Showing 531 - 540 of 680 annotations tagged with the keyword "Illness and the Family"

The Saltonstall Family

Des Granges, David

Last Updated: Oct-18-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

This monumental portrait of the 17th century knight, Sir Richard Saltonstall, and his family was commissioned for the Saltonstall family home. The wealth of the family is indicated by intricate tapestries, a woven rug, jewels, and the rich fabrics of clothing and curtains. Absent from the picture is any religious iconography.

Saltonstall stands left of center and draws back the rich red curtain on the deathbed of his first wife. With his ungloved right hand he holds the hand of his eldest child, a son. This son is still young enough to wear a dress, but his coloring and the dress style indicate a boy. He in turn holds the arm of his younger sister, so that a diagonal line is formed from the father's hat, down his arm and through the two children.

The pale dead mother lies all in white, her eyes open, and her upturned hand reaching towards her children. On the right side of the picture sits Saltonstall's second wife, and she holds her baby on her lap. She also is dressed in white and is separated from her husband by the first wife. In addition, the diagonal line between Saltonstall's left hand and his baby is interrupted by his dead wife. However, he does gaze in the direction of his second wife, although no one in the portrait looks directly at another person.

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Living on the Margins is a literary anthology of breast cancer with a distinguished list of 18 contributors, all writers--poets, critics, academics, editors, essayists. Their writing, wide-ranging in genre, style, and tone, includes personal narratives, poetry, academic essays, and an interview.

Contributors include Maxine Kumin, Safiya Henderson-Holmes, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Lucille Clifton, Alicia Suskin Ostriker, and Marilyn Hacker. The editor, Hilda Raz, argues that because there hasn't been much literature on breast cancer (there's been a "margin of missing literature," she claims) this collection was brought into being.

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Water

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Water is a metaphor for the life cycle as the poet chronicles the role played by water in his life, in all our lives--"the sac of water we live in." The poet evokes the sound of water as he moves through life stages: swaying trees register the sound of the water from which we emerge at birth, "the sound of sighing" denotes the sound made as he washes his dying father’s feet, whispering rain "outlives us."

The poem is replete with images of water that conjure up family relationships over time. In the ocean of his childhood, his athletic brother cannot swim while his crippled sister swims like a "glimmering fish." Water is a visible symptom of the congestive heart failure suffered by his father--"swollen, heavy . . . bloated"-- whose "respirator mask makes him look like a diver."

As the poet tends to his father, testing the wash water "with my wrist" like a parent, there is a powerful recollection of the father’s earlier ordeal as a political prisoner. Finally, there is water that liberated the family, bringing them from Indonesia to America, juxtaposed against the water that is now drowning the father.

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A Winter Visit

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet-doctor-son takes his ninety-year-old mother for a walk through the park on a cold winter day. He cites the peacock as an emblem of life-spirit, but she responds by talking about dying, saying: "This winter I'm half dead, son." He wants to weep, but does not allow himself to, because he "inhabit[s] a white coat." He avoids the issue by speaking of "small, approximate things."

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Motivated at first by an attachment to her strict and demanding ballet teacher, as well as frustration and disgust with her own body compared to other dancers', Francesca develops an obsession with weight loss and increasingly ritualized forms of self-discipline in eating and exercise that lead to severe anorexia nervosa. It takes her family several months to see and acknowledge what is happening in front of them, during which she has trained herself to eat less and less, to throw up after meals, and to push herself to the point of exhaustion.

She becomes secretive, isolates herself from friends, and puts up a wall between herself and her parents, who are unable fully to understand the degree to which her behavior has gone beyond her control, but are worried. A compassionate male therapist with clear boundaries and a non-judgmental approach finally succeeds in disengaging Francesca from the mutually destructive downward spiral of family conflict around her illness;

he helps her to envision and desire her own health and to take responsibility for recovery. The story is told in the third person, but from Francesca's point of view.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Katie is a promising figure skater whose divorced mother drives her relentlessly to perfect her skills, at almost any expense. What her mother and coach don't know, but her English teacher begins to figure out, is that when Katie gets to an emotional edge, she hides and cuts herself; the pain and blood help focus her mind. Not until she goes over that edge one day at school and begins slamming her locker door on her hand and then banging her head on the wall does she begin to get the professional help she needs.

After a couple of false starts, she finds a psychiatrist experienced in working with teens in trouble who enables her to tell truths she hasn't for years been able to admit to herself or speak of to anyone else. Her mother resists other adults' help and almost succeeds in getting her out of therapy, especially group therapy with girls her mother labels "delinquents." But Katie finally manages to make some choices against her mother's wishes--an immense step out of the depths of years of co-dependence.

As the story ends, she has come to realize the girls in the group are capable of being real friends--something she hasn't had for a long while--and she is capable of making choices toward her own healing, the first of which is to seek and accept real help and to distinguish it from pleasing adults who are using her to assuage their own pain.

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Fine?

Haddix, Margaret Peterson

Last Updated: Aug-13-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story for Young Adults

Summary:

The story begins as an MRI technician assures Baily that "Contrary to popular opinion, . . . this is not a torture device." The test was ordered because her arm suddenly went numb and she suddenly lost most of her vision during algebra class. With no idea what's wrong, Baily speculates about the possibility of a brain tumor, about how disease will change her life, about early death. She is uncomfortable with her mother's cheery reassurances, which consist mostly of simple theories like the possibility that Baily was reacting to missing lunch, but wants them, nonetheless.

