Showing 441 - 450 of 491 annotations tagged with the keyword "Women's Health"

Heavy Women

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem, spoken by an outside observer, produces an idealized image of pregnancy, of "heavy women" in a state of serene satisfaction with their state, "beautifully smug / As Venus," while in "each weighty stomach" a secret is developing in the dark: "the small, new heart." These pregnant women, though, are suspiciously unreal. Plath likens them to works of art, Madonnas attended by cherubs in Renaissance paintings. As ideals, these women "step among the archetypes" of motherhood.

By invoking these archetypes, especially in the pregnant women's hoods of "Mary-blue," Plath also hints at the pain associated with all motherhood: "the axle of winter" which "grinds round," and which will bring the star, and the wise men, and also the likelihood of suffering and loss. While the calm pregnant women are far away from it now, as they wait, Plath implicitly warns that pregnancy is a temporary state and that what follows is irrevocable and can be terrible. (21 lines)

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Nana

Zola, Emile

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As the book opens, Fauchery, a drama critic, is waiting for the hottest play in Paris to open. "The Blonde Venus" has bad music and bad actresses, but a new star, Nana, who appears on stage clad only in a diaphanous wrap brings down the house anyway. Nana is an experienced concubine. She exploits the hysteria caused by her nearly nude performance to win Steiner, a wealthy banker. Steiner buys her a country house where she entertains other lovers to win more gifts. Here she also has a brief affair with the penniless student George.

Steiner soon sets her loose and she takes up with Fontan, an actor. She tries to be domestic and kind, but Fontan beats her, then abandons her and she turns to streetwalking. Threatened by the police, who in order to prevent the spread of syphilis can imprison women and perform mandatory gynecological exams, she quickly searches for a new, wealthy lover. She finds Muffat whom she humiliates, trampling on his uniform and sleeping with whomever she likes. One day, Muffat finds her in the arms of young George and then with his elderly father-in-law. Nana also brings home Stain, a streetwalker, to be her lover and confidant.

Young George finally grows so jealous of Muffat and of his brother, another of Nana's conquests, he kills himself in her bedroom. Her other lovers must step over the bloodstain to approach Nana's bed. Soon after, Nana catches smallpox and dies miserably, the disease ravaging her beauty. She dies in 1870 just as the Franco-Prussian War begins.

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The Ravishing of Lol Stein

Duras, Marguerite

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Lol Stein is 19 years old and engaged to be married. At the town ball, her fiance leaves her and runs away with a beautiful stranger. Lol withdraws into herself, but seems not to feel much pain. In fact, she subsequently lives her life in a dull, almost-numb state, never really interacting with people nor experiencing feelings (pain or joy). She falls into a loveless marriage and has children.

After ten years she encounters a school friend, Tatiana Karl, who had been with her at the town ball. Tatiana also has a loveless marriage, but has taken a lover, the young doctor Jacques Hold. There is a strong attraction between Lol and Jacques and they have an affair, but she remains peculiarly abstracted and estranged from life.

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Barren Woman

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Mar-03-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker, the "barren woman" of the poem, describes her state as empty. She likens herself to a deserted space, a "museum without statues," at its center a fountain which, rather than issuing life, recycles its water, which "sinks back into itself." She imagines herself as a mother, but recognizes that "nothing can happen." The only one who pays attention is the moon, silently but ineffectually trying to soothe her. (10 lines)

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Rab and His Friends

Brown, John

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator recalls a boyhood encounter with Rab, a majestic dog. Rab causes the lad to make friends with his master, James Noble, a simple horse-cart driver. Six years later, James brings his beautiful old wife, Ailie, to the hospital where the narrator is now a medical student. She has breast cancer and the surgeon tells her that it must be operated the following day. James and the dog are allowed to remain nearby.

Ailie endures the operation in brave silence, commanding silent respect from a lively group of students. James nurses her tenderly, but she develops a fever and dies a few days later. Shortly after her burial, he too falls ill and dies. Rab refuses to eat, becomes hostile, and is killed by the new driver.

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Communion

Weinberg, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The physician author is puzzled about what he can do to help a young woman who comes to him for treatment of her chronic abdominal pain. She has had every test, seen every specialist, and has no clear diagnosis. Only on the third visit, which she has initiated, does he discover that she was sexually assaulted at age 14. He is the only person she has told.

He immediately feels out of his element, and asks her to see a psychiatrist. She refuses, and insists he handle her care. He sets up open-ended visits to allow her time to talk, and looks for help in the medical literature and from a psychiatrist colleague.

Over time, as they explore her feelings and experiences, his patient gains self esteem and transforms herself into a confident, beautiful woman, planning on travel, school, and career. After her last visit with him, he realizes, "I had been chosen to receive a gift of trust, and of all the gifts I had ever received, none seemed as precious."

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Mercy

Solwitz, Sharon

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman looks back on how a rape 15 years earlier still affects her life, her relationships with others, and the way she feels about herself. The event itself is recounted piecemeal throughout the story as the narrator describes the dissolution of her relationship with Lenny, whom she was seeing at the time of the rape, and compares her experience to the gang rape of an acquaintance. She compares Lenny with her husband, Dan, and the ways they dealt differently with the event; Lenny was helpless and passive, her husband, strong and protective. The narrator is caught between the desire to strike back and the need to submit to the mercy of others in order to stay alive.

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Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Ruthie is a thirty five year old overweight mother of two married to Ruben. Ever since her marriage, she has experienced pain with intercourse. She feels like an odd contradiction, with too much flesh and too narrow a vaginal opening, able to experience childbirth but not intercourse. She has read books about pain with intercourse, has tried lubrication, like her doctor recommended, but still the pain continues. She cannot imagine painless intercourse without completely leaving her body and wonders if she would ever get it back afterward.

She imagines what her life would be like if intercourse didn't hurt, how she would be fearless, attractive, sexual; how her husband would no longer turn away from her with indifference. As long as sex is painful, her life is concrete, full of duty and care. She imagines that without pain she would transcend this drudgery, even transcend her husband, and enter an ethereal world which centers around her.

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Last Things

Spark, Debra

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The author recounts the last months of her sister's life as she slowly died of breast cancer in her mid-20's. The narrator and her sister, Cyndy, renegotiate their relationship and family roles throughout the illness. The narrator addresses the issue of living despite the prospect of dying, and of trying not to die while in the midst of attempting to live one's life. The narrator also recognizes the centrality of desire (in its broadest sense) in our lives, and describes our guilt about satiating our desires, the sense of loss from not ever really satiating them, and the inability to satisfy the desires of another.

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A Midwife's Tale

Rogers, Richard; Lee, Kaiulani

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This docudrama traces the life and work of Maine midwife, Martha Ballard (Kaiulani Lee), through the account of her own diary from 1785 to 1812. She and her surveyor husband, Ephraim (Ron Tough), moved from Massachusetts to the frontier of Maine during the Revolution; the rapid social changes in their new republic are felt at the domestic level. Ballard cared for many sick people, more than a thousand women in labour, and their infant children. She also becomes a witness for a woman who was raped by a judge.

A local doctor makes a brief appearance as a bungling meddler; other doctors perform an autopsy of her own deceased niece, which the midwife attends; but most often Ballard works alone. Her five surviving children leave home, and she comes to relate the experiences of her patients to those of her own life.

Her husband shares the slow decline into age surrounded by the frictions of proximity with an uncaring son and his months in debtors' prison. The recreation is interspersed with interviews and voice-over with historian and author, Laurel Ulrich. Ulrich describes her discovery and fascination with the Ballard diary, the difficulties in interpretation, and the still unanswered questions.

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