Showing 281 - 290 of 387 annotations tagged with the keyword "Narrative as Method"

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

It is 1965. Graduate student, Adam Appleby (the name is significant), twenty-five years old and father of three, is terrified that his wife, Barbara, is pregnant again. He loves her and is faithful, but their commitment to Catholicism turns their sex life into a furtive obsession, encumbered with calendars, thermometers, and guilt.

This day in his life, like all others, is spent in the British Museum, researching an interminable thesis on 'the long sentence' in minor English writers. But Adam cannot concentrate for frustration, anxiety (over Barbara's delayed period), and financial despair. When a young descendant of a minor writer tries to seduce him in exchange for a steamy manuscript that could easily make his career, Adam discovers a shocking willingness to compromise on his principles.

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Christ Stopped at Eboli

Levi, Carlo

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Christ stopped at Eboli, say the southern Italians, meaning that they are "not Christian," uncivilized, forgotten, and deprived. Physician, writer, and painter, Levi was arrested and 'exiled' from his home in Turin for opposing Fascism during the Abyssinian war (1935). This is the memoir of his life as a political prisoner under house arrest in a malaria-ridden village in Lucania (Basilicata).

The peasants immediately seek his advice for their ailments, but the two local doctors are jealous, as well as incompetent, and they have him stopped. Grinding poverty, illness, superstition, and despair work on each individual in different ways; but the peasants move with the cycle of seasons and religious festivals. The feast of the black Madonna (Chapter 12) and an unforgettable pig castration (Chapter 19) are vividly described. In the 'atmosphere permeated by divinities' (p. 151), the animal, human, and spiritual spheres combine (Chapters 8, 13, 15).

The closing chapters are a political meditation. Deprivation and isolation make the south an irrelevant and different country to the powerful middle class that runs the Fascist party. In return, Fascism finds no supporters here other than corrupt, petty officials. Levi contends that "the State" of any political stripe will never solve the problems of southern Italy until peasants are involved.

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Atonement

McEwan, Ian

Last Updated: Aug-01-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Please note that in order to provide a useful analysis of this novel, it is necessary to reveal the novel's ending in the discussion below. It is England, 1935. Briony Tallis, 12 years old, decides to become a writer. Her first experiment in novelistic technique involves narrating from three different points of view an odd incident she witnesses from her bedroom window: her sister Cecilia undresses and steps into a fountain in the presence of Robbie Turner, the son of a family servant. Robbie has been educated at Cambridge under Mr. Tallis's patronage, and intends to become a physician. He and Cecilia are in love.

Briony's reconstruction of the incident is inaccurate, but she fails to recognize the lesson of her exercise in multiple perspectives: her version is sufficiently coherent for her to mistake it for reality. She jumps to further conclusions and causes Robbie's wrongful conviction and imprisonment for rape and Cecilia's permanent estrangement from her family.

The rest of the novel both elucidates and unravels the opening sequence. It is 1940 and Briony is becoming both a nurse and a novelist. Both roles represent her efforts to atone for her disastrous narrative misconstrual. As a nurse, she learns a new humility and cares for the appalling injuries of soldiers who, like Robbie, are suffering the war in France.

A more metaphysical atonement lies in her work as a novelist: we realize that we have been reading Briony's own rewriting of the initial events and her careful imaginative reconstruction of Robbie's experiences in the Dunkirk evacuation. She tells of her discovery of the actual rapist (if a rape it was), her decision to retract her accusations and her efforts to make amends with Robbie and Cecilia.

In a final section, set in 1999, the aging Briony, now a successful novelist, learns that she is developing progressive vascular dementia. Soon, her ability to remember and grasp reality will desert her. But she has finished writing her latest version of Robbie and Cecilia's story, the novel we have just read, and can rest.

Her atonement seems complete until we learn that Robbie died in France and Cecilia in the Blitz, and that the (relatively) happy ending we read was simply made up by Briony. Devastatingly, we learn that atonement for an error of fiction has been limited to fictional reparation. The lethal damage it has caused in the actual world is beyond mending . . . unless, of course, we accept the vertiginous truth that the damage described in this novel is itself also no more (or less) than a fiction.

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Our Parents

Dunn, Stephen

Last Updated: Aug-01-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this poem, dedicated to his brother, Stephen Dunn reflects back on childhood (and childish) parent-child relationships. The first stanza concerns the dead and the stories that keep them alive: parents who "died at least twice, / the second time when we forgot their stories . . . " The transitional second stanza asks, "what is the past if not unfinished work," prefacing the last stanza, in which the adult poet recognizes how self centered children are--"the only needy people on earth"--and wonders what his parents "must have wanted . . . back from us." But, he concludes, "We know what it is, don't we? / We've been alive long enough."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Carlos and Geronimo make their living as beggars, traveling from one tourist stop to the next throughout northern Italy and the Austrian Alps. When Geronimo was a boy, his older brother Carlos accidentally hit him with a pea from a peashooter, causing him to lose his sight. The conscience-stricken Carlos vowed to devote his life to caring for his brother, and so for twenty years they have traveled together; Geronimo sings and plays the guitar, while Carlos handles the visual arrangements.

One day a tourist sows a seed of dissension. He drops one franc into Carlos's hat, then maliciously warns Geronimo to be careful because Carlos might cheat him out of the 20-franc coin he has just donated. Unexpectedly, this seed of suspicion thrives, with Geronimo becoming convinced of his brother's deception and greed. The heartbroken Carlos decides to go out and steal a 20-franc coin so that he can produce the money and satisfy his brother. He does so, and even though the theft is subsequently discovered, the story ends happily, since Geronimo now realizes how much Carlos loves him.

