Showing 221 - 230 of 331 annotations tagged with the keyword "Marital Discord"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The framing story of this novel is simple: an elderly literary agent receives word that a person named Yvonne Bloomberg would like to meet with him. When he at last visits the woman, he discovers that she was an acquaintance from their youth--Yvonne Roberts--and she wishes to publish the journal that a mutual acquaintance, Dr. Simmonds, had bequeathed her. The agent agrees to read this journal, which provides most of the novel's text. A series of letters that appear in the last few pages indicate that, indeed, the journal is accepted for publication.

The journal recounts the first six months of 1950. Dr. Simmonds is an unmarried general practitioner nearing his 40th birthday. He has mixed feelings about his practice and his patients. For example, he likes Michael Butler, an irascible middle-aged man dying of cancer, but he dislikes many of his other patients, including Anton Bloomberg, a repulsive Jew with a "hooked nose," "too thick lips," and a "wheezing chest." (p. 25)

Bloomberg originally consults Simmonds about his young wife's frigidity; she simply will not perform her wifely duties. Simmonds himself is attracted to Bloomberg's beautiful young Yvonne, who mysteriously sends him a copy of a novel called Doctor Glas, published in 1905 by the Swedish author Hjalmar Soderberg [see annotation in this database]. Dr. Glas is the fictional journal of a doctor who treats Rev. Gregorius, a 57-year-old minister and his young wife. The wife complains that her husband's sexual advances are repulsive. From this point on, the story of Dr. Simmonds parallels in many ways that of Dr. Glas, a parallelism which Simmonds records in his journal and struggles to understand. Dr. Glas ultimately murders Rev. Gregorius.

Simmonds becomes obsessed with Yvonne Bloomberg and imagines that she is attracted to him. They interact in a variety of social settings, including a forum in which he suggests that he approves of euthanasia. She speaks to him of her husband's unwelcome advances. He considers killing her husband under the guise of treating his asthma, but shies away from taking that step. However, when Anton Bloomberg fails to respond to repeated injections of adrenalin during a severe asthmatic attack, Simmonds gives him morphine (which could kill him), then immediately relents and calls for an ambulance. Bloomberg recovers, but is permanently brain damaged.

Subsequently, Yvonne is free to spend the next 50 years living with her real lover (Hugh Fisher), and the two of them take care of her childlike husband. Simmonds, however, sinks into melancholy and several years later commits suicide.

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Blue Shoe

Lamott, Anne

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mattie, recently divorced from Nick, the father of her two children, is coping with the aftermath of divorce, functioning as a single parent, feeling ambivalence toward Nick who still shows up and sometimes stays the night, and becoming aware of her own attraction to other men. Her mother, an aging social activist, lives nearby with her lover and companion who copes with the mother’s insistent personality and mood swings better than Mattie. Her brother, Al, also lives nearby and fills in some of the father functions for Mattie’s children.

In the background is the story of Mattie’s father, now dead, much loved by both Mattie and Al, who, as it turns out, fathered a child now living in the community by a young girl about Mattie’s age. The mother of the child lives in the squalor of near homelessness at the edge of town. This disclosure, Mattie’s blossoming friendship and eventual romance with the man who comes to repair her house, and Mattie’s mother’s descent into dementia are the three main threads of plot in this story of pain, forgiveness, and healing in family life.

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Three Years

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Alexei Laptev, the middle-aged son of a wealthy Moscow industrialist, is on a prolonged visit to a provincial town where he is helping to care for his sister Nina, who is recovering from a cancer operation. Nina’s husband has abandoned her and their two young daughters for another woman. Unexpectedly, Laptev falls in love with Yulia Sergeyevna, the doctor’s 22-year-old daughter. Laptev is an unattractive, but good-hearted man; Yulia, though beautiful, is bland and immature. She eventually accepts his offer of marriage, though she is somewhat repulsed by him as a person. Yulia is neither attracted by his money, nor by his social position; she just feels badly about disappointing him and, moreover, looks forward to living in Moscow, where life is more exciting.

Once married, both Yulia and Alexei suffer. She hates his family and friends, and feels no affection for him. Meanwhile, Alexei remains head over heels in love with her. Nina dies of her cancer, and the little girls come to live with them for a while. Eventually, Yulia finds her own group of friends, who consider her foolish for not taking on a lover. Yulia and Alexei have a baby, who becomes the center of Yulia’s life, until the child dies of diphtheria.

Time passes. The family business turns sour. Alexei’s bother Fyodor goes mad and has to be put into an asylum. And in the last scene, Yulia greets her depressed husband with tenderness: "You are precious to me. Here you’ve come. I see you, and I’m so happy I can’t tell you. Well, let’s talk." (p. 328)

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An Anonymous Story

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Orlov is a young playboy in St. Petersburg whose father is an important political figure. The narrator (the "anonymous man"), who is actually a political activist (perhaps even an anarchist), assumes a new fake identity and takes a job as Orlov's footman, in order to get inside information to use against his father. While working undercover in this way, the narrator ("Stefan") observes a domestic tragedy. Orlov charms and then seduces a beautiful young married woman, Zinaida Fyodorovna Krasnovsky, who subsequently leaves her husband, shows up on Orlov's doorstep, and moves in with him.

Zinaida bursts with romantic visions and loves Orlov passionately. However, Orlov thinks the whole thing is a bore. He can't bring himself to throw her out, yet he detests her assault on his freedom. Eventually, he begins spending weeks at a time away from the flat, supposedly on an inspection tour in the provinces, but he is simply avoiding Zinaida by staying at a friend's house in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, "Stefan" experiences a growing compassion for the poor woman, who has given up her husband and family for love.

