Showing 31 - 37 of 37 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Retardation"

Rebecca

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Feb-05-2002
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

This is one of the two dozen studies of patients with right-brain disorders that make up Sacks's volume The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. The nineteen-year-old Rebecca has significant physical and mental defects (her IQ is 60 at best), and by conventional neurological standards she is severely impaired, but Sacks discovers that she has moments of being quite in touch and "together" (her word).

The essay tells of Sacks's discovery of Rebecca's poetic expression and spiritual qualities, and of her self-awareness, in planes unknown to standard neurological and psychiatric categories. Sacks is broadly critical of psychological and neurological testing as constituting a "defectology" that is blind to important human qualities. He warmly recommends music and story-telling, both as modes of understanding and also as narrative therapies that work by ignoring the defects and speaking to the soul.

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Summary:

This is the second anthology from Donley and Buckley derived after many years of teaching "What's Normal?"--a literature and medicine course at Hiram College where they explore the cultural and contextual influences upon the concept of normality. With the first anthology, The Tyranny of the Normal, the editors focused on physical abnormalities (see this database for annotation). In this second anthology, the focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral deviations from societal norms. With this edition, Donley and Buckley present their case that, as with physical abnormalities, there is a similar tyranny of the normal that "dominates those who do not fit within the culture's norms for mental ability, mental health and acceptable behavior (xi)".

The anthology is divided into two parts. Part I is a collection of essays that introduce various clinical and bioethical perspectives on the subject of mental illness. These essays bring philosophic and analytic voices to the topic. Stephen Jay Gould's terrific essay on Carrie Buck and the "eugenic" movement in the United States in the early part of the 20th century illustrates one of the major themes that can be found throughout the anthology.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion in the 8-1 Supreme Court decision that sealed Buck's fate. Gould begins his essay reminding his readers of the often referenced Holmes quote, "three generations of imbeciles are enough." He then takes us on a fascinating historical adventure that uncovers a deeper and more complicated drama that led to this unfortunate period in American history, and the tragic incarceration and sterilization of Carrie Buck.

This essay, as with other stories, poems, and drama in the anthology, contemplates the relationship between societal values and mental illness, and illustrates how society through medicine can turn to the myth of "objective" diagnostic labels as a way to compartmentalize and control behavior and imaginations that are "abnormal." D. L. Rosenhan's essay from "On Being Sane in Insane Places" further illustrates the failure of the mental illness label. Irvin Yalom's story from Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy provides an example of what is possible when diagnostic labels are avoided, when health care professionals with power turn with humility, curiosity, and kindness toward others, substantiating that these qualities are far more powerful than statistical notions of "normal."

Part II is a collection of fiction, poetry and drama. Intended as a complement to part I, part II engages the reader in the lived experience of the narrators. It is divided into six sections. Section one considers children and adolescent experience of mental illness. Included are Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," an excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (see annotation in this database), and an excerpt from Peter Shaffer's Equus (see annotation).

Section two includes stories that capture the world of mental disability and retardation. An excerpt from Of Mice and Men and Eudora Welty's short story Lilly Daw and the Three Ladies are included. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (annotated by Felice Aull; also annotated by Jack Coulehan) is in section three where women's experiences with mental disorders is the theme (these are annotated in this database).

Section four and five focus on men and mental illness. War experience is considered in the works of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. Section six concludes the anthology. Alzheimer's disease and dementia are examined in Robert Davis's My Journey into Alzheimer's Disease, and in the story, "A Wonderful Party" by Jean Wood.

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Brother of Sleep

Schneider, Robert

Last Updated: Feb-29-2000
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Consider the possibility of a man whose sense of hearing is so enhanced that he can discern the noise of the entire world and also mimic all the sounds made by men and beasts. Imagine a human being who can SEE sounds as well as hear them. It is little wonder that he would have an affinity and talent for music.

Johannes Elias Alder is such a musical genius born in 1803 with a preternatural gift of hearing. The illegitimate son of the village curate, Elias experiences a physical metamorphosis as a child and by the age of ten is already a man. He effortlessly composes magnificent music that he plays on the organ.

Although Elias falls in love with his cousin, Elsbeth, she marries another man. After this loss, he becomes tired of life. Elias commits suicide at the age of 22 by refusing to sleep and succumbing to starvation and an overdose of belladonna.

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Dingle the Fool

Jolley, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jan-27-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dingle the Fool lives in the family home with his two sisters, their husbands, and their infant children. Their mother left the house to all three in equal shares. One sister, Joanna, wants to sell the old place and buy a modern home. The other sister, Dierdre, wants to remain in the house, especially for Dingle's sake.

Dingle plays in the mulberry patch and doesn't seem to understand much. He has a dirty old tennis ball that he believes is full of happiness. One day Dierdre gives in and agrees to sell. When she tells Dingle, he cuts the tennis ball in half, intending to give part of it to his sister.

However, when he sees that the tennis ball is empty (no happiness!), he cries and goes out to climb his favorite tree. Later that night, the house burns down. But Dingle is found safely sleeping in his tree. Joanna and Dierdre face the prospect of a lovely new house, but Dingle has to go to an institution.

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Flowers for Algernon

Keyes, Daniel

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Charlie Gordon is a young man with an IQ of 68 who has a job at a box factory and attends night classes in an effort to improve himself. A (very fictional) experimental brain operation becomes available that promises to triple intelligence (it has already done so for a mouse named Algernon), and Charlie excitedly decides that he wants to give it a try. The story consists solely of Charlie's diary entries from the time he hears about the operation through the operation and his dramatic increase, and subsequent decrease, of IQ.

Charlie's increased intelligence opens up to him the understanding of everyday things that had been beyond his grasp, and at his peak he soars to the level of genius, ironically identifying the flaw in the scientific work of the two scientists who developed the operation he has undergone, and thus destroying their careers as their shallow research destroys the life that had been his.

Among the everyday things Charlie understands for the first time is the fact that two of his male co-workers have regularly taken advantage of his retarded state to make fun of him, sometimes roughly. Charlie also becomes self-conscious more generally, which makes it impossible for him to stay in the place where he has been so degraded, even after his formerly misbehaving pals become sympathetic.

At the end of the story he has fallen back to his original level of intelligence--and may continue to decline, if we take the suggestion from the fate of his fellow subject, Algernon, who rises, falls, and then dies. Charlie has only a dim memory of having done something important. His self-esteem is strong, however, and he decides to leave his familiar world and find a place where people won't know about his embarrassment.

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Summary:

The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.

Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.

Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.

For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.

We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.

Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]

Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.

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Best Boy

Wohl, Ira

Last Updated: Oct-29-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This 1979 Academy Award winning documentary takes us into the lives of the Wohl family. Featured in this film are Philip ("Philly") Wohl, retarded since birth and now in his early 50's, and the family members who care for him: his sister, Frances, and parents, Max and Pearl. The film-maker is Philip's cousin, Ira Wohl, who provides the narrative structure for the film and was moved to document the struggle of aging parents to care for their aging and homebound son.

Ira Wohl's goal was to convince Philly's family that Philly needed to become a part of the community by moving to a group home before his parents became incapable of caring for him. In fact, during the three years of filming Max dies. And eight months after the filming and Philly's successful move to a group home, Pearl dies.

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