Showing 41 - 50 of 141 annotations contributed by Willms, Janice

Summary:

This is a compilation of personal interviews framed by a review of the history of post World War II attitudes toward pregnancy out of wedlock. The project began as an oral history involving over 100 interviewees. The majority of the women were adolescents dependent upon their parents when they gave birth and relinquished their infants for adoption. The book is structured loosely around specific issues--such as parental responses to their daughters' pregnancies, hiding the pregnancies from family members and friends, methods of handling the birth itself and the subsequent signing of adoption papers--each chapter illustrated by excerpts from the interviews.

There are striking similarities among the interviewees' experiences, particularly in terms of the long-term grief and guilt that plagued most of these women. Fessler addresses the increasing movement toward enabling the mothers and the adopted children to seek one another if they so choose, and points the interested reader toward resources for additional information on the contemporary status.

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Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

When confirmed bachelor C. S. Lewis married Joy Davidman in 1956, it was at first a friendly marriage of convenience so that she and her sons could remain in England. By the time of her death from cancer three years later, their partnership had become one of passion, friendship and such deep love that Lewis was almost paralyzed by his loss.

In this undated journal, he documents with brief observations first the overwhelming sensations of his grief, then his rage and confusion at God. As time passes, he chronicles his return to religion and his acceptance of a new life, forever shaded by Davidman’s presence but still whole. The style and writing are beautiful but clear and accessible, and the honesty of his sentiments is clear whether or not readers have found themselves in similar situations.

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Summary:

Shortly after the American Civil War, neurologist S. (Silas) Weir Mitchell became interested in a certain group of women, whom he describes as "of a class well known to every physician,--nervous women, who, as a rule, are thin and lack blood." Mitchell’s basic premise was that these women, largely between the ages of 20 and 30, have lost their vitality as a result of some form of prolonged strain--which has caused them to become thin, of insufficient blood, and unable to perform their regular duties.

In his long essay, essentially a compilation of case studies, he further characterizes these patients and outlines the treatment which he found to be unfailingly successful in returning them to normal activity. The treatment he utilized had the following essentials: seclusion and rest; massage; electric stimulation, a high-fat and high-calorie diet. His patients were not allowed to see their families, nor to read, write or otherwise strain themselves. The average duration of therapy was six weeks, usually carried out in an institution or private retreat.

Of interest is the single male who Mitchell felt met the criteria for his treatment plan. This patient, who had some (to the modern reader) lung findings suggestive of tuberculosis, allegedly was cured after three months of bed rest and frequent feedings.

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The Doctor's Wife

Ariyoshi, Sawako

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story is based on the life of Hanaoka Seishu, Japanese physician, who lived from 1760-1835. The author, using Hanaoka’s personal papers, has created a fictional representation of the jealous hatred that grows between his mother and his wife living in their feudal Japanese household. The physician is involved in trying to develop an anesthetic which would enable surgeons to remove diseased breasts. The beautiful, widowed mother of the young surgeon begins to compete with his wife for the "privilege" of being his first human subject to take the toxic substances. The remainder of the story revolves around the complex relationship among the family members, with predictably unhappy outcomes, and the results of the experiment.

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A Doctor in Spite of Himself

Molière

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This is another Molière fabliau on the practice of medicine in his 17th Century culture. Sganarelle, the woodcutter turned doctor in spite of himself, is the object of a joke orchestrated by his wife Martine. She determines to punish him for his bad behavior toward her by setting him up as a learned, albeit somewhat eccentric, physician.

Falling for her bait, the stewards of the rich landowner, Geronte, implore Sganarelle to come to the rescue of their master’s daughter, who has become unable to speak. The woodcutter-turned-doctor begins to play the game, and through a series of happenstances and ruses, solves the enigma of the girl’s disability, comes upon a solution, and, in the process, determines that perhaps doctoring is more salutary than cutting faggots.

