younger doctors, or to specialists. Albert’s mother is a refined literary-type lady who never complains about their life in the deteriorating neighborhood, even though all of their middle-class friends have moved elsewhere.

Albert is a brilliant young man ("the highest IQ in the school"), but his greatest desire is to be "one of the boys." He is small, skinny, and poor at sports. The other kids make fun of him because of his "rich" father. The novel describes a long day of verbal and physical harassment; its highlights are a critical punchball game between the white kids, mostly Jewish, and black kids of Longview Avenue, and a fistfight in which Albert actually "beats" one of his perennial nemeses. In the evening there is a fire in which Yussel Melnick, an old Talmudic scholar, is burned to death.

Peeking out from behind his son’s story is the image of Dr. Abrams, a man who once was the star of his medical school class, but whose career long ago failed to "take off" because of his bluntness, bad-temper, and general difficulty getting along with other professionals. He is portrayed as a man truly committed to his patients, but also prone to yelling at them and hounding them for payment. As the day progresses, it becomes evident that Dr. Abrams has been losing his grip; he has episodes of confusion and appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In the end, stimulated by love for his son, he rouses himself from suicidal ruminations.

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The New Villa

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jun-01-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Kutcherov is the engineer in charge of building a bridge across the river two miles from the village of Obrutchanovo. He decides he likes the countryside so much that he buys some land and builds a house (the new villa) for his family near the village. The engineer and his wife attempt to befriend the local people, but the villagers continually complain about their own poverty and misuse the newcomers' good will.

Some villagers, led by Volodka, the blacksmith's son, act out their anger and desperation by insulting the engineer's wife and allowing their animals to graze around the new villa. These peasants complain that they never wanted the bridge in the first place; it only represents governmental interference.

Other villagers, represented by Rodion, the blacksmith, advise the Kutcherovs to be patient--in the long run, the peasants will learn to accept them. Eventually, after several incidents of vandalism, Kutcherov gets fed up and moves his family back to Moscow. The new villa lies empty.

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The Beggar

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A prosperous lawyer (Skvortsoff) encounters a ragged beggar, who claims to be a teacher fired unjustly from his job. Skvortsoff, however, remembers that he saw the same man the other day, when he had claimed to be an impoverished student. The beggar (Luskoff) breaks down and admits that he is simply a drunk without work. Skvortsoff offers him a job chopping wood, which he reluctantly accepts. Olga, the cook, takes Luskoff out and shows him the wood stack.

After that, Luskoff returns frequently to do odd jobs, and eventually Skvortsoff sets him up with a clerical position. Two years later, Skvortsoff sees the former beggar at the theater. He prides himself for having "saved" Lushkoff from a life of drunkenness, but Lushkoff reveals that it was Olga who saved him--she chopped the wood, and the compassion she showed led to a change in his heart.

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Peasant Wives

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In a village of Reybuzh lives an elderly tyrant who has two sons, one of whom works in a factory in the city, while his ailing wife lives in the village with her in-laws. The other son, a disabled alcoholic, has remained at home; his wife is "a handsome young woman, smart and buxom." The two wives are essentially no more than servants in their father-in-law's house. One day a traveler stops overnight in the village. Before going to bed, he relates the sad tale of Kuzka, his adopted son. The boy's mother was beaten by her husband. She subsequently poisoned him and, after being convicted of murder, died in prison.

Later that night, one of the young wives (Varvara) returns home from a toss in the hay with the priest's son. The other (Sofya) accosts her, and they discuss the traveler's story as they ruminate on their own terrible lives. Varvara suggests that they could poison her drunken husband and their father-in-law. Sofya is tempted, but frightened of being caught, and of God's punishment. The next morning the traveler settles his account, and he and the young boy leave.

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Rothschild's Fiddle

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The protagonist of this story is Yakov Ivanov, an ill-tempered old coffin-maker, who hates Jews. Yakov is also a fiddler, but rarely gets to play in the village orchestra because of his antagonism with Rothschild, the flautist. Rothschild is certainly no beauty, a "gaunt, red-haired Jew" with "a perfect network of red and blue veins all over his face."

When Marfa, Yakov's wife of 52 years, becomes ill, Yakov fatalistically builds her coffin in preparation for her death. After she dies, he is "overcome by acute depression." When Rothschild visits him on a friendly errand, Yakov beats up the poor man, yelling, "Get out of my sight!" Afterward, Yakov goes and sits by the river and tries to figure out why he has become the scolding, ill-tempered old man that he is.

Unfortunately, he develops a chill from the exposure. The next day he falls mortally ill with pneumonia. When Rothschild appears at the house again, he is surprised to find Yakov playing the fiddle with tears gushing from his eyes. Later, Yakov tells the priest who has come to confess him, "Give the fiddle to Rothschild."

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The Horse Stealers

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

During Christmas week, Yergunov, a hospital assistant, is returning from a trip to another village when he gets caught in a snowstorm. He stops at a local tavern, where Kalashnikov, "an arrant scoundrel and horse-stealer" and Merik, "a dark-skinned peasant who had never been to the hospital," were also seeking shelter. Lyuba, the barmaid, cries, "Ugh! The unclean spirits are abroad!" The men start pondering the question of whether devils exist, and Yergunov tells the story of how he actually encountered a devil one day, while he (Yergunov) was out in the field vaccinating peasants.

