Showing 291 - 300 of 362 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

The Tenth Circle

Zimmer, Paul

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Zimmer's poem begins with policy guidelines for landlords whose elderly tenants may be calling the switchboard more than three times per month for health emergencies. According to the guidelines, such patterns suggest that the resident, no longer capable of independent living, can be moved to a health care center.

In response to the policy passage, an advisory poem is constructed by the narrator for his own father who, we can assume, values his independence. In essence the son advises silence about medical events such as a fall: "tell no one." If an ambulance should arrive, don't get in.

The strong warnings reflect contemporary health care systems in which the prevailing practices correspond to Dante's Inferno, particularly the tenth circle. At that level, everyone faces one direction and people are "piled like cordwood inside the cranium of Satan." Cries for help are unheard and unanswered.

View full annotation

The Black Snake

Oliver, Mary

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Mary Oliver's six stanzas are a meditation on the processes of life and death. The narrator observes the death of a snake by a truck that "could not swerve." The occurrence of sudden death is, after all, "how it happens" and the snake now lies "looped and useless as an old bicycle tire." For most observers of this familiar sight, that would be the end. The narrator, however, stops his car and carries the cool and gleaming snake to the bushes where it is as "beautiful and quiet as a dead brother."

Upon continuing his drive, the experience generates reflection about death: its suddenness, its weight, and its certainty. At the same time the narrator notes that dying and death of others ignites a brighter fire, one of good fortune: "not me!"

The final stanza describes the innate drive and tenacity of life forces. Because life, rather than death, is at the center of each cell, unimpeded by death, the snake and all other forms of life move forward tenaciously, unimpeded by the threat of death.

View full annotation

Water

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Water is a metaphor for the life cycle as the poet chronicles the role played by water in his life, in all our lives--"the sac of water we live in." The poet evokes the sound of water as he moves through life stages: swaying trees register the sound of the water from which we emerge at birth, "the sound of sighing" denotes the sound made as he washes his dying father’s feet, whispering rain "outlives us."

The poem is replete with images of water that conjure up family relationships over time. In the ocean of his childhood, his athletic brother cannot swim while his crippled sister swims like a "glimmering fish." Water is a visible symptom of the congestive heart failure suffered by his father--"swollen, heavy . . . bloated"-- whose "respirator mask makes him look like a diver."

As the poet tends to his father, testing the wash water "with my wrist" like a parent, there is a powerful recollection of the father’s earlier ordeal as a political prisoner. Finally, there is water that liberated the family, bringing them from Indonesia to America, juxtaposed against the water that is now drowning the father.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of poems by members of an AIDS workshop run for Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York by poet Rachel Hadas. The poetry is framed by an introductory essay by Hadas, "The Lights Must Never Go Out," and a long concluding chapter that includes Hadas’s reflections on the poetry collection, her own experiences with illness, and many of her own poems.

View full annotation

Summary:

Mohammed (Mohsen Ramezani), an eight year old blind boy attending a special school in an Iranian city waits for his widowed father (Hossein Mahjub) to bring him home to his isolated, but idyllic Iranian village for summer recess. During several interminable hours of waiting outside the school, viewers come to recognize the boy’s sensitivity to his surroundings. Through sound and feel he is at one with nature. Remarkably, he is able to rescue a vulnerable baby bird and return it to the tree branch nest from where it has fallen.

Unfortunately, Mohammed’s father fails to exhibit this kind of care with his son. The tardy reunion is painful: rather than embracing the boy, the father requests that school officials keep the boy during the recess. When the request is refused by embarrassed faculty members who are sympathetic to the child’s family needs, father and son begin the long walk, then bus ride into the distant countryside.

In contrast, Mohammed receives a warm and loving welcome from his Granny (Salime Feizi), his sisters, and the neighboring children. Immediately, the children run with him into the meadows to explore and celebrate. Clearly, this is Mohammed’s nest.

Even though Mohammed’s abilities at the local school are superior to those of his classmates and even though he is able to function in normal play with his peers, the father focuses only on the boy’s removal from the family and the village so that he can find a new wife to care for him and his other children. The unprepared boy is taken abruptly by his father to a blind carpenter many miles away where he will serve as an apprentice. Although the carpenter is kind, Mohammed is devastated by the cruel separation from Granny and the children.

Unburdened, the father goes forth with plans for another marriage, but before the arranged ceremony occurs both the heartbroken Granny and Mohammed die. The bride-to-be and her family regard these losses as unhealthy portends. Marriage plans are canceled. Only then, does the father recognize his own blindness.

