Showing 511 - 520 of 587 annotations tagged with the keyword "Individuality"

A Dog Named Hopi

Smith, Sybil

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In my dreams, now, in my re-imaginings, I leap away as easily as a deer, and with as little hesitation. My spandex-covered legs scissor the ditch, and my feet ride the ground instinctively. My brown hair sways as I dart off into the forest . . . In real life, I got into the truck. (p.25)

A young woman retells the story of her rape--to herself, to the reader, and to a therapist who possesses "no startling answers--just a quiet ability to receive and transmute pain." The art of transcending pain through communication is at the heart of this story. The narrator survives by talking to her rapist and challenging his human core, by revealing everything to caregivers, by allowing herself to replay and dissect the details of this trauma.

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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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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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The Cunning Man

Davies, Robertson

Last Updated: Jun-28-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Jonathan Hullah writes a memoir of his life in response to a young reporter who questions him about the death, years ago, of an old Anglican priest during Good Friday services. The tale unfolds of three schoolboy friends in Toronto before the Second World War: Brocky Gilmartin, who becomes a noted professor of literature; Charlie Iredale, who enters the Anglican priesthood; and Hullah himself, who begins as a police surgeon and later becomes a practitioner of his own unusual brand of psychosomatic medicine.

The central image of this story is the sudden death of Father Hobbes, the saintly vicar of St. Aidan's Church. Soon after Hobbes' death, the curate Charlie Iredale leads a movement to declare the elderly priest a saint. This movement is aborted by the bishop and Iredale, his vision crushed, goes on to become an itinerant (and alcoholic) clergyman in rural Ontario.

The central story though is that of Dr. Hullah, the "cunning man" who learns that healing is not just a matter of the body, but also the mind and spirit. He practices a type of "holistic" health care that the Canadian medical authorities find very suspicious. Yet, he is quite successful in his work, serving as physician-of-last-resort for many patients who have not been helped by other doctors.

The "cunning man" is a listener; he seems to stay on the outside, observing carefully, but revealing little of himself. In these memoirs he gradually reveals his rich experience and complex character. Only at the very end, however, does he reveal the true story of Father Hobbes's death.

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The Dogs of Pavlov

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The action takes place in 1968 at the offices and laboratories of a large pharmaceutical company. Dr. Michael Daly is replicating a series of psychological experiments purportedly designed to enhance the efficiency of learning. In these experiments the actual subjects are asked to inflict electric shocks on mock "subjects" who fail to give correct answers to mathematical problems.

The mock "subject" is ostensibly wired to an electric chair. In fact, she is really an actress pretending to be in pain. Even though she cries out in agony every time she makes a mistake, the actual subject--an ordinary person, who is just following instructions--pulls a switch that (he believes) gives her a progressively higher jolt of electricity.

The subjects almost invariably follow the evil instructions. In fact, one of them, Mr. Harley-Hoare, a sniveling and obsequious office worker, is truly outraged at Sally (the mock subject) for not learning faster. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the corporate world, this play re-explores the issue of personal responsibility for evil actions.

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Evening

Minot, Susan

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fictional present of Evening, Ann Lord is diagnosed with terminal cancer and spends most of her time in her own bed in her house in Cambridge, Mass, drifting in and out of a medicated sleep, cared for by her adult children and various private nurses. In her reveries Ann returns to a weekend some forty years earlier, and re-experiences meeting a young doctor named Harris Arden and finding and losing the only true passion of her life. As Evening moves episodically between present and past, only the reader can see both Ann's dying, nearly motionless body and the hidden, vital world of her memories.

Ironically, while Ann's remembered youth forms a suspenseful plot, full of romance and tragedy, her full adult life seems to have been signally lacking in any of the passion, focus, and vitality that characterized her young womanhood. The best times of her life were literally over when that weekend in the past came to an abrupt and tragic close; and now, as her own life ends, it is this past "best time" that she returns to. Ann's children, friends, and caregivers only see her as a relatively young woman, dying a tragically early and painful death; they never grasp the content or intensity of her inner life, or know the name of the man who meant most to her.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The book begins with a "Twenty Question Multiple Choice Self-Help Quiz." Each question is actually a short chapter. For example, the first chapter deals with the "amnesic self" and asks why amnesia is a favorite device in fiction and especially soap operas. Other chapters deal with the nowhere self, the fearful self, the promiscuous self, and so forth.

