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Nnu Ego is the daughter of a great Nigerian chief. She is expected to have many sons. With her first husband who beats her, she has no children. She leaves him and is married to a man who works on the coast in a British colony. Her life there is miserable. She and her husband slowly lose their village values and begin a daily battle for food and money.
Nnu Ego nevertheless becomes pregnant. Her infant son dies suddenly and she nearly goes mad. She recovers and produces many children, including two sons. Her eldest son goes to school in America, marries a white woman, and rarely contacts his mother. Certainly, he does not financially support her as village ethics demand. Her younger son follows in his brother's footsteps. Nnu Ego is considered a success in her village, but she dies alone. Her eldest son returns to Nigeria and pays for a big funeral in order to prove what a good son he is.
In this autobiographical novel, Plath's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, sinks into a profound depression during the summer after her third year of college. Esther spends the month of June interning at a ladies' fashion magazine in Manhattan, but despite her initial expectations, is uninterested in the work and increasingly unsure of her own prospects.
Esther grows disenchanted with her traditional-minded boyfriend, Buddy Willard, a medical student who “had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up, whether they needed it or not . . . . ” Returning home to a New England suburb, Esther also discovers that she's been rejected from a Harvard summer school fiction course. Her relationship with her mother is painfully strained.
Suddenly, Esther finds herself unable to sleep or read or concentrate. She undergoes a few unsuccessful sessions with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon, as well as terrifying electroshock therapy. She becomes increasingly depressed, thinks obsessively about suicide, then attempts to kill herself by crawling into the cellar and taking a bottle of sleeping pills: "red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down." Esther vomits, however, and so, does not die. She is taken to a city hospital and then, through the financial intervention of a benefactor, to a private psychiatric institution.
There, Esther begins gradually to recover. She enjoys the pleasant country-club surroundings and develops a closeness with her analytically-oriented psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan. Esther also undergoes a more successful regimen of shock therapy, after which she feels the "bell jar" of depression lifting.
The stigma of attempted suicide and hospitalization seems to free Esther to behave less traditionally; defiantly, she loses her virginity to a man she's met on the steps of Harvard's Widener Library. At the novel's end, Esther is preparing to leave the psychiatric hospital and is describing herself, optimistically, as transformed.
Summary:A witch doctor treated a man for trachoma with a caustic root, and the man went blind. Terrified and depressed, he sat in the doorway of his home for two years while "his wives ministered" to him. One night he went off on his own and "fell into a dry well and died upside down."
Summary:The poet undergoes a breast biopsy under local anesthesia: "I had thought my skin was a permanent seal. / Now I watch this layer of myself / . . . sprout red flowers . . . . " She observes the (male) surgeon closely, imagines her tissue on its journey to the pathology laboratory, and listens carefully to the surgeon's first words: "this man / who went beyond my skin / as no one else has . . . / as he made me for the first time, his."
Summary:In typically terse poetic structure, utilizing fresh new images, Holub visualizes removal and replacement of a human heart during a transplant procedure. He describes the throb of the extracorporeal circulation mechanics as an "inaudible New World Symphony" as he elevates the imagery of the hole in the chest where once resided the "king of Blood" transiently into the cosmos. With the arrival of the "new heart," the imagery again becomes earth bound: the structure is sewn in place, the beats resume and the "curves jump like / synthetic sheep" as the EKG rhythm resumes.
Summary:On surface, this metaphorically endowed poem details the life cycle of a tapeworm, beginning as a tiny resident in the "protective slime" of mucosae, eventually outgrowing the host, and overrunning the environment as it attains a "philosophical dimension / in which it's the only form of matter. . . . " The parasite shrinks again into "little spores of embecile agreement" which wait for another chance, another cycle of growth and power. The parasite metaphor works beautifully for a wide variety of social and political phenomena the poem does not identify.
Seventeen year-old Phyllis Halliday lives with her parents near the maximum security penitentiary in Kingston, Canada. In the year 1919-20, she establishes a forbidden, epistolic relationship with convict Joseph Cleroux, who is serving a sentence for theft and extortion. Messages, money, and small gifts of tobacco, chocolate, and a ring, are concealed in the quarry next to her home where the convicts are sent to work. Influenced by the newly released film with Mary Pickford, she dubs her new friend "Daddy Long Legs," and herself, "Peggy."
Both Phyllis and Joe fear being caught, and they suffer from parallel illnesses. As she falls in love with the man whom she has never met, she neglects her studies, hoping that he will come for her when he is discharged. However, on that day, he is immediately put on the first train out of town. His letters dwindle and cease, but Phyllis continues to wait and hope.
Elizabeth Carpenter is preparing for her fiftieth wedding anniversary and hoping that her children will come home for the event. She nurses her irritable, invalid husband, a retired teacher, who has been a rigid father and is now bedridden with a chronic illness. He is too proud to ask for the things he needs or wants, and spends his vacant hours comparing what he perceives as the dull, dutiful Elizabeth to the "other woman" he loved long ago.
Their oldest child, Victoria, once a fragile beauty full of promise, is institutionalized for a chronic mental illness characterized by irrational fears and self-doubt. The middle child, Jason, is a psychiatrist who has been unable to establish trusting relationships and seeks affirmation through multiple sexual adventures. The youngest child is Emily, a concert violinist whose way of achieving peace is to live abroad, avoiding commitments and her family from whom she is hiding the fact of her own son, Adam. But the reunion leads them to revisit relationships and events in the past and results in some surprises for their present and future.
Fran, a fourteen-year-old from New York, is finally allowed to spend a month of her summer vacation with her aunt of Cape Cod. As yet she is unaware that her parents have put off such a visit because her aunt, a lively, empathetic teacher, has a long-term lesbian partner. Among Fran’s new acquaintances is a girl her age, Wilma, who is confined to a wheelchair and, apparently because of the way her disability sets her apart, as well as her famous father’s divorce and remarriage, is extremely demanding and difficult.
Wilma’s stepmother hires Fran to be Wilma’s "companion" a few hours a day while she rests, being in the final stages of her first pregnancy. With the help of some pivotal conversations with her aunt and a new friend, Jack, Fran finds her way through her own anger and bewilderment at Wilma’s behavior to the beginning of an authentic friendship with her, as well as an understanding of the imagination caregiving demands. Along the way she becomes aware of her aunt’s lesbianism and finds that her other experience has helped open her to acceptance of this difference as well.
A maiden aunt never marries because a river prawn bites her calf and, due to minimal treatment by her physician, nestles there to grow. She devotes her life to her nieces, making for them life-sized dolls on their birthdays and wedding days. When only the youngest niece is left at home, the doctor comes to see his patient and brings his son, also a physician. When the son realizes the father could have cured the leg, the doctor says, "I wanted you to see the prawn that has paid for your education these twenty years."
The young doctor becomes the aunt's physician and marries the youngest niece, taking her and her wedding doll to live in a house like a cement block, requiring his wife to sit on the porch so passersby can see he has married into society. The doctor sells the doll's diamond-eardrop eyes, and when he wants to sell its porcelain, his wife tells him the ants ate the doll because it had been filled with honey.
The doctor grows older, but his wife keeps the firm, porcelained skin she's always had. One night he watches her sleep and notices her chest isn't moving. Placing his stethoscope over her heart, he hears a distant swish of water. "Then the doll lifted up her eyelids, and out of the empty sockets of her eyes came the frenzied antennae of all those prawns."