Showing 301 - 310 of 456 annotations in the genre "Short Story"

The Last Leaf

Henry, O.

Last Updated: Aug-29-2001
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Living in early 20th century Greenwich Village are two young women artists, Sue and Johnsy (familiar for Joanna). They met in May, six months previously, and decided to share a studio apartment. Stalking their artist colony in November is "Mr. Pneumonia." The story begins as Johnsy, near death from pneumonia, lies in bed waiting for the last leaf of an ivy vine on the brick wall she spies through her window to fall.

"I’m tired of thinking," says Johnsy. "I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves"(16). However, an unexpected hero arrives to save Johnsy. It’s not the brusque doctor who gives her only one in ten chances to survive, raising them to one in five if Sue can get her to hope for something important like a man, not her true desire to "paint the Bay of Naples some day" (14).

Mr. Behrman, an old man who lives in the apartment below Sue and Johnsy, who enjoys drinking, works sometimes as an artist’s model, and as yet has made no progress over the past 40 years on painting his own masterpiece, becomes in typical O. Henry fashion the hero. The evidence of his heroics are found the day before he dies from pneumonia: outside Johnsy’s window are a ladder, a lantern still lighted "some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it . . . it’s Behrman’s masterpiece--he painted it [a leaf] there the night that the last leaf fell"(19), Sue informs Johnsy.

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Baptism by Rotation

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A young doctor, recently assigned to a country hospital, is fraught with anxiety, especially over his lack of experience with obstetrical problems. One night the midwives call him; a woman is having a difficult labor. The fetus is presenting in a transverse position. The doctor must reach internally and “turn it around by the foot,” as Anna Nikolaevna, the seasoned midwife, reminds him.

The doctor has never performed this procedure. He buys time by going back to his room to consult the textbook (under the pretext of going for cigarettes). Finally, he can't avoid it any longer. He performs the rotation. It works! Both mother and baby are saved.

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A Libation of Blood

Weldon, Fay

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Alison, 39 years old, is twice-divorced, with three children, on the verge of moving in with a man called Bobby. Her breast is sore and she is afraid it's cancer. Her mother tells her it's more likely she's pregnant. She says she uses contraceptives; her mother tells Alison that she was conceived when a condom broke.

Alison considers abortion, recalling her last pregnancy. Having given birth to a child with Down's Syndrome who died at three months, she had had amniocentesis and was told that she was carrying twin boys, both normal. When the twins were born, though, one turned out to be a girl. One twin, it seemed, had been tested twice. Although the female twin did not have Down's Syndrome, Alison began at that point to worry about luck and the uncertainty of medicine (and of life).

So now, pregnant again, she asks her mother what she should do, and is told to "trust to luck." But she is afraid that her luck has run out and she must take control for herself. A scan shows that she is carrying twins again. Only now does her mother tell her that she is in fact a twin, that her sister had Down's Syndrome and died shortly after birth--in fact, her mother admits, the midwife "did away with" her. (The euphemism carries the senses both of euthanasia and of murder.)

Hearing this, Alison decides she wants to have an abortion right away. Her doctor, thinking the problem is that she wants only one child, gives her the option of selectively terminating one fetus and carrying the other one, but tells her she wouldn't be able to choose which to keep and which to abort. She rejects the idea, imagining how she'd tell the surviving twin about her decision later on, and decides instead to "have them both and trust to luck."

As she leaves the clinic, she begins to bleed and miscarries. Later her mother tells her that she, too, once miscarried twins, and tells Alison she'll have better luck next time, because of the bleeding: "Blood, " her mother says, "is the libation the God of Chance requires."

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The Figure in the Carpet

James, Henry

Last Updated: May-22-2001
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, a writer, prides himself on his astute review of Hugh Vereker's latest novel. Vereker dismisses his efforts, explaining that all critics have "missed my little point," "the particular thing I've written my books most for," "the thing for the critic to find," "my secret," "like a complex figure in a Persian carpet." The narrator racks his brains and, in desperation, tells his friend Corvick of the puzzle. Corvick and his novelist fiancée, Gwendolyn, pursue "the trick" without success until Corvick, traveling alone in India, wires Gwendolyn and the narrator "Eureka! Immense."

He refuses, however, to divulge the secret to Gwendolyn until after they are married, and then dies in a car crash. Since Gwendolyn refuses to share her knowledge, the narrator speculates, "the figure in the carpet [was] traceable or describable only for husbands and wives--for lovers supremely united." She marries Drayton Deane, and after her death, the narrator approaches Deane to discover the secret. But Deane is surprised and humiliated by the news of his wife's great "secret," and he and the narrator conclude by sharing the same throbbing curiosity.

