Showing 361 - 370 of 525 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mourning"

The Blood of the Lamb

De Vries, Peter

Last Updated: Jun-04-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Don Wanderhope grows up in a Dutch Calvinist family, but his father is a searcher, always questioning the tenets of his faith and the meaning of life. Don's life progresses through a series of traumas: his older brother dies of pneumonia; Don develops tuberculosis; his girlfriend at the sanitarium dies of tuberculosis; and, later, his wife commits suicide. Despite all this, however, there is one shining ray of hope and love in Don's life--his daughter Carol. By the time she turns 11, father and daughter are inseparable pals.

At this point Carol develops leukemia. At first they think it is strep throat and she responds to antibiotics: "She feels a lot better. Give her another day or two and you can take her home. But, anyhow, we've eliminated everything serious." (p. 165) But shortly thereafter, while father and daughter are on vacation in Bermuda, she becomes severely ill again, and soon the diagnosis of leukemia is confirmed.

This begins many weeks of progressive spiritual suffering for Wanderhope, as his daughter suffers terrible physical symptoms and medical interventions. He is reduced to bargaining with God, and to begging at the shrine of St. Jude: "Give us a year." Initially, his prayers seem to be answered as Carol responds to chemotherapy, but then she develops sepsis and dies, "borne from the dull watchers on a wave that broke and crashed beyond our sight." (p. 236)

After Carol's death, Wanderhope vents his anger at God and becomes overwhelmed with grief. However, months later, when going through Carol's things in preparation for selling the house, he discovers an audiotape that Carol had made during her illness, a message that she had left for her father: "I want you to know that everything is all right, Daddy. I mean you mustn't worry, really . . .

(You've given me) the courage to face whatever there is that's coming . . . " (p. 241) The tale ends with Wanderhope's final reflection: "Again the throb of compassion rather than the breath of consolation: the recognition of how long, how long is the mourner's bench upon which we sit, arms linked in undeluded friendship, all of us, brief links, ourselves, in the eternal pity." (p. 246)

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Three Years

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jun-02-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Alexei Laptev, the middle-aged son of a wealthy Moscow industrialist, is on a prolonged visit to a provincial town where he is helping to care for his sister Nina, who is recovering from a cancer operation. Nina’s husband has abandoned her and their two young daughters for another woman. Unexpectedly, Laptev falls in love with Yulia Sergeyevna, the doctor’s 22-year-old daughter. Laptev is an unattractive, but good-hearted man; Yulia, though beautiful, is bland and immature. She eventually accepts his offer of marriage, though she is somewhat repulsed by him as a person. Yulia is neither attracted by his money, nor by his social position; she just feels badly about disappointing him and, moreover, looks forward to living in Moscow, where life is more exciting.

Once married, both Yulia and Alexei suffer. She hates his family and friends, and feels no affection for him. Meanwhile, Alexei remains head over heels in love with her. Nina dies of her cancer, and the little girls come to live with them for a while. Eventually, Yulia finds her own group of friends, who consider her foolish for not taking on a lover. Yulia and Alexei have a baby, who becomes the center of Yulia’s life, until the child dies of diphtheria.

Time passes. The family business turns sour. Alexei’s bother Fyodor goes mad and has to be put into an asylum. And in the last scene, Yulia greets her depressed husband with tenderness: "You are precious to me. Here you’ve come. I see you, and I’m so happy I can’t tell you. Well, let’s talk." (p. 328)

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On with the Story

Barth, John

Last Updated: May-30-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A man and woman, probably late middle-aged and married, check into a tropical holiday resort for their last annual vacation. One of them is dying. The man begins telling stories to the woman, as he has promised to, in the unspoken hope of postponing the ending that will separate them. The book consists of the twelve stories he tells, interspersed with her responses to the stories. Each story is in some way about the same two things: about being half of a couple--about love, partnership, and the prospect of loss--and about narrative--about communication, the construction of meaning, and about the way all stories (and lives), sooner or later, must end.