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The Plague

Camus, Albert

Last Updated: May-03-2002
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

One April morning in the 1940's in Oran, Algeria, Dr. Rieux, preoccupied with his ill wife's imminent departure to a sanatorium, discovers a dead rat. This unusual event marks the beginning of an epidemic of bubonic plague that will besiege the city until the following February. Over the long ten months Rieux, his acquaintances, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens labor, each in his own way, with the individual and social transformations caused by the all-consuming illness. Separation, isolation, and penury become the common lot of distinct characters whose actions, thoughts and feelings constitute a dynamic tableau of man imprisoned.

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White Mule

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Apr-26-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story begins in New York as a young immigrant Scandinavian woman gives birth to a daughter: "She entered, as Venus from the sea, dripping. The air enclosed her, she felt it all over her, touching, waking her." The time is at the turn of the 20th century, the baby's name is Flossie, and she is the second child of Joe and Gurlie Stecher. Joe is a printer, who takes great pride in his craftsmanship. He had once been a union activist, but became disillusioned with union corruption and now works as a shop foreman. Gurlie's driving ambition is for she and her husband to strike it rich and make their mark in this new land, where the streets are paved in gold (for some people).

Flossie turns out to be a sickly baby. At first, she won't nurse at all and almost dies of malnutrition and infection. Later, she remains so scrawny that a doctor claims the only way to save her life is to take her to live in the country. Thus, Gurlie and her two children travel to upstate New York for the summer, where they board with an aged Norwegian couple. While there, the baby begins to thrive, and so does Gurlie, who had spent her early childhood on a farm in Scandinavia.

Soon after Flossie's birth, the printers' union calls a strike. Joe successfully holds the line and keeps the shop running, but his grateful employers are not grateful enough even to give him a raise. Toward the end of the book, he negotiates with another businessman to obtain the wherewithal to start his own printing company.

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Kyrie

Voigt, Ellen Bryant

Last Updated: Apr-19-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Sonnets)

Summary:

The epigram for this collection of sonnets is a quotation from Alfred Cosby's The Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918: "Nothing else--no infection, no war, no famine--has ever killed so many in as short a period." Speaking in many different voices, Ellen Voigt evokes the great epidemic through the eyes and experience of various Americans--a soldier, his fiancée, orphaned children, a doctor, and a host of grieving family.

The infection is quick and ruthless. "Within the hour the awful cough began, / gurgling between coughs, and the fever spiked . . . / Before a new day rinsed the windowpane, / he had swooned. Was blue." (p. 22) Doctors were out on the road working day and night to no avail: "it didn't matter which turn the old horse took: / illness flourished everywhere . . . " (p. 38) Soon, coffins were scarce: "With no more coffins left, why not one wagon / plying all the shuttered neighborhoods, / calling for the dead, as they once did . . . " (p. 53) At last, the influenza receded: " . . . at the window, / every afternoon, toward the horizon, / a little more light before the darkness fell." (p. 55)

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Black Dogs

McEwan, Ian

Last Updated: Apr-09-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator, Jeremy, orphaned at age 8, is attempting to write a memoir of his wife's parents, June and Bernard Tremaine. The pair married in England in 1946, idealistic young members of the British Communist Party, but on their honeymoon in France something happens to June that estranges her from her husband and his values forever. After the birth of their daughter, Jeremy's wife, the two live separately. June dies in a nursing home in 1987, after telling Jeremy a great deal about her life and marriage.

In 1989 Jeremy and Bernard travel to Germany together to share in the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Bernard has taken a lot longer than his wife did to give up on communism. In Berlin, Jeremy hears his father-in-law's very different version of the couple's biography. Jeremy then travels to France to try and unearth the truth about their honeymoon, finding unreliable storytellers, poor memory, and, at the center, June's encounter in the French countryside with a pair of black dogs, owned and trained and then abandoned by the Gestapo. The story, as Jeremy reconstitutes it, is a discovery of evil that, regardless of literal factuality, bears a terrible truth about the human capacity to do harm, both personal and political.

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Letters from a Father

Van Duyn, Mona

Last Updated: Apr-08-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem consists of six "letters" in verse from an aged, chronically ill father to his daughter. In the first he presents in excruciating detail the sorry state of his body, and also Mother, "who falls and forgets her salve / and her tranquilizers, her ankles swell so and her bowels / are so bad . . . " Things are so bad that he has "made my peace because am just plain done for . . . " At the end he mentions the fact that, though the daughter enjoys her bird feeder, he doesn't see the point; "I'd buy / poison and get rid of their diseases and turds."

In the second letter, written after the daughter visited and gave them a bird feeder, he says that Mother likes to sit and watch the birds. In the next one, he talks about how much the birds eat and fight. As the letters progress, they include less and less about the parents' pain and disability, and more and more convey curiosity and, eventually, enthusiasm for bird watching.

By letter #5 the father ticks off the names of numerous species he has observed, and at the end casually mentions, "I pulled my own tooth, it didn't bleed at all." Finally, "It's sure a surprise how well mother is doing, / she forgets her laxative but bowels move fine." He ends by describing his plans for buying birdseed for the next winter. [112 lines]

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