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The Use of Force

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: May-03-2001

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A doctor is called to the home of a poor, immigrant family. A beautiful little girl is quite ill. As diphtheria has been going around, the doctor attempts to examine her throat. The girl, however, won't open her mouth. She fights him off and all attempts to cajole her into compliance fail. Yet, the doctor is resolved to see that throat. He forces the girl's father to hold her down, while he manages to wrest open her mouth after a long battle. She does, in fact, have diphtheria.

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The Party

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-30-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The pregnant Olga Mikhaylovna plods through the name-day party she is throwing for her husband, Peter. The party is interminable; she is uncomfortable and tired of being pleasant. As Olga walks through the garden for a moment of peace, she notices her husband has also left the house and is talking with one of their guests, the lovely Lyubochka; she interprets their conversation as lovemaking. Has her husband only married her for her money? Doesn't he love her? She decides he is unfaithful and resolves to confront him.

Later, everyone decides to go to the island for tea. But it begins to rain and they rush back. Much later, when the guests leave, Olga and Peter argue in their room; they are both dead tired. Suddenly, Olga goes into a difficult and prolonged labor that results in a stillborn child. In the last section, Olga is "muzzy from the chloroform," but happy to be alive. Peter sincerely protests his love.

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The Black Monk

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-30-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The philosophy student Kovrin is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His doctor suggests a rest in the country and so Kovrin decides to visit his childhood friend Tanya Pesotsky on her father's estate. While there he tells Tanya the legend of the black monk: a desert monk whose image has been reflected in mirages for a thousand years and who will soon return in the flesh.

One day in the garden, the black monk appears to the young man. This gives him joy and energy, even though he realizes that it is a hallucination. "What harm is in it?" Kovrin asks himself. As the summer goes on, the black monk continues to visit. Kovrin asks Tanya to marry him, they wed and move to the city. At one point Kovrin's hallucinations and disordered thinking overwhelm him; he agrees to medical treatment which evidently cures his mental disorder. Yet, his feelings of energy and creativity also disappear, along with the black monk.

Kovrin realizes that he hates his wife and she hates him. She returns to her father and his beloved garden, while Kovrin receives a professorship, a position he never actually takes because he is too ill--he has begun to hemorrhage from the lungs. Soon after receiving news of his father-in-law's death, he sees the black monk again and dies of a hemorrhage.

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Roman Fever

Wharton, Edith

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Wealthy American widows Alida Slade and Grace Ansley have taken their two marriageable daughters on a Continental tour. As the story opens, the older women linger at a restaurant with a view of the Forum while their daughters leave for an unchaperoned outing. The women talk of how carefully their mothers guarded them, and how their own mothers were in turn warned of Roman fever to keep them in at night.

Alida pushes the talk back to their girlhood, and Grace’s illness after a nighttime sightseeing trip; she reveals her knowledge that Grace had really gone to the Forum to meet Alida’s fiancé, Delphin Slade. Impelled by a mixture of jealousy, guilt, and vengeful satisfaction, Alida declares that she, not Delphin, wrote the letter summoning Grace to the tryst. This initial crisis is followed by a much more powerful one when Grace makes her own revelations about that night at the Forum.

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The Vulgar Soul

Biguenet, John

Last Updated: Mar-28-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Tom Hogue is a nonpracticing Catholic who develops a mysterious dermatologic disorder. Five areas of chapped and painful skin located on his hands, feet, and below his ribs begin to bleed simultaneously. The reluctant stigmatic soon experiences weight loss and insomnia and has premonitions. He attempts self-treatment before consulting in order his local pharmacist, primary care physician, a dermatologist, and eventually a psychiatrist.

He is diagnosed as having "psychogenic purpura" and his condition seems to improve with psychiatric treatment. Initially Hogue questions the validity of his stigmata and is uneasy with his religious celebrity. When his affliction spontaneously resolves, he has difficulty adjusting to his new life. A chance encounter with a woman whose life had been profoundly affected by Hogue when he still retained the stigmata leads him to consider self-mutilation as he fondles a steak knife beneath the table during their conversation.

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Fatherhood

Biguenet, John

Last Updated: Mar-28-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

While still dating, Sami learns that she is pregnant by Steven. The couple gets married and begins the transformation into prospective parents. Steven's study is turned into a nursery. Sami starts bleeding during the pregnancy and she is placed on bedrest. Unfortunately, Sami has a miscarriage.

When Steven finally decides to clean out the nursery, he finds a sad child occupying the room. Sometimes the baby disappears. After Steven informs his wife about the nursery's occupant, Sami is initially upset but soon she too sees the baby. She dubs the child "Stevie" and accepts the boy as her own, even nursing the baby. Slowly Steven comes to embrace the child as his son, unsure what he had resisted for such a long time.

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