Showing 501 - 510 of 645 annotations tagged with the keyword "Survival"

Summary:

In 1871 the Polaris, a rebuilt tugboat commissioned by the U.S. Navy, set sail with a dual mission: planting the stars and stripes on the North Pole and providing scientific data and specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. A number of poor decisions were made early on in the planning and initiation of the expedition, including an inadequately structured vessel, a vague power distribution lacking a clear absolute authority, and a sailing captain with a significant alcohol problem.

The power struggles begin early. By the third month of the voyage the ship is in physical trouble and the designated expedition head (Charles Francis Hall) has died suddenly of an unexplained illness. There is no leader and the struggle for control erupts between the German scientist/physician who is responsible for the scientific mission and the drunken whaleboat captain who is responsible for keeping his ship and crew safe.

Bad weather, terrible luck, and lack of discipline result in the loss of the Polaris, the splitting of the crew onto separate ice floes, and several months of harrowing experience trying to survive the Arctic winter and hope for rescue. The good news is that everyone except Mr. Hall miraculously survives the ordeal. The subsequent Naval inquiry into the failed endeavor ends without resolution as to the cause of Hall’s death despite hints from crew members that it was not natural. In 1968, long after all crew members had expired, Hall’s grave was located and forensic samples proved that he had died of arsenic poisoning.

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Walt Whitman's Civil War

Whitman, Walt

Last Updated: Feb-07-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This book presents the "War of Attempted Secession" through the eyes of America's great poet. It consists of letters, dispatches, articles, and prose selections from Specimen Days (1882), Whitman's quasi-autobiography. In addition, all of Whitman's Civil War poems are included, some interspersed through the text and others collected in an Appendix.

The editor has arranged this material into 14 thematic chapters, beginning with "an introductory section in which Whitman discusses the general character of the Civil War" and including chapters containing material on his visits to the front, life in Washington during the War, letters to his mother, his admiration for Lincoln, and other topics.

Of particular interest is "The Great Army of the Wounded," a chapter composed of dispatches to the New York Times and Brooklyn Eagle, in which Whitman describes the military hospitals surrounding Washington and his own work as a volunteer nurse, scribe, and friendly visitor. In "Dear Love of Comrades," he presents a number of "specimen" cases of sick or wounded soldiers. "O My Soldiers, My Veterans" consists of letters written to soldiers, or for soldiers to their families. Another chapter, "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," presents Whitman's positive assessment of black regiments serving in the Union Army.

Many of the war poems appear in topically appropriate chapters; among the most effective of these are "A Twilight Song," "Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice," "Pensive on Her Dead Gazing," "Dirge for Two Veterans," "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," "O Captain! My Captain," and The Wound Dresser (see annotation in this database).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. So opens the first part of "Notes from Underground," in which the narrator describes his character and psychological states. He is a low ranking public official, 40 years old, who lives alone in a small room. When he received a small inheritance, he immediately quit his job and now spends his time ruminating about who he is and what his life means.

This narrator does not simply accept the laws of nature. He dislikes "the fact that two and two makes four." He realizes that he cannot break down the wall of nature "by battering my head against it," but nonetheless "I am not going to resign myself to it simply because it is a stone wall and I am not strong enough." (p. 12) He is proud of never having begun or finished anything. (p. 17) In fact, "what man needs is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead." (p. 23)

The narrator is "underground" because he has chosen not to participate, not to accomplish, not to interact, not even to justify his non-participation in "ordinary" life. Yet, he is bored, and so he chooses to occupy himself by writing these notes.

The second part is less rumination and more narrative, as the protagonist describes some seminal events in his life. When he was a young clerk, he was a loner with no friends. One day he decided to visit Simonov, an old school acquaintance, who happened at the time to be planning a dinner with some friends to honor another friend, Zverkov, who had done well in the military. The protagonist awkwardly invited himself to this dinner, despite having no money to pay for it, and later, after being thoroughly obnoxious and insulting his hosts, he followed them to a brothel, where he encountered a whore named Liza and conned her into thinking that he cared for her.

When she appeared at his apartment a few days later, he angrily told her that the "fine sentiments" were all false: "I was laughing at you!" When Liza then ran away, the narrator became agitated and tried to follow, but quickly dropped the idea. "Would I not begin to hate her, perhaps even tomorrow, just because I had kissed her feet today? Would I give her happiness? Had I not recognized that day, for the hundredth time, what I was worth?" (p. 113) At this point he breaks off, saying that he chooses not to write any further notes form underground.

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Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

P., a music teacher, whose associates have questioned his perception, is referred by his ophthalmologist to the neurologist Oliver Sacks. During the first office visit, Sacks notices that P. faces him with his ears, not his eyes. His gaze seems unnatural, darting and fixating on the doctor's features one at a time. At the end of the interview, at which his wife is present, P. appears to grasp his wife's head and try to lift it off and put it on his own head. "He had . . . mistaken his wife for a hat!" She gave no sign that anything odd had happened.

During the second interview, at P.'s home, P. is unable to recognize the rose in Sacks' lapel, describing it as "a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment." He is encouraged to speculate on what it might be, and guesses it could be a flower. When he smells it, he comes to life and knows it. The wife explains that P. functions by making little songs about what he is doing--dressing, washing or eating. If the song is interrupted he simply stops, till he finds in his sensorium a clue on how to proceed.

This cantatory method of compensating allows P. to function undetected in his professional and personal life. He remains unaware that he has a problem. Sacks chooses not to disturb his ignorant bliss with a diagnosis. Though his disease (never diagnosed but hypothesized as a tumor or degeneration of the visual cortex) advances, P. lives and works in apparent normalcy to the end of his days.