Like their teller, though, these stories do their best not to reach closure. An example is the second story, "Ad Infinitum," in which a woman receives some bad news by telephone--we deduce it concerns her husband's cancer diagnosis--and goes out to where he is working in the garden in order to tell him the news. She has to cross the space of the garden before giving him the information that will change everything for the worse, beginning the end of his life and their marriage.

It occurs to her that the space she must cross can be infinitely extended if, as Zeno's paradox has it, she can keep halving the distance that remains before she reaches her husband (and thus the end of their story). This would infinitely suspend time in their story. And yet, as she walks, she also knows she WILL reach him . . . until the narrator intervenes by breaking into her thoughts and beginning another story, effectively enacting Zeno's theory of the arrow that keeps re-beginning its flight towards the target. Just as stories stave off death in the frame narrative, they seem able to keep this man happily and innocently gardening, in suspended story-time at least, forever.

In the last story, the narrator returns to all the others, pulling together their interconnected patterns and allowing each a kind of closure that, while it reiterates the storyteller's resistance to endings, his act of "beguiling" himself, his wife, and perhaps death itself, "with narrative possibilities still unforeclosed" (224), also reminds us that stories need to end in order to mean.

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Misery

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

To whom shall I tell my grief? Grief must be shared. The son of Iona Potapov, an old cabman, has died. He sits lost in his thoughts, mourning his son. He tries to share his feelings (or at least to tell his story) with each of the people who engage his cab. Iona says to each of them, "My son died last week."

The first passenger responds by asking, "What did he die of?" Iona tells a second group of passengers, "This week my son died." They give him a flip response, "We shall all die." Again, this trivializes his story and his feelings. No one listens. No one is willing to make contact with him. When he tells one of his colleagues at the yard, "but my son is dead," the person doesn't even bother to answer.

Iona "thirsts for speech." He needs to occupy his mind, to share his anguish, to avoid the silence in which he imagines his son. "To talk about him with someone is possible, but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish . . ." In the end Iona is reduced to experiencing some relief in the warm, animal companionship of his horse. As he tells his sad story to the mare, she "breathes on her master's hands."

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Rothschild's Fiddle

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: May-27-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The protagonist of this story is Yakov Ivanov, an ill-tempered old coffin-maker, who hates Jews. Yakov is also a fiddler, but rarely gets to play in the village orchestra because of his antagonism with Rothschild, the flautist. Rothschild is certainly no beauty, a "gaunt, red-haired Jew" with "a perfect network of red and blue veins all over his face."

When Marfa, Yakov's wife of 52 years, becomes ill, Yakov fatalistically builds her coffin in preparation for her death. After she dies, he is "overcome by acute depression." When Rothschild visits him on a friendly errand, Yakov beats up the poor man, yelling, "Get out of my sight!" Afterward, Yakov goes and sits by the river and tries to figure out why he has become the scolding, ill-tempered old man that he is.

Unfortunately, he develops a chill from the exposure. The next day he falls mortally ill with pneumonia. When Rothschild appears at the house again, he is surprised to find Yakov playing the fiddle with tears gushing from his eyes. Later, Yakov tells the priest who has come to confess him, "Give the fiddle to Rothschild."

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What Girls Learn

Cook, Karin

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Told from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl, this story about a single mother with two daughters who moves, marries, and dies of breast cancer handles a variety of difficult issues with sensitivity and spunk. A list of those issues--absent father, new stepfather, a thousand-mile move to a new social environment, first menstruation, sibling rivalry, an uncle with incestuous impulses, family secrets, sexual experimentation, cancer, and death--might make it sound like a catalogue of the trials of contemporary suburban young adulthood, but in fact the point of view of Tilden, the main character, keeps the story grounded in very believable, sometimes amusing, often poignant, recognizable truth about what it is to come into awareness of the hard terms of adult life.

