Showing 251 - 260 of 376 annotations tagged with the keyword "Religion"

Cane

Toomer, Jean

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of related stories, sketches, poems, and a one-act play by Jean Toomer, a little-known writer of the Harlem Renaissance. The book is divided into three sections. The first part of the book is a series of stories that portray the lives of poor black women in rural Georgia. They deal with such subjects as infanticide ("Karintha"), miscegenation ("Becky"), hysteria ("Carma"), lynching ("Blood-Burning Moon"), and religious mysticism ("Fern" and "Esther"). Taken together, these stories portray an intuitive, violent, spontaneous, and pre-rational culture.

The second part of Cane takes place in Washington, DC, where Toomer depicts the life of urban black Americans in the early 1920's. Here we encounter the conflict between rationalism, as represented by the well-educated "intellectuals," and traditional lifestyle and morality. The best stories in this section include, "Avey," "Theater," and "Box Seat."

The last section is a one-act play ("Kabnis") about two urban black writers attempting to establish a contemporary "Negro identity" in light of the repression and suffering of their people. One is overwhelmed by negativity and a sense of victimization, while the other man believes that the past can be transcended, especially through the power of art.

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Alias Grace

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Nov-17-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

For more than fifteen years, Irish-born Grace Marks has been confined for the 1843 murder of housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, and her employer, Thomas Kinnear, at their home north of Toronto. Her convicted accomplice was hanged, accusing Grace with his last breath, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison at the last minute. Because of her amnesia and outbursts of rage and panic, she was held in the Lunatic Asylum before being sent to the Kingston [Ontario] Penitentiary.

Beautiful, intelligent, and strangely poised, Grace intrigues worthy townsfolk, spiritualists, and some of her jailers, who grant her the privilege of outside work, believe in her innocence, and strive for a pardon. In looking for medical approbation, they consult Dr. Simon Jordan, a young American doctor who is interested in insanity and memory loss. Without explaining his purpose, he brings her vegetables and other familiar objects, hoping to stimulate recollection of her life.

Interspersed with Jordan's own problems, Grace's story unfolds in her own words, from her poverty-stricken childhood in Ireland and the emigration voyage that killed her mother, leaving her and her younger siblings to a neglectful father, through her short life in service, to the dreadful events of autumn 1843. She has suffered many losses, including the death of her mother to ship fever, and that of her friend and fellow servant, Mary Whitney, from an illegally procured abortion. After many weeks, Jordan abandons his project in frustration and ambiguity. The novel ends years later with forty-six year-old Grace's discharge from prison in 1872, nearly thirty years after the crime.

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Equal Affections

Leavitt, David

Last Updated: Nov-17-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The first part of this novel presents a detailed picture of the Jewish Californian Cooper family, centering on the sixty-year-old Louise, who is dying of breast cancer. Her husband, Nat, is unfaithful, and, she suspects, only loves her when she is at her weakest and most sick. Her daughter, April, is a lesbian folk singer who becomes pregnant with the help of a gay male friend and a turkey baster. Danny, the son, is also gay, living in New York with Walter, his lover, who is becoming increasingly detached and obsessed with internet sex groups.

Louise considers herself lucky, though, compared with her younger sister Eleanor, partially disabled by childhood polio, disorganized and ill-groomed and married to Sid, whom Louise finds deeply unattractive. Eleanor's son is a sociopathic drug addict, and her daughter has ovarian cancer caused by Eleanor's taking DES (diethylstilbesterol) in pregnancy. She sends Louise newspaper cuttings about the causes of homosexuality and the dangers of AIDS.

The first part having established the complex dynamics and histories of the family's relationships, the second brings the entire family together in the crisis of Louise's final illness and death (a reaction to chemotherapy drugs causes severe chemical burns and she dies in a burn unit in a San Francisco hospital). After her death, the new dynamics of the family are established, and Louise's son and daughter conclude that their mother had "a terrible life" (p. 261).

The short third part shows that no such conclusion is possible, that even those closest to us remain terribly but fascinatingly unknowable. A flashback to a point just before Louise's final illness describes her attempt to convert to Catholicism and a brief moment in which she experiences a marvelous sense of complete harmony.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In 1869, national and medical attention was focused on a poor family in Wales. The daughter, twelve year-old Sarah Jacob, was bedridden with a strange ailment characterized by paralysis, staring fits, and anorexia. Yet she did not waste away. On the contrary, she seemed to survive comfortably with only few drops of water daily. Credulous folk came to visit, knowing that such abstinence had been the practice of many Christian saints; they would leave a few coins as an offering, although the family protested that money had never been requested. Others claimed it was a hoax.

