Showing 371 - 380 of 519 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Gooseberries

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Burkin and Ivan Ivanovich seek shelter from the rain in Alehin's country home. As they sit having their tea, Ivan Ivanovich tells the story of his brother, Nikolay, who worked as a government functionary and always dreamed of saving enough money to buy his own country home with a garden and gooseberries. He skimped and saved and finally, after his wife's death, bought an estate.

When Ivan Ivanovich visited him many years later, Nikolay was no longer the self-doubting clerk he once was, but had become a confident (and corpulent) landowner, who was obviously happy with his life and with the delicious gooseberries from the bushes he had planted. Ivan Ivanovich realized then that he, too, was a happy man, despite all the pain and evil in the world.

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Happiness

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

It is a summer night on the steppe and two shepherds are lying on the ground as their sheep sleep. A man on a horse stops to ask them for a light for his pipe, but stays to chat. They discuss the recent death of Yefim Zhmenya, an old man who had sold his soul to the Evil One. You could tell he was evil because people walking past his garden could hear his melons whistle. The older shepherd tells another story about Yefim, whom he had seen appear as a bullock one stormy night.

One of the men observes that there are many treasures buried in the local hills. "Yes," says the old shepherd, "but no one knows where to dig for them." But then he tells them about a map to the treasure and indicates that he knows precisely where to dig. However, when the horsemen asks him what he would do with the treasure if he finds it, the old shepherd can't answer.

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Terror

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dimitry Silin is a farmer who was once a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The narrator, his good friend, is in love with Silin's wife Marya. One Sunday Silin and the narrator drive to the village to buy food. There, as they wait for their coachman, they meet "Forty Martyrs," a downtrodden drunkard who used to work as a footman for each of them. "Forty Martyrs" whines about his fate, while Silin explains to the narrator that we need not tell ghost stories to enter the mysterious and frightening; ordinary life is inexplicable. "What I'm most afraid of is ordinary, everyday existence, which no one can escape. I can't tell the true from the false when I act and this worries me." (p. 227)

He reveals that although he loves his wife, she does not love him--but she has sworn to remain faithful. Later, they return to Silin's home and he retires early because he has to get up at 3 AM. The narrator and Marya talk and eventually make love. As she is leaving his room, Silin comes back to get the cap he had forgotten. "I could not get Silin's terror out of my mind and it infected me as well." (p. 234) The narrator leaves and never sees Silin and Marya again.

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The Swedish Match

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The police receive a report that Mark Ivanovitch Klyauzov has been murdered. Indeed. he has not left his bedroom in a week. When the inspector and his assistant arrive, they soon find "evidence" that Klyauzov. a man who led a life of drunken debauchery, was strangled in his room, carried out the window, and later stabbed in the garden to finish him off.

Dyukovsky, the brash young assistant inspector. eagerly interprets every clue. He concludes that three perpetrators were involved in the murder. Two held down the drunken Klauzov, while the third person strangled him. They quickly arrest the valet and the gardener. But who is the third culprit? Could it be Klyauzov's sister, who disagreed with him over religion?

Dyukovsky identifies the central clue, an unusual Swedish match dropped at the scene of the crime. By brilliant detective work, he discovers that a pack of Swedish matches was purchased by the police superintendent's young wife. The inspectors confront he--she quickly caves in. However, all is not as it seems, as the story rushes (or perhaps. lurches) to its surprise ending.

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The Beauties

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This quiet little story has two parts. In the first section, the narrator remembers an incident that occurred when he was a high school boy. He was traveling with his grandfather in the Ukraine and they stopped to rest at the home of an Armenian family. The boy was virtually struck dumb by the beauty of the young woman who served them tea. While his grandfather slept, he stood outside in the yard and watched the exquisite young woman do her chores.

In the second section, he remembers an incident from somewhat later, when he was a university student. His train was stopped at a station, and he had gone out to stretch his legs on the platform. He noticed a carelessly dressed young woman, who was standing outside a train window, speaking to one of the passengers.

Once again, he was "suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling I had once experienced in the Armenian village." The narrator also notices the battered and ugly telegraph operator staring at the girl with "a look of tenderness and of the deepest sadness, as though in that girl he saw happiness, his own youth, soberness, purity, wife, children . . . " A bell rang, and the train moved off.

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The Teacher of Literature

Chekhov, Anton

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins with a group of young people on a riding party at the Shelestov estate. One of the guests is Nikitin, a young-looking man in his mid-20’s, who teachers literature at the local school, and loves Masha, the 18-year-old younger daughter of their host. Later, over dinner Varya, the older daughter, argues with Nikitin over some points of literature, and another guest scolds him for having never read the German writer, Lessing. But Nikitin glides through the evening on a cloud of love. A day later he returns and proposes to Masha.

In the second part of the story, the wedding occurs. Nikitin and Masha are deliriously happy--"’I am immensely happy with you, my joy,’ he used to say, playing with her fingers or plaiting and unplaiting her hair." But soon one of Nikitin’s friends and fellow teachers develops erysipelas and dies. After that, everything returns to normal, so much so that Nikitin has nothing to write in his diary.

Life seems to be closing in on him. He feels like trying to get away from his wife, "Where am I, my God? I am surrounded by vulgarity and vulgarity. Wearisome, insignificant people, pots of sour cream, jugs of milk, cockroaches, stupid women . . . There is nothing more terrible. I must escape from here, I must escape today . . . "

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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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Fever 1793

Anderson, Laurie Halse

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

This historical novel for young adults details the horrors of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic in 1793 from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old, Mattie, who runs a coffeehouse with her widowed mother and grandfather. In the course of the story, her mother is taken ill, she herself falls ill on the way to the safety of the countryside, and her grandfather dies of heart failure after nursing her. Separated from her mother who is also removed from the city, Mattie finds herself scrabbling for survival in a mostly deserted town after the death of her grandfather, but relocates the free black woman, Eliza, who had worked for her family and who essentially becomes part of her family.

Eventually the mother returns, an invalid but alive, and Eliza and Mattie undertake to run the reopened coffeehouse together and care for Eliza's nephews and an orphaned child Mattie has rescued. Hope reappears with the first frost in the forms of a reopened farmers' market, the return of George Washington to the town, and the reappearance from enforced isolation of Nathaniel Benson, a young painter who gives Mattie a vision of a future life with friendship and love.

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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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Servants of the Map

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: May-06-2003
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Max Vigne, the most junior member of a survey group mapping the Himalayas in the 1860s, writes letters to his young wife Clara in England. She has prepared in advance of his journey a series of postdated letters which he keeps in his trunk. When these have been read, Clara sends numbered letter packets which arrive sporadically, out of sequence, if at all, over the months of the expedition. Max struggles to describe and to edit his daily experiences on the mountains which are extraordinary, often terrifying, and disorienting for him.

Separated by time, distance, and experiences, they are slowly and irrevocably estranged. Max discovers that his real scientific passion is alpine botany, and he must decide how to tell Clara that he will not be returning to England after the Survey ends. The exchange of letters ingeniously maps out the complexities between Max's love for his wife and his passion for scientific knowledge, and the wide expanse between them.

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