Showing 51 - 60 of 70 annotations contributed by Nixon, Lois LaCivita
Mary Oliver's six stanzas are a meditation on the processes of life and death. The narrator observes the death of a snake by a truck that "could not swerve." The occurrence of sudden death is, after all, "how it happens" and the snake now lies "looped and useless as an old bicycle tire." For most observers of this familiar sight, that would be the end. The narrator, however, stops his car and carries the cool and gleaming snake to the bushes where it is as "beautiful and quiet as a dead brother."
Upon continuing his drive, the experience generates reflection about death: its suddenness, its weight, and its certainty. At the same time the narrator notes that dying and death of others ignites a brighter fire, one of good fortune: "not me!"
The final stanza describes the innate drive and tenacity of life forces. Because life, rather than death, is at the center of each cell, unimpeded by death, the snake and all other forms of life move forward tenaciously, unimpeded by the threat of death.
Mohammed (Mohsen Ramezani), an eight year old blind boy attending a special school in an Iranian city waits for his widowed father (Hossein Mahjub) to bring him home to his isolated, but idyllic Iranian village for summer recess. During several interminable hours of waiting outside the school, viewers come to recognize the boy’s sensitivity to his surroundings. Through sound and feel he is at one with nature. Remarkably, he is able to rescue a vulnerable baby bird and return it to the tree branch nest from where it has fallen.
Unfortunately, Mohammed’s father fails to exhibit this kind of care with his son. The tardy reunion is painful: rather than embracing the boy, the father requests that school officials keep the boy during the recess. When the request is refused by embarrassed faculty members who are sympathetic to the child’s family needs, father and son begin the long walk, then bus ride into the distant countryside.
In contrast, Mohammed receives a warm and loving welcome from his Granny (Salime Feizi), his sisters, and the neighboring children. Immediately, the children run with him into the meadows to explore and celebrate. Clearly, this is Mohammed’s nest.
Even though Mohammed’s abilities at the local school are superior to those of his classmates and even though he is able to function in normal play with his peers, the father focuses only on the boy’s removal from the family and the village so that he can find a new wife to care for him and his other children. The unprepared boy is taken abruptly by his father to a blind carpenter many miles away where he will serve as an apprentice. Although the carpenter is kind, Mohammed is devastated by the cruel separation from Granny and the children.
Unburdened, the father goes forth with plans for another marriage, but before the arranged ceremony occurs both the heartbroken Granny and Mohammed die. The bride-to-be and her family regard these losses as unhealthy portends. Marriage plans are canceled. Only then, does the father recognize his own blindness.
Summary:The narrator describes a housecall to a woman in labor. It is past midnight in winter time when the road is frozen. The doctor enters the house where the "great woman" is in misery; she is "sick," "perhaps vomiting," about to give birth to her tenth child. He exclaims to the reader "Joy! Joy!" knowing that the situation is as bleak as the wintry landscape, and, in fact, joyless. He will offer compassion and "pick the hair from her eyes."
The speaker describes his grandmother, just prior to her death. She is "impossible to get on with," unless you are the nineteen year old grandson, who has not just a soft spot for her, but who sees the benefits of a free place to stay and eat. On Thanksgiving Day just after dinner, "death touched the old lady," requiring that she move from the beach house where they had been staying to the family "home."
Several verses describe her decline: the ravings, the daze, the smell, the cries. She refused to go to the hospital, "I won't go." In alarm he calls an ambulance for the actively resistant woman. "Is this what you call / making me comfortable?" she cries to the lifting attendants. Then, as if to defy the "smart . . . young people," she lets them know she's still in charge by promptly dying. Her final words dismiss the elm trees seen from the ambulance window, and life as well: "Well, I'm / tired of them."
The speaker proposes that traditional practices of burying the dead are too sober and should be replaced by simpler practices. Townspeople are as skilled as "artists" and able to "perform a funeral." Instead of the lugubrious black hearse, a farm wagon will do. There is no need for "windows," "upholstery," or "brass rollers."
Nor are formal "wreaths" or "Hot house flowers" appropriate; more suitable are mementos such as a prized book or old clothes. The silk hatted driver is overdressed and should wear more ordinary attire and walk at the wagon's side. Whatever the weather, mourners, who soon will follow the dead person's lead, should abandon their cars and follow the wagon on foot--and grieve openly.
On one level the poem urges a more honest funeral, one without pomp and circumstance. On another level, Williams is addressing the need for an American idiom devoid of pretension and borrowed imagery.