When the storm quiets down, the men prepare to leave. Yergunov attempts to leave at the same time as Kalashnikov, because he is afraid the man will steal his horse, but Lyuba stands suggestively in front of the door, inviting Yergunov's caress. "Don't go away, dear heart," she murmurs.

Meanwhile, Kalashnikov proceeds to steal the horse, which, in fact, belonged to the hospital. After these delaying tactics, Lyuba raps the duped man on his head and tosses him out. Some months later, after he has lost his job because of drunkenness, Yergunov passes the tavern, wondering wistfully what it would feel like to be a thief.

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Oysters

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is in the voice of a young boy whose father is unemployed and reduced to begging. Father and son stand on the street outside a restaurant, which sports a placard that says, "Oysters." While the father screws up his courage to ask some passersby for money, the son asks him, "Papa, what does 'oysters' mean?" He answers vaguely, "It is an animal that lives in the sea." But the son asks progressively more specific questions about oysters, ultimately envisioning the creature as a frog with large jaws that lives between two shells.

When two men walk by, the father begs, "Help us, gentlemen!" Simultaneously, the boy cries out "Oysters!" The gentlemen think this is hilarious. They promptly take the man and his son into the restaurant and buy the boy some oysters to eat. Later that night, the boy develops heartburn, while his father regrets that he was afraid to ask the men, who squandered 10 rubles on buying the oysters, for some money.

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Summary:

This thorough and fascinating treatment of the politics of anatomy studies in 19th-century America provides a variety of perspectives on the vexed question of how appropriately to study human anatomy while also maintaining respect for the human body and honoring the various, deeply held community beliefs, and attitudes toward treatment of the dead. Sappol seeks, as he puts it, to "complicate the cultural history of medicine in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. . . by telling it from an anatomical perspective."

That statement of his objectives hardly suggests the startling range of approaches to the topic he takes in the book's nine chapters. These cover such issues as the legacies of belief about the "personhood" of the dead human body; the status of anatomy as both a legitimate and valuable study and also as an "icon of science"; the relationship of dissection and anatomy study to medical status and professionalization; the political tensions engendered by the "traffic in dead bodies" that most often expropriated corpses from marginalized communities; and the relationship of anatomy studies to sexual commerce and sensationalist fiction.

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Watson and the Shark

Murray, John

Last Updated: May-10-2003
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Three doctors confront catastrophe during a civil war in a central African country. The physician-narrator is new to the jungle and enticed by the power, risk, and control attached to his role as a trauma surgeon. His friend, Stefan, is a gifted French surgeon with years of experience who advocates a "philosophy of disaster." Chaswick is an eccentric anesthesiologist. Headquartered in a Catholic mission, these medical volunteers operate on a large number of injured refugees, many of them victims of brutal attacks by rebel soldiers and armed civilians using machetes.

While performing surgery, the narrator is shot in the shoulder by a young rebel soldier. The doctor's life is spared due to the resourcefulness of his colleagues. As the three physicians escape with their lives, the hundreds of refugees left behind in the medical mission are presumably being slaughtered.

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Summer in Baden-Baden

Tsypkin, Leonid

Last Updated: Jan-31-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this novel the narrator travels by train from the present into the past and back again. The narrator boards a train in Soviet Moscow; travels to Leningrad in a compartment with some not too friendly people; stays overnight in a relative's run-down, crowded apartment; and rambles through the streets of Leningrad, stopping to visit Dostoyevsky's last place of residence, which is now a museum.

However, this framing story occupies very little of the book. During the train ride, the narrator re-imagines a much earlier trip in April 1867, as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and his young wife, Anna Grigoryevna, travel by train to Baden-Baden in Germany. They will remain abroad for four years, as Dostoyevsky indulges in his passion (and later obsession) for gambling.

In Baden-Baden he loses all their money; he pawns their belongings and loses; he begs and borrows money from friends and publishers, and loses. Each time he loses, he comes home to their rented apartment and throws himself at Anna's feet. He protests his love, berates himself, and promises to do better in the future; and Anna forgives him.

In this dream-like story, repentance and forgiveness, memory and desire, hope and despair revolve like electrons around Dostoevsky's addiction to gambling. Fyodor and Anna recall earlier events in their lives; for example, Anna remembers herself as a hesitant young secretary arriving for the first time to take dictation from the famous man; and Fyodor, the former convict, Slavophile author of Crime and Punishment, remembers being scornfully dismissed by the smooth and sophisticated Turgenev.

Within the 1867 framework, the story seems to be stuck, unable to move forward, although we know from our late 20th century perspective--as Tsypkin recalls (and invents) the events while on his train trip to Leningrad--they are part of a larger story which moves inexorably forward through time and ends at the Dostoevsky house in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), with the moving scene of Fyodor's last days. And the two stories converge as Tsypkin visits the Dostoevsky museum where those last days took place.

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