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Adam

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt

Last Updated: Aug-10-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An expectant father waits to learn the outcome of his wife’s labor and delivery. In his brief exchanges with another father-to-be the reader is apprised of Mr. Knechtmann’s history. He and his wife are holocaust survivors; their only prior child died in a displaced-person’s camp in Germany--and there is no one to carry on the proud family name if this infant is not healthy. A bored nurse comes to inform Heinz that he has a son and everyone is well.

The ecstatic father seeks someone to share in his joy. The folks in the bar across the street could care less; the delivering physician just wants to go to sleep; the other father now has seven daughters and can’t get too excited about someone else’s son. Even a fellow worker whom Heinz meets on the street is politely unimpressed. Only when he can finally visit with the baby’s mother can he find a partner in joy. She says, "It’s the most wonderful thing that ever happened, isn’t it?"

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Red Noses

Barnes, Peter

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays — Secondary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

France, 1348: the Black Death rages and the playwright takes his reader into the midst of the cynicism, racism, panic, and religious fervor that characterize human response to catastrophic events that they don’t fully understand. The characters are caricatures of social types whose actions were apparent during the medieval plagues: religious figures, flagellants, grave robbers, well-poisoners, finger-pointers. The message sent by the words and actions of these characters is a satire on human behavior--the best and the worst as they are wont to surface during an epidemic. Many of the lines are very funny, but the humor is dark.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

A holocaust memoir, this is the painfully honest and unsentimental account of one physician's experience in the Warsaw Ghetto. The author, who was a Jewish medical student of 22 when Germany invaded Poland, remained from 1940 through most of 1943, serving as caretaker of sick or orphaned children in a ghetto hospital. During this time, she tells the reader, she made some decisions she has never been able to fully reconcile-- such as to perform multiple acts of euthanasia involving adults as well as children when the waves of slaughter and deportation increased in brutality and frequency.

Eventually, the writer joined the active resistance and was a part of the movement which ended with the complete razing of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1944. After the liberation of Poland, Blady Szwajger resumed her interrupted career in pediatric chest diseases. Only after 45 years did she choose to write of her experiences and, in her introduction, she articulates her reasons for remaining silent and for her ultimate decision to speak out.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Four lonely individuals, marginalized misfits in their families/communities, each obsessed with a vision of his or her place in the world, collect about a single deaf-mute with whom they share their deepest secrets. An adolescent who desires to write symphonies, an itinerant drunk who believes he must organize poor laborers, a black physician whose desire is to motivate his people to demand their rightful place in American society, and a cafe owner whose secret wish is sexually ambiguous, believes that the deaf Mr. Singer understands and validates his or her obsession. Singer, ironically obsessed with a friendship of questionable reciprocity, commits suicide when the friend dies.

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The Prairie

Cooper, James Fenimore

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the last of Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales, in which his hero, Natty Bumpo, is on the frontier as an old man living and reliving his experiences in the developing West. As the reader follows Leatherstocking in his final venture, he/she repeatedly encounters an interesting character, Obed Bat (or Battius, as he is sometimes called because of his propensity for imposing Latinate terms on everything he sees).

Dr. Bat claims to be a medical practitioner who has chosen to study the natural world, the flora and fauna of the prairie. In a novel that is replete with unintentional comedy, Dr. Bat invites apparent, intentional and pointed ridicule. He chronically mistakes his own donkey for new species of wild animal; his vapid attempts at providing any kind of serious medical advice to the various travelers he encounters remind the reader of the tenuous position of the medical practitioner in the early to mid nineteenth century.

Although this adventure is the last trip for Natty, Dr. Bat’s presence is a major portion of the old-fashioned charm of Cooper’s novels. The unlikely collection of characters in this novel keep meeting, even though they are independently trekking across the vast land between the Mississippi and the Platte. There are, of course, buffalo and Sioux--friendly and otherwise--who must be tamed or overcome.

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