The poem, a domestic epic, employs the convention of in medias res. The central issue, the death of a child, has not been addressed by the parents whose lives are in strange suspension. A staircase, where the action of the poem occurs, symbolizes both the ability of husband and wife to come together and the distance between them.
In their first discussion of this traumatic event, readers learn that the child was buried in the yard by the father during the New England winter, while the mother watched from a window in the staircase landing, stunned by her husband's steadfast attendance to the task. His energy and "carelessness" at a time when she was shaken and immobilized by grief was incomprehensible and infuriating. The husband, meanwhile, has grieved in a different way, reconciling the death of his child to fate and the caprices of nature.
When the poem opens, their separate interpretations and feelings finally are expressed, and each is surprised by what the other says. The husband speaks from the bottom of the stairs, she from a step just above the landing. Significantly, they don't come together on the architectural bridge and, when the poem concludes, readers are not assured that this marriage will regain the closeness it might have had prior to the child's death. The highly dramatic poem underscores the impact of loss and the need for communication or discussion of loss by those involved. When no reconciliation occurs, the loss intensifies to become destructive.
American Beauty, a story about Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), his family, and his neighbors, is both comic and tragic. In addition to a loveless marriage, an unhappy teen-age daughter, and an unimaginative, routine job, Lester is worried about aging. Nothing has turned out as expected. From the outside, all seems ideal: the white-framed house, the well-tended red roses, and the white picket fence. As illustrated by meal time settings, a highly-charged cold war atmosphere prevails inside the house. Lester and his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening), a realtor, cannot stand each other and their daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), has no desire to be with either of them.
From the onset, Lester’s narrating voice tells us that he will be dead in a year. He has no illusions about the repressive nature of his life and decides, unilaterally, that abrupt changes are in order. His scripted family role is cast aside as he quits his job, lusts after his daughter’s sexy friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), and smokes an illegal substance with Ricky (Wes Bentley), a teen-ager who has moved in next door.
Uncharacteristic of his customary, go-along behavior, the new, rebellious Lester throws a plate of asparagus against the wall during dinner, drinks beer while lounging on the expensive off-limits couch, works as a cook and waiter at a local fast food restaurant, and begins a body building program so as to impress and seduce Angela. Meanwhile, Carolyn has an affair with a competing realtor and Jane falls in love with Ricky.
Two gay men, who are thoughtful and kind, live on one side of the Burnhams; on the other side, Ricky lives with another version of disturbed parents: an abused and deeply depressed mother and a retired, Marine father (Chris Cooper) who bullies his son, is expressively homophobic, and collects guns and Nazi era memorabilia.
The lives of these characters, many of them familiar to viewers, gain in intensity as various threads cross to produce an unresolvable knot.
Smiley's novel, King Lear (see King Lear in this database) with a shocking twist, portrays the enduring violence of incest to body and spirit. The narrative voice describes her family--a wealthy farmer and his three daughters. Family relationships are explored, especially the hidden roots that shape and define behaviors and conflicts, some lasting a lifetime.
The disclosure of a horribly dark secret explains the personalities of the three daughters and, for two, their metaphoric afflictions (infertility and breast cancer). Smiley's novel is layered with rich complexities, but none more powerful and astonishing than the core event, the sexual victimization of two vulnerable teenage girls who, as the story unfolds, are permanently scarred. Through a reinterpretation of Lear, Smiley demonstrates the cost of this hideous form of male domination and female victimization.
The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.
Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.
Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.
For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.
We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.
Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]
Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.
As you are now, so once was I; Prepare for death and follow me. The novel's advisory epigram prepares readers for the realities of aging and death which affect both narrator and reader. Following surgery, Caro Spencer is delivered to Twin Elms, a nursing home in a rural New England setting. While this intelligent woman requires only short-term care, she is deposited, permanently, in an understaffed, sub-standard care facility by relatives unwilling to add her minor but time-consuming difficulties to their own.
It is not a pretty setting. The staff is overworked and demeaning, especially to the new resident who is well-educated and accustomed to better circumstances. The nursing home routine is careless of individual differences and needs, and set up to strip away autonomy and dignity through petty and cruel indignations.
Caro is able to survive by keeping a secret diary for observations, reflections, and interpretations; ultimately, this alone sustains her. While the voice is that of an elderly woman (as we are now), the journal is for us, those still able to manage their lives, but unable to predict or control end-of-life events.