Showing 461 - 470 of 523 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Another World

Barker, Pat

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nick and Fran move into an old house with their family: Miranda, thirteen, Nick's daughter from a previous marriage (her mother has been hospitalized with depression); eleven-year-old Gareth, Fran's son (who was almost aborted); and a toddler, Jasper, the child of both. Fran is pregnant again. Nick tries to hold them together as a family, but must also take care of Geordie, his grandfather, who is dying of cancer at the age of 101.

Geordie believes that what's killing him is a bayonet wound he received in World War I. As his disease progresses, the old man relives the war, especially the battle in which his brother died, with increasing vividness. After Geordie's death, Nick learns that in the battle he had killed his wounded brother who may, he thinks, otherwise have survived.

Geordie tells the story in an interview with a historian working on memory and war, and confesses that he hated his brother. She gently tells him that "a child's hatred" is different, but he--like the novel itself--refuses to see this as mitigation. Geordie's tale resonates both with what Nick learns about the house he bought--in 1904 the older children of the family living there were believed to have murdered their two-year-old sibling--and with Gareth and Miranda's resentment of Jasper, which has near-fatal consequences.

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Our Mutual Friend

Dickens, Charles

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The multiple plots of Our Mutual Friend, Dickens's last complete novel, twine around the miser John Harmon's legacy of profitable heaps of refuse ("dust"). Harmon dies and leaves the dustheap operation to his estranged son John, on the condition that he marry Bella Wilfer, a young woman unknown to him. When a body found in the Thames is believed to be the younger Harmon, travelling home to receive his inheritance, the dustheaps descend instead to Harmon's servant Noddy Boffin ("The Golden Dustman").

Boffin and his wife respond to their new status by hiring Silas Wegg, a "literary man with a wooden leg" to teach Boffin to read; arranging to adopt an orphaned toddler from his poor great-grandmother; and bringing the socially ambitious Bella Wilfer into their home, where she is watched and evaluated by John Rokesmith, a mysterious young man employed as Boffin's secretary.

Rokesmith is actually John Harmon, who has survived betrayal and attempted murder and is living incognito so that he can observe Bella. Boffin's negative transformation by his wealth, Bella's moral awakening as she witnesses the changes wealth produces in Boffin and in herself, and the developing love relationship between Rokesmith and Bella form one key sub-plot.

Another is the romance between gentlemanly idler Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam, the daughter of the waterman who finds the drowned body. Class differences and the obsessive love and jealousy of schoolmaster Bradley Headstone threaten their relationship, but they are finally married with the help of the crippled dolls' dressmaker Jenny Wren. The smaller plots that interweave these sensation/romance narratives comment on the hypocrisy of fashionable life ("Podsnappery") and the destruction of the family lives of both rich and poor by an industrialized, materialistic society.

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The Hours

Cunningham, Michael

Last Updated: Aug-18-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Hours begins with a reconstruction of Virginia Woolf's 1941 suicide by drowning. What follows is an exploration of despair and tenacity, of the reasons that some people choose not to continue living, and of the things that enable others to go on. Patterned as a kind of theme and variations on Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, this novel has three strands, each tracing a day in the life of a woman: Virginia Woolf herself, in 1925, as she begins to write Mrs. Dalloway; a middle-aged 1990s New Yorker named Clarissa Vaughan, but nicknamed "Mrs. Dalloway" by Richard, her ex-lover, an acclaimed writer who is dying of AIDS; and Laura Brown, a young mother in Los Angeles in 1949, pregnant, depressed, and reading Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.

Laura's small son, Ritchie, we gradually realize, has grown up to become the Richard in Clarissa Vaughan's story and, as the hours pass in the day-long story of each woman, patterns intertwine. Clarissa (living as a lesbian, so following a path that Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway was offered but chose not to take) is planning a party for Richard. Laura is preparing a birthday dinner for her husband but after a visit from the woman next door, whom she kisses in a moment of profound but disruptive empathy, she checks into a hotel room to read, and to consider suicide. Woolf, recognizing the deep connection between her mental illness and her writing, tries to flee from the faintly suffocating safety of her home and husband.

Each woman survives, and all three days end with a sense of qualified and temporary happiness, drawn together, I think, by the fictional Virginia Woolf's decision about her novel: throughout the day she has thought about her main character, and has intended the book to end with her suicide. Late in the evening, having returned home, Woolf decides to let Mrs. Dalloway live: "sane Clarissa--exultant, ordinary Clarissa--will go on, . . . loving her life of ordinary pleasures, and someone else, a deranged poet, a visionary, will be the one to die."

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Perpetuum Mobile

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jul-09-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A doctor and a magistrate are driving down a country road in a rainstorm on their way to an autopsy. The doctor says he doesn't notice the weather. "I feel a strange oppressive dread," he says. "It seems to me as if some misfortune were about to overwhelm me." The magistrate scoffs at this. They decide to stop at a country home for the night.

