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What occurs when a young woman begins to menstruate and has had no preparation for it by her mother or anyone else? Toni Cade Bambara's fictive account illustrates how a normal event in the female life cycle is transformed by an uninformed child into a terrifying event. Rae Ann, whose mother died years ago, has been raised by her strict grandmother, a woman not inclined to talk about matters relating to sex.
While such ignorance seems unlikely in today's television society, the poignant and compelling story provides a useful introduction to discussion about crucial questions associated with growth and development and family behavior. Especially strong is Bambara's graphic portrayal of the physicality of menstruation and how an unprepared adolescent might respond; every female reader winces with understanding for behavior that is both humorous and full of pathos.
Summary:A man and woman walk through a cancer ward in which the man points out, "Here in this row are wombs that have decayed . . ." In other rows are "breasts" and "this great mass of fat . . . . " He instructs his companion to feel "rosary of small soft knots" on one woman's chest. The patients are dying. There is little to be done. "Here the grave rises up about each bed." Yet, "sap prepares to flow. Earth calls."
This collection arranges Chekhov's letters into three periods, each introduced by a short biographical essay: 1885-1890, the years during which Chekhov established himself as a writer; 1890-1897, which begins with his trip to Sakhalin Island and includes the years he spent living at Melikhovo; and 1897-1904, the final years during which his health declined, he rose to prominence as a playwright, and he married Olga Knipper.
In her general introduction, Lillian Hellman writes, "Chekhov was a pleasant man, witty and wise and tolerant and kind, with nothing wishywashy in his kindness, nor self-righteous in his tolerance, and his wit was not ill-humored. He would have seen right through you, of course, as he did through everybody, but being seen through doesn't hurt too much if it's done with affection." This image of Chekhov radiates from the letters collected in this volume.
Most of the letters are written to family members and a few close friends and associates, especially Alexei Suvorin, the editor of "New Times," a leading St. Petersburg newspaper; Maxim Gorki, the famous writer; and, later, the actress, Olga Knipper. The topics include family matters and business affairs; comments on his own writing and that of others; and his travels, especially the adventurous trip across Siberia to the penal colonies on Sakhalin Island in 1890.
Summary:A widower, Perley, marries Maureen, a woman four years younger than his daughter. Not long after they are married, Maureen, in cahoots with her brother, begins to emotionally and physically abuse her husband, taking over his land and farm. Perley feels he "deserved what was happening" and cannot fight back. Finally, he does strike out at Maureen’s brother, leaves him unconscious in the kitchen and goes to spend the night in the hayloft. There, he thinks back to his first encounters with Maureen and her brother when they were children, reflecting on the abuse and poverty that dominated their lives and that led, ultimately, to the present crisis.
Summary:A very short poem, describing the increasingly circumscribed life of a dying woman in a nursing home, a woman who "is like a horse grazing / a hill pasture that someone makes / smaller by coming every night / to pull the fences in and in." The final lines are a moving plea for God to bring the woman to a gentle death.
Summary:The speaker describes cleaning out the house of a friend/relative who has recently died. She rewards each small accomplishment in her sorting through of the dead woman's possessions by eating one cookie from a tin of homemade cookies that was sent by the woman's cousin before she died. As she reaches the end of her cleaning, the speaker takes the last cookie from the tin: "I took it up / and sniffed it, and before eating it, / pressed it against my forehead, because / it seemed like the next thing to do."
Summary:A very short poem, in which the speaker, sorting through old china, finds a dead friend/relative's gravy boat "with a hard, brown / drop of gravy still / on the porcelain lip." This discovery leads the speaker to truly grieve the loss of this person in a way she hadn't before.
White-jacket is a sailor on the U.S. frigate Neversink. His nickname derives from a jacket stitched together from leftover scraps of rags. This jacket makes the other sailors superstitious and as the ship heads towards Antarctica his mess group kicks him out and he joins another group, serving under the much-liked petty officer, Jack Chase.
The journey is a dangerous one. A man falls overboard. There are constant floggings for the merest inkling of insurrection. All the crew members are forced to watch each flogging. A doctor stands by to stop the flogging if the victim's life is endangered, but he is so callous he doesn't stop a single one. The doctor also prescribes medications, but never attempts to change the conditions that cause the sailors' illnesses, like malnutrition and exposure.
When the ship lands in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Cadwaller Cuticle boards. In order to show off to the ship's doctors, he amputates the healthy leg of a sailor, who is terribly frightened as the doctors discuss his impending fate in front of him. The man dies of shock. When the boat continues on its journey, White-jacket accidentally falls from the riggings. He barely escapes being speared when a ship-mate mistakes his jacket for a whale. He is fished out and sent up again to complete his task.