Showing 521 - 530 of 584 annotations tagged with the keyword "Individuality"

Diagnosis

Wharton, Edith

Last Updated: Jan-11-1999
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The wealthy 49-year-old Paul Dorrance, concerned about his health, summons his doctor and a cancer specialist for an examination. They pronounce him healthy, though in need of a rest from work, and Paul begins to ponder a life of renewed vigor, perhaps in marriage with a younger woman who would bear him children. Then he discovers on the floor a piece of paper containing the diagnosis of cancer.

He believes the doctors have deceived him, and his elation turns to self-pity and gloom. In that mood he decides to propose to Eleanor, his mistress of fifteen years whom he had previously decided not to marry, for companionship in the difficult time ahead. He proposes to her the same day as the consultation, without telling her of the diagnosis (even though she knows he saw the doctors).

She accepts his proposal, and she is not deterred when he reveals the harsh prognosis. Several years later Eleanor dies of a heart attack, and Paul soon discovers that on the fatal day of the consultation she . . . had done a certain thing [which readers will want to discover for themselves] that trumps Paul's egotism and manipulativeness in the relationship.

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Open Workings

Bamforth, Iain

Last Updated: Nov-25-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the third volume of poetry by Bamforth, a physician and scientific translator who practices in Strasbourg, France. Open Workings is precisely that--the poet opens various ideas, places, and events and shows us their inner workings. But we find that the workings are not what we expect.

Some of these poems (e.g. "Between the Rhins and the Machars," pp. 20-23) evoke Scottish folk tales and traditions. "The Fever Hospital" (p. 33) alludes to William Carlos Williams's famous poem "Spring and All," which begins, "By the road to the contagious hospital . . . " Several are set in a mining town in the Australian outback. In "A Clear Thought" (p. 39) Bamforth recalls the "scorched mesas / and camel-track droppings / of overland Australia" where he and his wife, "two transients, / (we) were crossing a language / bigger than its markers." The long sequence (30 poems) called "Doing Calls on the Old Portpatrick Road" provides a richly textured view of the life and interactions of a country doctor, one of whose patients asks, "Why do you call it failure now my heart breaks?" (p. 64)

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The Good Husband

Godwin, Gail

Last Updated: Nov-25-1998
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Magda Danvers, the brilliant English professor and scholar of Blake, is dying of cancer, "the Great Uncouth . . . my final teacher." The novel tracks the course of her illness and her husband, Francis's (who is a former Roman Catholic seminarian) untiring care of her until the end. In addition, the deteriorating marriage of Alice (who has just suffered a miscarriage) and the novelist Hugo Henry is examined alongside of Magda's and Francis's as Alice befriends Magda and Francis throughout the final course of Magda's illness.

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All the Western Stars

Williams, Philip Lee

Last Updated: Nov-25-1998
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Narrated by Jake Baker, a 73-year-old who'd been sent to a nursing home by his niece, this novel recounts the adventures of Jake and Lucas Kraft after they leave a nursing home to become cowboys. Lucas is a writer whose pessimistic view of life is the opposite of Jake's. Never able to tell the truth about himself, Lucas has lost both fame and love but not his lust for life.

The two men hitchhike west (with a series of crazy drivers) and eventually find jobs on a Texas ranch. Jake falls in love with Betty, perhaps the foulest-mouthed cook ever invented; Lucas finds Sally Crandall, his ex-wife, a movie star, and the love of his life, who's performing in a cowboy-and-Indians movie not far from the ranch. Jake and Lucas actually do become cowboys (in the movie).

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My World Now

Seaver, Anne Mae Halgram

Last Updated: Oct-30-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Mrs. Seaver writes about what it is like living in a nursing home. She writes cogently about the attitudes and behavior of staff, loneliness, lack of privacy, and her day to day experiences as a disabled 84 year old nursing home resident. The contrast between her former life and still-evident wit and intellect, and the way she is treated and diminished in her current environment is profound.

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Mrs. Moonlight

Norris, Helen

Last Updated: Oct-20-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Fanny Gideon is having a tree house built just like the one she remembered from her childhood. The best times of her life were spent in that tree house and she hopes to recapture the clarity, joy, and freedom of her youth. The problem is that Fanny Gideon is 78 years old and has Alzheimer's disease.

She struggles on a daily basis with trying to fit into a life that she does not like, and with constraints that diminish her sense of herself. Her daughter is thinking about placing her in a nursing home. Mrs. Gideon almost burns down the house on a daily basis. The cleaning lady follows her around when her daughter is out of the house.

This story is about how an elderly woman and her now elderly childhood sweetheart attempt to recapture both their youth and their current lives against all odds. It is about preservation of the self despite memory loss, renewal of love in old age, and about rebellion.

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Casualty

Wolff, Tobias

Last Updated: Aug-25-1998
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

B.D. and Ryan are completing their tour of duty in Vietnam. They are bonded to each other--"some kind of cultish remnant"--because they are the only men from the original unit who have not returned home. Unexpectedly, a new lieutenant takes command. He views the unit as undisciplined; he lacks patience and a sense of humor.

Ryan's reaction is sarcastic mimicry, which the lieutenant overhears. When challenged, Ryan responds with a scurrilous comment. This initiates a menacing, deadly interaction between them. B.D. watches this interaction helplessly. He tries to persuade Ryan: "All you have to do . . . is keep quiet." (22) But Ryan can't help himself; his mission is to make the lieutenant aware of "what an asshole he is." (21)

B.D. feels increasingly desperate, fantasizing that he will blow the lieutenant up with a grenade. When he tries to enlist help from the former unit head the latter suggests that B.D. put himself in the line of fire in place of Ryan. B.D. realizes that officers stick together, and, even worse, he feels "weak, corrupt, and afraid." (30) Soon thereafter, Ryan is killed during a routine mission.

