Showing 2611 - 2620 of 2835 Literature annotations

A Country Doctor

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A hapless country doctor describes with breathless urgency a night-time summons to attend a young patient. Events soon take on a surreal aspect as "unearthly horses" transport him instantaneously to the bedside. The doctor, preoccupied with personal distractions and grievances against those he is employed to care for, fails to find what is revealed to be a vile, fatal wound (symbolizing the Crucifixion?). He is humiliated by the villagers, who are "always expecting the impossible from the doctor," and doomed to an endless return trip, losing everything.

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Hard Cash

Reade, Charles

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Reade was known for writing "novels with a cause." Here, as in several other of his novels, his cause is the deplorable condition of mental hospitals in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Until late in the century, many considered the mentally ill untreatable. Hospitals were more like prisons than places for treatment. Admission policies were also fairly lax. Reade records a common fear that healthy people would be incarcerated.

In Hard Cash, a father incarcerates his son in order to cover up a crime. The doctors who admit him have a kickback scheme worked out with the hospital--they get money for each patient admitted. Once in the hospital, the hero tries to prove his sanity but finds it impossible to battle against doctors who refuse to look past the diagnosis that caused his admission to his actual mental condition. He also must negotiate with the head of the hospital, a woman who is madly in love with him and refuses to allow him out of her sight.

He cannot prove his sanity and only escapes when there is a fire in the asylum. There is one "good" doctor in the story who refuses to bleed patients, deny them food, or admit the sane to mental hospitals. The other doctors think him a quack, but he saves several lives.

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Summary:

Jordanova posits that medicine and science "contain implications about matters beyond their explicit content." Namely, they have historically made assumptions about women and their relation to science/medicine. Jordanova explores this relation through seven chapters.

Particularly interesting is Chapter Three, "Body Image and Sex Roles." Here Jordanova discusses the wax models used by medical students in the nineteenth century to learn about anatomy. These models were almost always female and sometimes even had flowing hair, pearl necklaces, and other realistic details. Jordanova argues that this gendering was no accident. The route to knowledge is historically associated with looking deep into the bodies of women.

Chapter Five pursues this theme, commenting on how nature is often configured as a female whose secrets will be revealed by masculine science. The final two chapters address twentieth century representations, including the gendered nature of drug advertisements in in-house medical magazines.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This 14 line poem deals with a physician's compassion for a hopelessly ill patient ("An apparatus not for me to mend--") and his participation in active euthanasia. The patient, Annandale, was "a wreck . . . and I was there." The narrator asks the reader to view himself or herself "as I was, on the spot-- / with a slight kind of engine." (This "engine" is a hypodermic needle.) He concludes, "You wouldn't hang me? I thought not."

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The Excrement Poem

Kumin, Maxine

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator observes that we all, from the worm to the brontosaurus, have excrement. As she cleans the horses' stalls of "risen brown buns," she contemplates that sparrows will come to pick "redelivered grain" from the manure, that mushrooms will "spring up in a downpour" from it, that "However much we stain the world," shit indicates that we go on.

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My Mother's Body

Piercy, Marge

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator reflects on her mother's death through four sections. In the first, she recalls the moment her mother collapsed and died. Her father heard the crash but refused to get up from his nap to see what had happened. The narrator hears the crash fifteen hundred miles away and feels her mother's pain. This stanza also speaks about the Jewish funeral, held in Florida while Christmas carols play out over palm trees.

In the second section, the narrator is sorting through her mother's things. She dreams of her mother at seventeen, full of hope. The third section speaks about how much of the mother remains alive in the daughter. The same hips and thighs have cushioned grandmother, mother, and now daughter. The narrator feels as if she carries her mother inside her, just as her mother once carried her.

Section four brings out issues over which the mother and daughter disagreed. The narrator was once eager to create a life separate from her mother's. Now, though, she and her mother are one and the mother can live her life through the body of her daughter.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this poem, the narrator describes her father who is in a nursing home suffering from dementia. The poem opens with a description of the narrator's dying cat, with whom her father is compared. The most distinctive thing about the father's anger and confusion is his loss of power. In a home he is denied access to his money, his house, even his ability to boss others around. He calls his daughter and insists that she is not his daughter at all, but his wife.

He feels as if it's the wrong year, "and the world bristles with women who make short hard statements like men and don't apologize enough, who don't cry when he yells or makes a fist." He has lost his masculinity. He accuses his daughter of stealing his money, the money he hoarded from her as she grew up and that is now useless to him. No one on the ward remembers or cares that he once walked the picket line, worked, or had a desirable wife. He is as angry as "a four-hundred-horsepower car," but he has lost his license to drive.

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The Imp of the Perverse

Poe, Edgar Allan

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins with a philosophical discussion about how science (especially phrenology) understands human beings. It is the narrator's contention that science develops a priori. One first decides on the basic needs of humankind, then ascribes to certain organs the role of satisfying those needs. The narrator thinks this is backwards: "It would have been wiser, it would have been safer to classify . . . upon the basis of what man usually or occasionally did, and was always occasionally doing, rather than upon the basis of what we took for granted the Diety intended him to do."

One major trait scientists have overlooked is perversity. Men often do things for no better reason than that it will hurt themselves or others. The narrator then tells how he murdered a man and lived contentedly with the knowledge for many years until he was suddenly, perversely compelled to confess.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A young man is traveling through France with a companion. They pass near a well-known "Mad House" and decide to visit. His companion introduces him to the superintendent, Monsieur Maillard, then leaves. The superintendent informs the young man that the hospital has given up the system of management it was famous for. Previously, patients were allowed complete freedom. The practice had finally proved too dangerous and Maillard promises to show the young man the alternative system he installed after dinner. He escorts the young man to a banquet table crowded with guests and laden with food.

To the visitor, the dinner guests seem rather mad as they take turns describing and then demonstrating the delusions of patients. But Maillard assures him that the lunatics are locked up; the guests are keepers. Maillard says the new system was invented by Doctors Tarr and Fether. He describes the dangers of the former system used. In one instance, he says, patients rebelled and imprisoned their keepers while they themselves enjoyed the wines and beauty of the grounds.

Suddenly, there is a crash at the boarded-up windows. The visitor thinks it is the escaped madmen. It turns out, however, to be the keepers who were indeed imprisoned by the madmen, tarred and feathered and kept on a diet of bread and water. Maillard, the former superintendent, had gone mad himself and organized the rebellion.

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Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Two radically different people find themselves together on a hospital roof garden, where they first come to terms with each other, then with their pasts, their illnesses, and death. Parmigian has a fruit and vegetable stand, a terminal cancer, and a bitter wit. Richard Landau is an investment adviser in fine art, fastidious, but haunted by his childhood escape from the Holocaust.

Only in for tests, Landau becomes forced to confront Parmigian's fatalistic view of the world. As Parmigian taunts and jokes, he draws Landau into his laughter and wild imaginings, as key weapons in the fight to stay alive.

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