Since the pediatric wing is full, she is put in a room with an old woman for observation overnight. The nurse runs her through a series of highly irrelevant questions about her physical health from drug use to dentures. Then her mother is required to leave for the night. In the morning they take her for an EKG before her mother can get there; Baily returns to her room in a state of morbid conviction that she's dying, which is finally overturned when the doctor comes in to explain to her that she had a classic case of severe migraine.

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Stevie in the Mirror

Wittlinger, Ellen

Last Updated: Aug-13-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story for Young Adults

Summary:

This first-person narrative of a runaway girl's short stay in a residential mental health center develops her impressions, resistances, and accommodations from her admission ("I can see right away it's a nuthouse") to her release. These include reluctant interviews with the staff counselor, uncomfortable encounters with nurses, observations of other patients' erratic behavior, and efforts, finally, to communicate with a very detached roommate.

"Stevie" speaks from a place of anger and mistrust. She attempted suicide in the girl's bathroom by slicing her wrists, but regards herself as otherwise quite competent. A turning point comes for her when her silent roommate sings a song she's written which ends with the words, "Don't forget to cry." This moment of vulnerability, which also unveils surprising talent and beauty, moves Stevie from anger toward curiosity and sympathy.

She takes steps toward friendship with her roommate, and finally toward reconciliation with her mother who, she realizes, really wants her home. As she leaves, Zena really addresses her for the first time, reminding her, "Don't forget to cry."

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Emma

Austen, Jane

Last Updated: Aug-13-2001
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Emma Woodhouse and her invalid father mourn the loss of Miss Taylor, Emma's companion and former governess, to marriage. Emma cheers herself up by taking the orphan Harriet Smith under her wing. Emma discourages Harriet's interest in the farmer Robert Martin, cultivating for her instead the attentions of the minister Mr. Elton (who is actually trying to woo Emma) or the eligible visiting bachelor Frank Churchill, while failing to see Harriet's feelings for Emma's brother-in-law Mr. Knightley. Emma herself flirts with the idea of loving Frank Churchill, until she discovers that he has been secretly married to the aloof Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley sets all straight by arranging Harriet's engagement to Robert Martin and marrying Emma himself.

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Kaddish

Ginsberg, Allen

Last Updated: Aug-09-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Dedicated to the poet's mother, Naomi Ginsberg, the poem is a narration and a lament arising from Ginsberg's memories, three years after Naomi's death, of her life and of his life with her. This long poem is subdivided into 5 sections that address the dead woman directly.

The highly poetic Part I is a reflection on death, life ["all the accumulations of life, that wear us out" (p. 11)], mortality, the link between the dead and the living, the great unknown that lies beyond death--not in the abstract, but in the signs and symbols of Naomi's life/death and in the issues that remain for her son: "Now I've got to cut through--to talk to you / --as I didn't when you had a mouth." (p. 11)

Part II is a long narration of Naomi's life story, especially the history of her mental illness and of the role it imposed on Ginsberg himself. Ginsberg "was only 12" when he brought his mother to what was intended as a rest cure; instead, she became psychotic and was hospitalized, leaving Ginsberg with an everlasting sense of guilt. Separated from her husband, Naomi spent years of paranoia in chaos and institutionalization; son Allen vacillated between pity, disgust, escape in travel, and (homo)sexual exploration.

At the last meeting with his mother, in a mental hospital, she didn't recognize him. While living in San Francisco, two days after Naomi died, he received a letter from her: "Strange Prophesies anew! She wrote--'The key is in / the window, the key is in the sunlight at the window--I have / the key--Get married Allen don't take drugs . . . .' " (p. 31)

These passages give a vivid sense of mental disease and its impact on the family. Ginsberg is not self-pitying or self-indulgent in his description of the illness that laid siege to his mother's life and which so strongly influenced his own life for years. Modestly, he inserts: "I was in bughouse that year 8 months--my own visions unmentioned in this here Lament--" (p. 25)

The brief "Hymnn," is a blessing: "Blessed be you Naomi in Hospitals! Blessed be you Naomi in solitude! Blest be your triumph! . . . Blest be your last year's loneliness!" Part III (one page long) is a short recapitulation of Naomi's life, and uses her own cryptic words to try to make sense out of her life as well as of all life and death: "But that the key should be left behind--at the window . . . to the living . . . that can . . . look back see / Creation glistening backwards to the same grave . . . ." (p. 33)

Part IV, a chant, reaches beyond the personal to social history: "O mother / what have I left out"; (p. 34) "with your eyes of shock / with your eyes of lobotomy; " "farewell / with Communist party and a broken stocking"; "with your eyes of Czechoslovakia attacked by robots . . . ." (p. 35) Ending with the short part V, Ginsberg cries out to the shrieking crows circling in the sky above His mother's grave, "Lord Lord O Grinder of giant Beyonds my voice in a boundless / field in Sheol" (p.36) [Sheol is a Hebrew word meaning "the abode of death."]

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