Eventually the doctors and vicars became curious. An initial investigation upheld the family’s position that the girl did not eat. A more rigorous second investigation was designed by medical professors from Guy’s Hospital in London and carried out by trained nurses who sat knitting at the bedside. It resulted in the girl’s death.

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Marcella

Ward, Mary Augusta (Mrs. Humphry)

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The headstrong beauty Marcella Boyce, who has acquired radical political views while at school, returns home and becomes engaged to Aldous Raeburn, the son of her father's neighbor Lord Maxwell and a moderately conservative politician and landowner. Marcella champions Jim Hurd, a local poacher accused of murder (who is prosecuted by Raeburn): she nurses his grieving wife and dying, consumptive son and arranges his legal representation by Edward Wharton, a Socialist politician and Raeburn's romantic rival.

After Hurd's execution, Marcella breaks off her engagement, trains as a nurse, and turns her reformist efforts toward the London poor instead of the rural poor in rural villages. She refuses Wharton's offer of marriage and finally accepts Raeburn's hand.

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The Blood of the Lamb

De Vries, Peter

Last Updated: Jun-04-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Don Wanderhope grows up in a Dutch Calvinist family, but his father is a searcher, always questioning the tenets of his faith and the meaning of life. Don's life progresses through a series of traumas: his older brother dies of pneumonia; Don develops tuberculosis; his girlfriend at the sanitarium dies of tuberculosis; and, later, his wife commits suicide. Despite all this, however, there is one shining ray of hope and love in Don's life--his daughter Carol. By the time she turns 11, father and daughter are inseparable pals.

At this point Carol develops leukemia. At first they think it is strep throat and she responds to antibiotics: "She feels a lot better. Give her another day or two and you can take her home. But, anyhow, we've eliminated everything serious." (p. 165) But shortly thereafter, while father and daughter are on vacation in Bermuda, she becomes severely ill again, and soon the diagnosis of leukemia is confirmed.

This begins many weeks of progressive spiritual suffering for Wanderhope, as his daughter suffers terrible physical symptoms and medical interventions. He is reduced to bargaining with God, and to begging at the shrine of St. Jude: "Give us a year." Initially, his prayers seem to be answered as Carol responds to chemotherapy, but then she develops sepsis and dies, "borne from the dull watchers on a wave that broke and crashed beyond our sight." (p. 236)

After Carol's death, Wanderhope vents his anger at God and becomes overwhelmed with grief. However, months later, when going through Carol's things in preparation for selling the house, he discovers an audiotape that Carol had made during her illness, a message that she had left for her father: "I want you to know that everything is all right, Daddy. I mean you mustn't worry, really . . .

(You've given me) the courage to face whatever there is that's coming . . . " (p. 241) The tale ends with Wanderhope's final reflection: "Again the throb of compassion rather than the breath of consolation: the recognition of how long, how long is the mourner's bench upon which we sit, arms linked in undeluded friendship, all of us, brief links, ourselves, in the eternal pity." (p. 246)

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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 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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The Bishop

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In the cathedral a distinguished bishop (Pyotr) is conducting the liturgy on the Eve of Palm Sunday. Among the hordes of people who come to the altar to receive palm branches, the bishop sees an elderly peasant woman who resembles his own mother. He drives home to the monastery feeling extremely fatigued (he has been ill for three days) and learns that, indeed, the peasant woman was his mother, who had unexpectedly made the long journey from her village to see her famous son.

The next day the bishop dines with his mother and his naughty niece (Katya). Suddenly, after the meal, the bishop becomes gravely ill with typhoid. Yet over the next few days he travels around conducting Holy Week Services. Toward the end of the week, he begins to hemorrhage. He reviews the events of his life as his mother sits by his bed. Just before Easter arrives, he dies. As time goes on, the bishop is forgotten, except by his mother.

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The Student

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

On Good Friday a clerical student is walking home when he encounters two widows warming themselves around a fire. As the cold evening descends, he joins them and tells the story of the Apostle Peter, who the night before Jesus died was so afraid for his own skin that he denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. Afterwards, the Gospels say, he was filled with remorse and "went out and wept bitterly."

The two women are deeply moved by this tale; one of them starts to cry. The student suddenly experiences a connection between the story of Peter, 1900 years old, and the women and himself. He is filled with "the inexpressible sweet expectation of happiness, of unknown mysterious happiness . . . and life seemed to him enchanting, marvelous, and full of lofty meaning."

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