The mother's cancer is narrated largely in terms of Tilden's experience of it: secrecy, eventual disclosure, partial information, losses of intimacy, feelings of betrayal, confusion about caregivers' roles, and in the midst of it all, the ordinary preoccupations of early adolescence. The generous and understanding stepfather and neighbors with limited but ready sympathies lighten some of the novel's darker themes.

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Graves at Elkhorn

Hugo, Richard

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet contemplates the realities of life in the mining --now ghost--towns of Western America by exploring an old graveyard. "Eighty-nine was bad. At least a hundred / children died," the writer muses while walking among the grave markers. The reader recognizes that this settlement is no longer viable: "The last one buried here: 1938."

After describing the arrangement of the markers and the crude fence that defines the burial ground, he ponders why the graveyard is situated so far from the townsite. In an ironic reflection on the mothers' needs to get on with life after the frequent loss of young ones yet still striving to protect the little graves from greedy excavation, the poet says, " . . . a casual glance / would tell you there could be no silver here."

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Summary:

This thorough and fascinating treatment of the politics of anatomy studies in 19th-century America provides a variety of perspectives on the vexed question of how appropriately to study human anatomy while also maintaining respect for the human body and honoring the various, deeply held community beliefs, and attitudes toward treatment of the dead. Sappol seeks, as he puts it, to "complicate the cultural history of medicine in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America. . . by telling it from an anatomical perspective."

That statement of his objectives hardly suggests the startling range of approaches to the topic he takes in the book's nine chapters. These cover such issues as the legacies of belief about the "personhood" of the dead human body; the status of anatomy as both a legitimate and valuable study and also as an "icon of science"; the relationship of dissection and anatomy study to medical status and professionalization; the political tensions engendered by the "traffic in dead bodies" that most often expropriated corpses from marginalized communities; and the relationship of anatomy studies to sexual commerce and sensationalist fiction.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The 58 year old plastic surgeon who narrates this story has plenty of problems. He drinks too much and his surgical skills are deteriorating. His wife Maya, a neurosurgeon young enough to be his daughter, has a miscarriage not long after her father dies from a brain tumor. The narrator is plagued by an obsession with butterflies.

He seems to have inherited his unnatural interest in these insects from both his father and grandfather. Strangely, the pursuit of butterflies has brought only tragedy to these men. Maya believes her husband's butterfly collection is a curse so she destroys it. Her action seems insufficient to liberate the narrator from the burden of his ancestors. He is convinced that his destiny was dictated by his family years ago.

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Matuschka Archive

Matuschka,

Last Updated: Mar-26-2003
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Visual Arts

Genre: Multimedia

Summary:

In 1991 the artist and model Matuschka was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Following her surgery, which she discovered had not been necessary, Matuschka became an activist on breast cancer issues. Hoping to increase awareness of the prevalence of breast cancer and also to suggest a more positive self image for women who had had mastectomies, she continued producing artistic portraits of herself, many of them revealing the results of her mastectomy.

Her career took a very public turn with the appearance of her photographic self-portrait on the cover of the New York Times Magazine on August 15, 1993.(She appears in a tailored white dress cut away from her right shoulder and torso to give a full view of her mastectomy scar.)This photo (titled "Beauty out of Damage" and accompanied by Susan Ferraro’s article, "The Anguished Politics of Breast Cancer") and a dozen other photos and paintings were exhibited on the Web by the Pincushion Forum web site and later put into an archive. The archive also contains several texts that help orient viewers to the visual works.

Viewer-readers may be interested in numerous poems, stories, and longer works about breast cancer that have been annotated in this database. Especially recommended are: Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals; Betty Rollin’s First, You Cry, excerpt from; Joyce Wadler’s autobiography, My Breast; Marilyn Hacker’s poem sequence, Cancer Winter; Linda Pastan’s poem, Routine Mammogram; Henry Schneiderman’s poem sequence, Breast Cancer in the Family; and a story by Helen Yglesias, Semi-Private. Other titles may be found here by searching for "breast And cancer."

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