As a result of this situation, "Stefan's" political ideals sink into the background; for example, he gives up an opportunity to murder Orlov's father and, thereby, achieve his radical objectives. Eventually, he confesses the truth to Zinaida--that Orlov has deceived her and doesn't want her. "Stefan" also reveals his true identity (Vladimir Ivanitich) and entices her to flee with him to Europe.

They spend the next several months traveling together. At one point Vladimir has an acute exacerbation of "pleurisy" (actually tuberculosis) and, while nursing him back to health, Zinaida realizes that Vladimir is in love with her. This is a crushing blow to their relationship, because she was under the impression that he had been helping her for purely altruistic, idealistic reasons.

Meanwhile, Zinaida, who is ill herself and pregnant with Orlov's child, dies in childbirth. The baby (Sonya) survives, and Vladimir spends two happy years caring for her, until he, too, is about to die of tuberculosis. At the end of the story, Vladimir meets with Orlov, and they make arrangements for old Krasnovsky--Remember him? He was Zinaida's husband--to take the child and raise her as his own.

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The Two Volodyas

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Sofya Lyovna is somewhat intoxicated as she drives home through the night with her husband of three months, Vladimir Nikititch (Big Volodya), and her old friend, Vladimir Mihalovitch (Little Volodya). Her husband is 53 years old to her 23; the marriage was a marriage of convenience. In truth, she has always loved Little Volodya, who plays around continuously with married women, but has never shown any romantic interest in Sofya.

As they drive near the nunnery that Sofya's friend Olga has recently joined, Sofya stops to visit her and invites Olga for a ride in the carriage. Olga appears cool and contented with her religious life, while Sofya feels that her own life is a mess. A day or so later, Sofya becomes Little Volodya's lover, but he soon drops her; Sofya then finds that she has nothing to do in her boring and loveless life, but to visit the nunnery and pester Olga again and again with her confessions.

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Terror

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dimitry Silin is a farmer who was once a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The narrator, his good friend, is in love with Silin's wife Marya. One Sunday Silin and the narrator drive to the village to buy food. There, as they wait for their coachman, they meet "Forty Martyrs," a downtrodden drunkard who used to work as a footman for each of them. "Forty Martyrs" whines about his fate, while Silin explains to the narrator that we need not tell ghost stories to enter the mysterious and frightening; ordinary life is inexplicable. "What I'm most afraid of is ordinary, everyday existence, which no one can escape. I can't tell the true from the false when I act and this worries me." (p. 227)

He reveals that although he loves his wife, she does not love him--but she has sworn to remain faithful. Later, they return to Silin's home and he retires early because he has to get up at 3 AM. The narrator and Marya talk and eventually make love. As she is leaving his room, Silin comes back to get the cap he had forgotten. "I could not get Silin's terror out of my mind and it infected me as well." (p. 234) The narrator leaves and never sees Silin and Marya again.

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Ariadne

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story takes place on a steamer bound for Sebastopol, where the narrator meets Ivan Ilych Shamokhin, who tells the story of his helpless love for Ariadne. She was his neighbor, a beautiful but cold young woman, "a nightingale made of metal," who challenged him to fall in love with her. When Shamokhin refused to elope with her, she eloped with Lubkov, a married man with four children.

Months later, Ariadne wrote again to Shamokhin, begging him to join her in Abbazzia. When Shamokhin finally caved in and went to her, he discovered that Ariadne and Lubkov were lovers. A year later, Lubkov had used up all his money and returned to his wife. Shamokhin then became Ariadne's lover. Now his money is almost gone and his life is destroyed, but he feels helpless to leave her.

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The Lady with the Dog

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dmitri Dmitrich Gurov is lolling around on the beach at Yalta when he spies a lovely young woman with a Pomeranian dog. Gurov is a family man, nearly 40 years old, but his wife and children are home in Moscow, and he regularly dabbles in extramarital affairs. Thus, he sets out to make a conquest of Anna Sergeyevna, whose husband, it turns out, is a "good, honest man, " but a "flunkey" in the provincial town where they live.

They succumb to their passion and become lovers, but after a few weeks, Anna is called home, and Dmitri also returns home. Surprisingly, he cannot forget her. He is tortured by a desire to see her again, eventually arranging a trip to her hometown, where he encounters his lover at the opera. They fall into one another's arms again.

Anna Sergeyevna then begins to visit Moscow every few months so they can spend a few hours in a hotel room together. Their love has grown into tenderness: "They forgave each other for what they were ashamed of in the past, they forgave everything in the present . . . " In the end they decide to make a plan to remain together, realizing that "the most complicated and difficult" part of their road is just beginning.

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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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The Teacher of Literature

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins with a group of young people on a riding party at the Shelestov estate. One of the guests is Nikitin, a young-looking man in his mid-20’s, who teachers literature at the local school, and loves Masha, the 18-year-old younger daughter of their host. Later, over dinner Varya, the older daughter, argues with Nikitin over some points of literature, and another guest scolds him for having never read the German writer, Lessing. But Nikitin glides through the evening on a cloud of love. A day later he returns and proposes to Masha.

In the second part of the story, the wedding occurs. Nikitin and Masha are deliriously happy--"’I am immensely happy with you, my joy,’ he used to say, playing with her fingers or plaiting and unplaiting her hair." But soon one of Nikitin’s friends and fellow teachers develops erysipelas and dies. After that, everything returns to normal, so much so that Nikitin has nothing to write in his diary.

Life seems to be closing in on him. He feels like trying to get away from his wife, "Where am I, my God? I am surrounded by vulgarity and vulgarity. Wearisome, insignificant people, pots of sour cream, jugs of milk, cockroaches, stupid women . . . There is nothing more terrible. I must escape from here, I must escape today . . . "

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