Showing 2551 - 2560 of 2799 Literature annotations
Summary:For forty years, James Langstaff (1825-1889) practiced medicine in a small town near Toronto. He witnessed the advent of anesthesia, antisepsis, new drug remedies, germ theory, and public health. Chapters are devoted to his management of surgery, obstetrics, and diseases, especially in women and children, his finances, and his role and that of his suffragist wife in the political and social fabric of their community. A reformer and temperance advocate, Langstaff was quick to adopt medical innovations, but slow to abandon familiar practices.
On the first page, Morris summarizes his project in this book: to "describe how the experience of pain is decisively shaped or modified by individual human minds and by specific human cultures. It explores what we might call the historical, cultural, and psychosocial construction of pain." Contemporary Western culture tries to convince us that pain is nothing but an aspect of disease and, therefore, a medical problem. But pain only exists in human experience; nerve impulses are not pain.
In calling our attention to the social and cultural meanings of pain, Morris begins with Tolstoy's short novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (see this database). He then presents various images of human suffering: gender-based pain, as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper (see this database: annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Jack Coulehan); religious views, as in the stories of Job and the Christian martyrs; the aesthetic ideal, as manifested in the romantic idea of the sublime as painful; social uses, as in satire and torture (see Kafka's In the Penal Colony, annotated in this database); the relationship between pain and sex, as in the work of Marquis de Sade; and tragic pain, as evidenced in Sophocles' Philoctetes.
Throughout the book, Morris refers to the "invisible epidemic" of chronic pain that exists in the United States today. This epidemic of chronic pain can be adequately understood and treated only by approaching it with a cultural model, rather than a disease model.
Summary:The new U.S. President is tiny, strange, and apparently brilliant. Somehow the people believe that he will identify problems and find solutions. People are fainting. No one seems to know what is going on. No one thought such a tiny man could be elected President, but he won in a landslide. The society seems to believe the President can do great things; but no one seems to have any idea what those might be. Meanwhile, people keep fainting.
Summary:James, a dwarf, lives in a dwarf house and has a dwarf girl-friend. His brother, MacDonald, thinks of James as a dwarf first and a person second. MacDonald is really bothered by James wanting to marry--as if marriage and sexual relations were something dwarfs shouldn't do. When MacDonald tells his mother James has other people to talk to in the dwarf house, she says, "Dwarfs, not people. He's hiding from the real world." She too does not see dwarfs as real people, and sees herself as punished by giving birth to a dwarf. Yet at the wedding itself, the bride is genuinely happy, as MacDonald recognizes to his surprise.
Aimee and Ralph work at a carnival, Ralph collecting tickets at the Mirror Maze where uneven mirrors reflect distorted images. A dwarf named Mr. Bigelow comes to the maze; Ralph takes Aimee in to spy on the dwarf as he goes into a mirror room which reflects him as tall and slender. Ralph enjoys sneering at the dwarf, but Aimee feels sad and also feels very attracted to him. She investigates, learns he's a writer, wants to help him.
She decides to buy a mirror like one in the maze that reflects him as normal. Ralph, out of spite and perhaps some jealousy, replaces the enlarging mirror with one that makes people seem tiny. The dwarf "shrieking hysterically and sobbing" runs out of the maze. Aimee feels desperately sad and guilty, because Ralph would not have played that trick if he weren't irritated by her interest in Mr. Bigelow.
Summary:An overweight, young teenager whose mother is having a nervous breakdown, and whose father doesn't know what to do, is invited to spend the summer with her cousin in Mississippi. Through telling lies about her background, she works her way into popularity on her cousin's coattails. Then a boyfriend tells her she should lose weight, and she pretends there is something wrong with her thyroid. Still, she jumps at the challenge of swimming across the lake (five miles) with him, which she accomplishes to great applause, but when she gets back, her parents are there to take her home. Back in Indiana, she tries to keep the glow of the summer dream.
Helen van Horne, the good doctor, has left her solitary practice as a physician in rural East Africa to become chief of the Department of Medicine at City Hospital. She is a tough, hard-as-nails woman who has given up the comforts of marriage, family, and human indiscretion for her profession. While the folks in South Bronx initially "hate" her because of her skin color, they soon learn that van Horne is a model of rectitude, dedication, and compassion. The Hispanic chief resident becomes her disciple.
Van Horne's yearning for human comfort and sexual gratification brings her into intimate contact with a lazy, irresponsible, but charming male student. Out of weakness, she tells the failing student that he will pass the rotation, but is later challenged by the chief resident, who has left her own lazy husband and dedicated herself to be "just like you." Van Horne realizes her own weakness, allows the failing grade to be recorded, then contemplates (but rejects) suicide.
A physician stands in the laundry, folding her baby’s diapers, and thinks about Mr. Dantio, who died of wildly metastatic cancer. She reflects on the development of her relationship with Mr. Dantio during the time that she was pregnant. Toward the end, he developed a lung infiltrate, maybe a type of pneumonia. There was a chance that a biopsy might have helped--perhaps he had a treatable infection--but she recommended against it. Now she wonders about this decision. She wonders also about what the other physicians think of her: "you don’t really want to be a doctor anyway, you must be conflicted to have a child . . . . " She remembers seeing Mrs. Dantio in the supermarket shortly after her husband died, and crying with her. She asks herself: Will I ever be a REAL doctor, "because in moments of great stress I revert to my native tongue."
Summary:A medical student at Lincoln Hospital in the south Bronx is called to the Emergency Room, where a gang war is going on. She plunges through fighting bodies in the waiting room to reach the treatment area, where she is enlisted to ride an ambulance with a critically injured and intubated patient. During the trip, the ambulance jerks, the tube comes out, and the student tries but fails to ventilate him with mouth-to-mouth respiration. At the other hospital, she is turned away from the cafeteria because her clothes are blood-soaked. The patient dies. Although she feels terrible, her friend Marie, a practical nurse, comforts her with a touch of ordinary love, a photo of her new grandchild.
Twelve contemporary stories set in Rhode Island and New York City. Major themes include the pain of cultural dislocation and cross-cultural experience ("Theng," "Shambalileh," "My German Problem"); human frailty and self-deception ("Sleep," "Juilliard"); and the personal and moral dimensions of medical practice. See the separate annotations for Laundry, The Good Doctor and Ambulance--three stories which are particularly relevant to Literature and Medicine.