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To the Lighthouse

Woolf, Virginia

Last Updated: Aug-21-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Ramsay family are spending the summer in their holiday house on the Isle of Skye. Mr. Ramsay, a mathematician, and his wife, who runs the home, have eight children, including the beautiful Prue, who is likely to be married soon, and James, the youngest, still fiercely attached to his mother. There are also assorted guests, including Charles Tansley, one of Mr. Ramsay's students; Lily Briscoe, a keenly observant painter; and Mr. Carmichael, an opium-addicted poet.

James wants to be taken by boat to visit the lighthouse and his mother encourages him, but his father, enraging James, says it'll be impossible because of the weather. That night Mrs. Ramsay gives a dinner party where she orchestrates the complex dynamics of the family and their guests into a perfect social unit, which is presented as a kind of work of art.

This is followed by a short interlude, "Time Passes," which marks a shift in scale from the human to a wider view, where encroaching darkness and dissolution threaten the house and the lives connected to it. During this period, Mrs. Ramsay dies, Prue marries and then dies in childbirth, and a War takes place in which Andrew, another son, is killed.

All these events are diminished by the universal context of time and change against which Woolf places them. The final part of the novel returns to the human scale. About ten years later, the surviving characters are back at the house and Mrs. Ramsay, though dead, continues to be the central figure, motivating much of what occurs. Mr. Ramsay now takes the still-angry James to the lighthouse, and Lily Briscoe, inspired by her memory of Mrs. Ramsay, is at last able to complete the painting she began years before.

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Outside Passage

Scully, Julia

Last Updated: Aug-17-1998
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled, A Memoir of an Alaskan Childhood, this spare, compelling work recalls young Julia's difficult and unusual life in a splintered family living "at the edge of the world." When Julia was born in 1929 the family had just moved to Seattle and entered an economic crisis--"somehow, my father had been bilked out of their money." (17) The marriage went downhill as poverty and the father's serious illness compounded an underlying conjugal incompatibility.

Julia was only seven years old when she and her older sister Lillian found their father dead--a suicide. "Nothing is said about how my father died, or even, in fact, that he is dead." (8) Not long thereafter Julia's mother, Rose, without any explanation or advance warning, left the girls at the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum; there they remained for two years. Rose went to Nome, Alaska to try to find work. "Meanwhile, I strive to be a model orphan. I do all my chores . . . I'm quiet, do well in school, am extremely polite. And most of the time, I'm afraid." (33)

There follows another stay in a different orphanage. Here "I never hear my name . . . No one ever touches me. And, in my memory of that time, that place, I am always alone." (72) Finally, they join their mother again in a remote mining outpost of Alaska where Rose operates a roadhouse. Moving with the seasons back and forth between the outpost and the city of Nome, Julia's life takes on a semblance of normalcy. The environment is strange but interesting, the men who frequent the roadhouse are rough but friendly--there is a sense of camaraderie.

As Julia reaches puberty she becomes subliminally aware of a relationship between her mother and the owner of the Nome liquor store, Cappy. Cappy is married--his family is back in Seattle. There is never any open display of affection between Cappy and Rose, but he eats his meals with them and is almost a surrogate father to Julia and her sister. Suddenly Rose decides to move the family to Fairbanks. Here there is a "secret scenario" that Julia only pieces together many years later. As the events unfold in Fairbanks, Julia knows only that her mother is "distracted, not there." And that a man "carrying a small black satchel" comes to the house and leaves her mother moaning in bed.

Once more, Rose leaves her now teenaged children behind as she returns to Nome. It is wartime and Lillian and Julia find jobs at the military base in Fairbanks. As suddenly as they came to Fairbanks, they are summoned back to Nome--no questions asked, no explanations given. Cappy's son is missing in action. Once again, Julia cannot understand the silence, the absence of grief displayed--"Isn't anybody sad? Isn't anybody upset?" (181) Rose's relationship with Cappy quietly ends.

As Julia finishes high school she fantasizes about leaving Nome, going to college, becoming a journalist--fantasies inspired by Rosalind Russell's role in the film, His Girl Friday, and by Sinclair Lewis's critique of small town life in the novel, Main Street. "I begin to discern, vaguely, tentatively, that somewhere there exists a world where the accepted language is the one that Sinclair Lewis speaks--a language of ideas and, even, of feelings." (212) Indeed, as the book jacket notes, the author graduated from Stanford and became a magazine editor; she lives in Manhattan.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

During the Battle of Smolensk in the Second Word War, a soldier named Zazetsky sustained a severe head wound, causing "massive damage to the left occipito-parietal region of his brain." This injury shattered his whole perceptual world. His memory, his visual fields, his bodily perception, even his knowledge of bodily functioning--all break into fragments, causing him to experience the world (and himself) as constantly shifting and unstable.

Zazetsky coped with this fragmentation by writing a journal of his thoughts and memories as they occurred, day after day, for 20 years. He then arranged and ordered these entries, in an attempt to reconstruct his lost "self." From over 3000 pages of this journal material, the neurologist A. R. Luria has constructed this extended case history from which emerges a remarkable portrait of Zazetsky as a determined and courageous human being. Zazetsky's first-person account is interspersed with comments and descriptions by Luria himself, explaining the relevant structure and function of the brain.

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