The doctor mentions his foreboding to the pretty widow who lives in the house. When they go to bed, the drunken magistrate, who thinks the widow was flirting with the doctor, encourages his colleague to visit the woman's room. The straightlaced doctor not only refuses, but also prevents his companion from visiting her.

The magistrate blows up in anger and the two men go home. Three days later the autopsy remains to be done. Once again, the two set off to the autopsy, but this time they are waylaid by a tavern and decide to stop and have a few drinks.

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Durable Goods

Berg, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jul-07-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Katie, the twelve-year-old protagonist and narrator, lives with her sister, Diane, and their father, a military man with a violent temper, on a military base in Texas. She remembers their mother, now dead, as a kind, gentle presence, able to temper their father's violence, though Katie begins to realize that the mother had also lived in apprehension of his outbreaks.

The story develops Katie's strategies for coming to terms with the loss of her mother, the fact that her mother never succeeded in protecting her from her father's violence, and eventually the loss of her sister who runs away. She begins to learn how to negotiate with her father and seek and receive nurture both from others and from herself.

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Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Most of the thirteen stories in this collection portray interactions among pension guests in a German spa town; a few represent the lives of the town's permanent residents. The minor health problems (mostly digestive ailments, or unspecified "internal complaints") of the guests are not the crux of the plot but rather what gives it its texture. Talk about eating, "internal complaints," sexuality, body image, and pregnancy is the vehicle through which people try to relate.

Most of the stories are about failed communications: between men and women, for example, or between German and English people. Several stories are narrated in the first person by a young Englishwoman whose bodily and marital status (ill? pregnant? married or not?) are pointedly ambiguous.

Two stories represent childbirth from "outsider" perspectives. In "At Lehman's," a virginal serving girl sees her mistress's pregnancy as an "ugly, ugly, ugly" state; later, her sexual explorations with a young man are interrupted by her mistress's screams in labor. In "A Birthday," a man waiting for his wife to give birth focuses on his own suffering rather than hers. "The Child-Who-Was-Tired" follows a child-servant through a day of repeated abuses to body and spirit that culminates in infanticide.

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Drug Store

Hopper, Edward

Last Updated: Mar-16-1999
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Like Hopper's famous "Nighthawks," this painting shows a brightly lit corner storefront as seen from the street in the darkness of evening. The drug store is clearly an "independent" pharmacy ("Silbers Pharmacy") and it advertises "Prescriptions--Drugs--Ex Lax."

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Wanted! Doctor on Horseback

Helman, Claire

Last Updated: Jan-25-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The young English doctor, Mary Percy Jackson (M.D. Birmingham 1928), went to practice in northern Alberta for a year. She had been recruited by a philanthropic movement that targeted women doctors: they could be paid lower wages and would also cook and keep house. But she fell in love with the subarctic community, its native peoples, and a certain widowed farmer with two young sons, and stayed for the next seven decades.

Dr. Jackson became the only physician responsible for the well being of aboriginals and settlers in a wide radius of remote territory where winters last more than six months and the only effective mode of transportation was the horse. Married and in relative prosperity, she did not seek payment for her medical work, although she appreciated gifts in kind.

Despite the isolation, Jackson was vigilant about nutrition, vaccination, and tuberculosis control and she kept up with the latest advances in health promotion. She and her husband were active in improving opportunities for education. The film closes with a simple party for Jackson, at the local school named in her honour.

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A Burial at Ornans

Courbet, Gustave

Last Updated: Jan-25-1999
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

In this huge painting, Courbet depicts the funeral scene of an ordinary citizen of the village. The open grave at the center front of the painting is surrounded by a great S-curve of pallbearers, priest and altar boys, gravedigger, family and friends in mourning. The composition is, in many ways, classical, yet the subject matter-- the burial of an unknown villager--is starkly different from the grandiloquent depictions of famous historical events or wealthy, powerful people so common in contemporary 19th century painting. This deliberate and radical choice of subject is also reflected in the title of the painting, which only locates the burial by town and not person.

The grouping of mourners and attendants follows the horizon or distant cliffs--no one's head extends into the sky. Only the crucifix, held by a religious attendant, is outlined by the muted tones of the sky. The earthbound nature of life is thus emphasized, as the figures are framed by dirt and rock.

Courbet instills the human touch into his painting. An altar boy gazes with a look of innocence up at a pall bearer. A young girl peers around the skirts of her elders. Several grief-stricken women clutch handkerchiefs to their faces.

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A problem of plumbing

Bellarosa, James

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, a cultured, educated man who happens to require a wheelchair, describes the start of his relationship with Marcia, who is beautiful, refined, and equally well educated. The narrator tries to impress Marcia with his personality and intellect, and the sparks between them are obvious. But all the while he grows more frustrated and embarrassed at the lack of accessibility of toilet facilities during their date. He argues that his disability should not diminish his capacity to conduct a normal conversation and that getting access to toilet facilities should not necessitate a public discussion of his need to urinate.

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