Showing 291 - 297 of 297 annotations tagged with the keyword "Obsession"

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Part of Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul, Houston's essay is a cynical, self-deprecating, painfully honest, and wryly humorous observation of contemporary American women's obsession with their bodies, most notably thinness. Musing on her own lifelong fixation with weighing less, she admits that "for a good part of my life I would have quite literally given anything to be thin . . . a finger, three toes, the sight in one eye." Her essay is a collection of snapshots in her life, moments that bring into focus her displeasure with her body shape and size: walking down Fifth Avenue sizing up other women's bodies; the dinner habits of her family of origin that prohibited bread, dessert, or seconds; her husband's (thin) women employees who eyeball her body; her ongoing relationship with mirrors.

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A Hunger Artist

Kafka, Franz

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A 'hunger artist' explains the decline of interest in the art of fasting. In the old days people would enthusiastically observe the artist as he fasted, some of them watching carefully for surreptitious snacking. In those times 40 days was the limit of fasting; on the 40th day, the artist's cage was decked in flowers as he emerged to the ministrations of doctors and the crowd's applause.

But the public now has lost interest. The artist left his impresario and hired himself out to a circus where his cage is placed near the cages of animals. He dreads the onslaught of customers, some of whom stop and watch him, but others rush right past him to see the animals.

At the end, the overseer finds the hunger artist among the straw when he enters the cage. Just before he dies, the artist admits that there was no honor in his fasting; he just never found the food that he liked. Had he found it, he would have stopped fasting. He dies and is replaced by a panther.

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The Birthmark

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A devoted scientist, in a brief step from his laboratory pursuits, marries a beautiful woman with a single physical flaw: a birthmark on her face. Aylmer becomes obsessed with the imperfection and his need to remove it. The tale evolves around his progressive frenzy to use his scientific skills to render his bride perfect and the faith of his submissive wife that the union can survive only if he accomplishes his goal. The author tells us that Aylmer "had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies . . . " and, in the secrecy of his laboratory he prepares the potion for Georgiana which results in the disappearance of the birthmark and the death of Aylmer's experimental subject.

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Cousin Bette

Balzac, Honore de

Last Updated: Jan-13-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Bette is a poor spinster, a frequent visitor at her cousin Hulot’s household. When the story opens, the Hulot family fortune has been decimated by Baron Hulot’s mistress. He spends all his money on her, leaving his wife, Adeline, and daughter, Hortense, to struggle meagerly along. Hortense, whose dowry is shrinking daily, mindlessly amuses herself by teasing Bette about her "lover", the sculptor, Count Steinbock, who lives above Bette’s apartment. Bette treats the sculptor maternally but loves him with a jealous affection.

Hortense decides she must meet Steinbock and the two fall in love at first sight. Though Steinbock has little money, Adeline agrees to their marriage, but the engagement is kept from Bette. Baron Hulot’s mistress leaves him and he becomes invoved with Madame Marneffe, the wife of one of his employees.

Cousin Bette is bitter towards the Baron and his family because they treat her like a servant. When she hears about Hortense’s engagement to her friend Steinbock, she determines to destroy the whole family. Bette introduces Crevel (whose mistress Hulot once stole) to Madame Marneffe and he becomes a rival lover. Bette also anonymously has Steinbock imprisoned for his unpaid debts.

Meanwhile, Madame Marneffe seduces Steinbock. She then secures her power by telling each of her lovers that he is the father of her unborn child. Hulot reaches the end of the line shortly thereafter, when it is discovered that he has been stealing money from the government. Hulot’s brother dies of grief and Hulot himself goes off to live with a seamstress in the slums.

Madame Marneffe and Crevel also meet miserable ends. Several months later, Adeline discovers her missing husband while on a charity mission. He comes home, but soon seduces the maid. Adeline then dies, her emotional reserves exhausted.

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The Book of Mercy

Cambor, Kathleen

Last Updated: Nov-22-1996
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Book of Mercy is a novel in which each member of a family tries to deal, in individually idiosyncratic ways, with his or her abandonment, as a family and as individuals, by their wife/mother.

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The Wishing Box

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Nov-22-1996
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Agnes Higgins envies her husband Harold's ability to have brilliant and captivating dreams, nightly exotic dreams which he can recount to her in vivid detail. Agnes's dreams, when she has them, are ugly and frightening. Harold begins to coach Agnes in techniques for achieving perfect dreams. Agnes practices. She becomes progressively preoccupied with learning how to dream, but is unable to achieve a satisfying result. She becomes depressed, insomniac, and finally takes a fatal dose of sleeping pills. Harold finds Agnes "with her tranquil features set in a slight, secret smile of triumph . . . ."

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As I Lay Dying

Faulkner, William

Last Updated: Oct-29-1996
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Addie Bundren is dying in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. As she dwindles, her five children, husband, a scattering of neighbors and the country doctor move about her. Each is given a chapter named for him or her, to provide evolving and unique viewpoints on Addie's life and death.

When Addie has finally breathed her last, the action begins: Anse, Addie's husband, has promised her that she would be buried in Jefferson with her own family. The nuclear family sets out in their old wagon. Floods, injuries, irrational decisions, disagreements, fire, and the full mental collapse of one of the children plague the journey. Addie is eventually buried in Jefferson, but in the process of getting her there, the reader learns the sweet and the sordid about this poverty-stricken and profoundly dysfunctional family.

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