The second part of the book is an essay on the nature of the self, complete with numerous diagrams and arrows. The third section presents discussions of various manifestations of the self as transcendent, orbiting, exempted, lonely, and demoniac. The last part is called "A Space Odyssey" and is captioned "What to do if there is no man Friday out there and we really are alone?"

Obviously, this summary says virtually nothing about what the book is about. Suffice it to say that Percy brings his playful humor to the central existential question of human meaning and he presents it in the form of a self-help manual.

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The Reconstruction

Casper, Claudia

Last Updated: Feb-08-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Margaret is a sculptor whose detached and unaffectionate physician-husband has just exited their marriage. Depressed, she is in dire need of work to survive and to cover the costs of urgently needed dental work. She gladly accepts a museum commission to recreate a life-sized likeness of Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis hominid.

The plan is to reconstruct the body using casts of the fossil bones and to depict a single moment in Lucy's past, as captured by the fossilized Laetoli footprints. Made by a hominid pair, the prehistoric footprints show how the smaller creature--Lucy--hesitated in her unknown journey 3.6 million years ago.

As Margaret reassembles her ancestor and situates her plausibly in that mysterious moment, she rediscovers her own animal body, its senses, needs, and beauty--and she begins to reassemble her life.

In the end, she appears to find love and joy with a musician whom she first encounters on a purely physical basis. Yet she is comfortable with an ambiguous future.

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Sojourn at Elmhurst

Lieberman, Michael

Last Updated: Jan-26-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

This book is a sequence of poems about Frank Goldin, a middle-aged biochemist who is admitted to a mental hospital, Elmhurst, with the chief complaint, "I hear a thousand voices and must respond to each." In the first poem Goldin confesses his sins, but simple confession doesn't get to the root of his dilemma, the existential ambiguity that plagues him.

During Goldin's dark night of the soul, his scientific self struggles with the mysterious longing within. Dr. Hudspeth, the Elmhurst psychiatrist, directs his support to the part of Goldin that says, "I am the restless biochemical cycle / that pours out glutathione in buckets." In essence, just straighten out the chemicals and you'll get better.

Throughout the book Goldin waits for his wife Helen to visit Elmhurst, but she never appears. He ruminates over the matter of confessing that he had an affair with a woman named Da-ling during a professional meeting in Osaka. If he confesses, if Helen comes, Goldin hopes that things will return to the way the way they used to be.

However, the mysterious side of Goldin is looking for something else. He has visions of the ancient Rabbi Yehuda of Smyrna, who asks, "Why do we not even know how to ask a question properly?" After several weeks Goldin leaves Elmhurst with the feeling that he has made progress, but not in any discernible direction. Goldin concludes that he should be grateful, but he asks, "to whom?"

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The Sensualist

Hodgson, Barbara

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Helen Martin is an expert on medical art. She travels by train through Europe--Vienna, Prague, and Munich--looking for her journalist husband who has vanished for a longer time than usual. Their marriage is childless and flat. On the train, she awakens to temporary but surreal changes in her body--her breasts are enormous, her thighs huge. She meets her alter ego, Rosa, an obese and aging woman doctor, and original owner of the sizable breasts and thighs.

Rosa’s gift of a strange book-like box, containing images from Vesalius, bones, vials, leads her to many other people, including a blind intellectual, a philosophical train conductor, and a soon-to-be-murdered museum curator. These people add objects to the box, while removing others and awakening her dormant senses and identity in the process.

Helen learns that her husband disappeared while researching a story about woodblocks from the great 1543 anatomical atlas by Andreas Vesalius. The woodblocks are believed to have been destroyed in the allied bombing of Munich in World War II, but Helen suspects some have survived. She picks up the work where he left it. The rediscovery of her husband--temporarily at home in Vancouver and irritated not to find her there--comes as an anti-climax. Helen realizes she does not want him any more and boards another train to we know not where.

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