View full annotation

Summary:

It is 1832. Europe is in turmoil of revolution and soon to be ravaged by cholera. Italians who resist the Austrian occupation of their country have fled to southern France where they are ruthlessly pursued and killed by special agents. Handsome, young, Angelo Pardi (Olivier Martinez), is an Italian fugitive whose wealthy but revolutionary-minded mother has purchased his rank of colonel. Upon learning that a friend has betrayed his cell of resistors, he determines to return to Italy carrying the funds raised for a defense.

But cholera has struck southern France. Roads and rivers are barricaded, quarantine is enforced, and he encounters death, decay, fear, and angry crowds who accuse every stranger of having caused the epidemic. Pardi meets an anxious doctor who teaches him a treatment for cholera, but moments later the doctor defies his own treatment to die of the illness caught from his patients.

As Pardi runs from both Austrian and French pursuers, he falls through a tiled roof into the life of the abandoned Pauline de Théus (Juliette Binoche). With almost comic formality, he becomes her chivalrous guide--her "angel(o)"--and leads her safely to her elderly husband through an improbable series of narrow escapes, including cholera itself. The doctor's dubious treatment comes in handy not only for saving her life but also as a pretext for nudity in their chaste relationship. A few years later, peace and health returned, Madame de Théus receives a letter from Italy. Her husband knows that he ought to let her go, but the credits roll as she gazes at the Alps and contemplates her decision.

View full annotation

Blindness

Saramago, José

Last Updated: Jun-27-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A sudden epidemic of blindness spreads throughout an unidentified country. When those who have lost their sight are examined, however, no evidence of pathology or damage can be found. The afflicted all describe "seeing" not darkness but rather a dense, impenetrable whiteness.

Because the government believes the disease is contagious, those people initially affected are quickly quarantined in a former mental hospital that is guarded by soldiers. There, the blind are treated like lepers and live like animals. Enigmatically, the wife of a sightless ophthalmologist has been spared from going blind. She functions as both protector and caregiver of a small group of blind people. They escape their imprisonment only when their captors (and presumably everyone except the ophthalmologist's wife) lose their sight.

Life is reduced to a constant search for food. As the situation grows even more grisly, vision is not only abruptly restored but perhaps with a clarity greater than ever before. When crowds of people rejoice "I can see," the reader wonders whether their earlier loss of sight was genuine or maybe some form of psychic blindness or spiritual malaise.

View full annotation

The Underpainter

Urquhart, Jane

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The aging and isolated Austin Fraser paints vividly realistic images inspired by his past; he then covers them with a filmy top coat that obfuscates the clarity. His housekeeper thinks he spoils his work with this "style."

Son of a privileged mining magnate, he spent his summers on the northern shores of the Great Lakes, and his winters in upstate New York. His model, Sara, opened her life to him, and waited. He took without giving in return. His good friend George, destined to inherit his father's China Hall, is satisfied, it seems, with a meager life in porcelain painting and selling--trite, cozy images that Austin scorns. They both remember Vivian, a beautiful sophisticate who floated through their lives one summer long ago. Austin has been away in the big city for many years, but he has a hankering to see George again. Vivian reappears and goads Austin to make the journey back in time.

Wounded in the war, George has found a partner in Augusta--a fragile nurse, haunted by her horrifying war experience and addicted to morphine. But when George is confronted with Vivian again, the peaceful stability vanishes. To his amazement, Austin discovers that George had actually married Vivian that summer, but she left him at the urging of his mother. Her return opens painful wounds. After a night of recollection with Austin, Augusta slips away. Austin waits downstairs while she overdoses on morphia. George finds her dead and takes his own life too. Austin has the bodies removed.

View full annotation

Dulce et Decorum Est

Owen, Wilfred

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The author describes war from the soldier's perspective--"we cursed through sludge . . . Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood shod." The author remembers a soldier dying in poison gas. He challenges the reader: If you only knew the horrors of war, you would not repeat "the old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori."

View full annotation

The Wound Dresser

Whitman, Walt

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

An old man bending I come upon new faces . . . . The old poet is asked by the young to tell of his experience during the war. In silence and in dreams, he returns to the battlefield: "Bearing the bandages, water and sponge, / Straight and swift to my wounded I go, / Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in, / Where their priceless blood reddens the grass . . . . "

He describes the rows of the hospital tent, where one man has a bullet through his neck, another an amputated arm. The poet cleans and dresses each wound. Even though he never knew these soldiers before, "Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you." At the end of the poem, he remarks, "Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips."

View full annotation