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I Stand Here Ironing

Olsen, Tillie

Last Updated: Feb-05-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator stands working at her ironing board, responding mentally to a request someone (a teacher? a social worker?) makes of her regarding her daughter Emily, "I wish you could manage the time to come in and talk with me . . . She's a youngster who needs help." The woman's thoughts go back to Emily's birth during the Depression when she was only 19, and her thoughts range forward, haltingly, in piecemeal fashion, through her daughter's difficult childhood.

Due to the wages of loss, poverty and dislocation, a wall has grown up between mother and daughter--she has always wanted to love the sickly, awkward, stiff, and isolated girl, but has not been able to penetrate the wall. And then, she recalls, out of nowhere Emily won first prize in her school amateur show. The girl is a natural performer, a wonderful comedienne, who now is in demand throughout the city and state.

Suddenly, Emily appears on the scene. "Aren't you ever going to finish the ironing, mother?" She says that she wants to sleep in the morning, even though this will make her late for mid-term exams. Near the end of the story the narrator imagines telling her interlocutor, "Why were you so concerned? She will find her way." But then she implores, "Only help her to know--help make it so there is cause for her to know--that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron."

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

This is a cluster of seven short poems focusing on the response of husband to the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis for the future of his beloved wife who has breast cancer. For example, "The Cloud" speaks of the passage of the uncertain weeks and years: "And into this idyllic time breast cancer crept. . . Wonder if it’s coming back. It’s life writ small / You don’t know what’s around that curve. . . ."

"For Rosemarie" is a plea for strength, while "Mommy’s Getting Chemo" contemplates the stance of the couple’s very young son. "Lymphedema Hand" is a loving tribute to the power and competence of the altered body of the woman. In all, the collection is forthright, painfully frank, while sustained by the gentle love that propels it.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Two metaphors permeate this poem about drinking a barium containing liquid prior to fluoroscopy to determine cancer growth and staging. The first metaphor involves the liquid as alcohol and the radiology suite as a rather perverse bar. Hence the patient drinks the proffered liquid which "froths and hisses like volcanic vodka / or martinis by Dr. Hyde." The second metaphor is 'cancer is war.' The body is seen as a battleground in which the "army of metastasizing cells / advances, armed and dangerous." The patient realizes that medical interventions are allies in this fight, but drinks the barium "as Socrates / must have: one eye on the door."

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Chekhov's Sister

Wetherell, W. D.

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Anton Chekhov died in 1904. His sister Marya (or "Maria" in this novel) survived the Communist Revolution and two World Wars to die in 1957 at the age of 94. After Anton's death, the unmarried Maria assumed his role as head of the extended Chekhov clan and she devoted the remainder of her life to the protection and advancement of her brother's literary legacy. To do so, she had to plead his case with the Russian authorities and later adapt to the political (and literary) orthodoxy imposed by the Communist regime. Early in the Soviet era, Maria successfully lobbied to have the Chekhov house at Yalta turned into a State museum, thereby insuring that the author's books and papers would be preserved.

The action of this novel takes place during the Great Patriotic War in late 1941 when the Germans occupied Yalta. Maria lives at the Chekhov museum, where she presides as curator. Also living at the house is Peter Kunin, a medical student and would-be writer who is Maria's protégé. In preparation for the Germans' arrival, Maria arranges the house to make it seem that Chekhov was pro-German. For example, she has Kunin dig up an old portrait of Goethe to hang over the mantelpiece.

Despite these machinations, the Germans fully intend to billet soldiers in the museum until a mysterious man named Diskau shows up. Diskau, who works for the German Ministry of Culture, insists that the Chekhov household be spared. In fact, he proposes to win over the local population to the German "liberators" by staging a New Year's Eve production of The Seagull in the abandoned Imperial Theater.

The remainder of the novel traces preparations and rehearsals, culminating in the single catastrophic performance of The Seagull, during which all is revealed.

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The Fixed Period

Trollope, Anthony

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the late 20th century, Britannula, an island near New Zealand, has achieved its independence from Great Britain. Settled by a group of young men some 30 years before the action of this novel, Britannula has developed into a prosperous land governed by a President and a single-house legislative body, the Assembly. They have adopted a great social experiment called the "Fixed Period," by which the society and its citizens will avoid the suffering, decrepitude, and expense of old age. At age 67 each person will be "deposited" into a lovely, carefree "college" (Necropolis) where he or she will spend one delightful year before being euthanized.

The story takes place just as the time approaches for Gabriel Crasweller, a wealthy landowner and good friend of President Neverbend, to be deposited. Crasweller is the first citizen to have lived out his Fixed Period, and the President, whose brainchild the Fixed Period is, experiences a conflict between his love for Crasweller--who inexplicably does not want to die--and his determination to carry out the law. Mounting resistance to the Fixed Period among the older citizens (including his wife) also surprises Neverbend, although the Assembly, composed mostly of young people, reaffirms the law. Just as Crasweller is led off to Necropolis, a British gunship arrives in port to relieve Neverbend of his duties as President and re-establish direct control of Britannula.

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Mirabilis

Cokal, Susann

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In fourteenth century France, a 15 year old virgin, Blanche, levitates in church and nine months later gives birth to a daughter named Bonne. When Bonne is only 12 years old, Blanche is burned alive along with other "sinners" in a church. Bonne becomes a professional breast-feeder or "wet nurse." Her breast milk never stops flowing and seems to have restorative powers.

She finds herself catapulted from outcast to saint despite a series of catastrophes. When her town of Villeneuve is under siege and starving, she breast feeds not just children but many of the townspeople as well, asking only to listen to the individual's life story in exchange for her milk. Bonne's fate becomes deeply entangled with the lives of three friends: Godfridus (a chaste sculptor who goes mad), Hercules Legrand (a dwarf), and Radegonde Putemonnoie (a wealthy pregnant widow who hires Bonne).

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