Showing 541 - 550 of 676 annotations tagged with the keyword "Illness and the Family"

Home Burial

Frost, Robert

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

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.

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The Use of Force

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: May-03-2001

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A doctor is called to the home of a poor, immigrant family. A beautiful little girl is quite ill. As diphtheria has been going around, the doctor attempts to examine her throat. The girl, however, won't open her mouth. She fights him off and all attempts to cajole her into compliance fail. Yet, the doctor is resolved to see that throat. He forces the girl's father to hold her down, while he manages to wrest open her mouth after a long battle. She does, in fact, have diphtheria.

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My Papa's Waltz

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Apr-23-2001
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A child recalls waltzing with his drunken father. His papa's breath stank of whiskey, his moves were clumsy and borderline abusive, and the son's love and fear caused him to cling to his father "like death."

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Lucky

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Apr-17-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator's mother becomes the child in her illness which has emaciated her body to look like a "childish skeleton." The son cares for the mother in every way: bathing her, carrying her, feeding her with a spoon. But this is caregiving with a twist--the mother is likened to a weakened enemy and the luck of caring for her is the luck of having finally gained power over an ancient enemy.

So although the physical acts of caring are done well--lowering her gently into a warm bath and soaping her withered body, sitting by her bed, feeding her ice cream--the thoughts behind such acts are less than pure. At one point, the son holds his wet mother in midair between bath and wheelchair until she begs him to put her down, an act which he recognizes as cruel and also an "ancient irresistible rejoicing / of power over weakness." The poem concludes on a more positive note--affirming the bond between mother and son and realizing that enemy or no, to feed someone ice cream is still an act of nurturing: "sweet is sweet in any language."

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Summary:

This is the second anthology from Donley and Buckley derived after many years of teaching "What's Normal?"--a literature and medicine course at Hiram College where they explore the cultural and contextual influences upon the concept of normality. With the first anthology, The Tyranny of the Normal, the editors focused on physical abnormalities (see this database for annotation). In this second anthology, the focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral deviations from societal norms. With this edition, Donley and Buckley present their case that, as with physical abnormalities, there is a similar tyranny of the normal that "dominates those who do not fit within the culture's norms for mental ability, mental health and acceptable behavior (xi)".

The anthology is divided into two parts. Part I is a collection of essays that introduce various clinical and bioethical perspectives on the subject of mental illness. These essays bring philosophic and analytic voices to the topic. Stephen Jay Gould's terrific essay on Carrie Buck and the "eugenic" movement in the United States in the early part of the 20th century illustrates one of the major themes that can be found throughout the anthology.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion in the 8-1 Supreme Court decision that sealed Buck's fate. Gould begins his essay reminding his readers of the often referenced Holmes quote, "three generations of imbeciles are enough." He then takes us on a fascinating historical adventure that uncovers a deeper and more complicated drama that led to this unfortunate period in American history, and the tragic incarceration and sterilization of Carrie Buck.

This essay, as with other stories, poems, and drama in the anthology, contemplates the relationship between societal values and mental illness, and illustrates how society through medicine can turn to the myth of "objective" diagnostic labels as a way to compartmentalize and control behavior and imaginations that are "abnormal." D. L. Rosenhan's essay from "On Being Sane in Insane Places" further illustrates the failure of the mental illness label. Irvin Yalom's story from Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy provides an example of what is possible when diagnostic labels are avoided, when health care professionals with power turn with humility, curiosity, and kindness toward others, substantiating that these qualities are far more powerful than statistical notions of "normal."

Part II is a collection of fiction, poetry and drama. Intended as a complement to part I, part II engages the reader in the lived experience of the narrators. It is divided into six sections. Section one considers children and adolescent experience of mental illness. Included are Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," an excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (see annotation in this database), and an excerpt from Peter Shaffer's Equus (see annotation).

Section two includes stories that capture the world of mental disability and retardation. An excerpt from Of Mice and Men and Eudora Welty's short story Lilly Daw and the Three Ladies are included. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (annotated by Felice Aull; also annotated by Jack Coulehan) is in section three where women's experiences with mental disorders is the theme (these are annotated in this database).

Section four and five focus on men and mental illness. War experience is considered in the works of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. Section six concludes the anthology. Alzheimer's disease and dementia are examined in Robert Davis's My Journey into Alzheimer's Disease, and in the story, "A Wonderful Party" by Jean Wood.

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Dire Cure

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-27-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This long (11 stanzas of ten lines each) poem takes us through the--at first faulty--cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery endured by the speaker's wife, and witnessed by the speaker. The poet personifies the tumor because to do otherwise would mean that he would "have to think of it as what, / in fact, it was: part of my lovely wife." The poison of chemotherapy that renders his wife "averse to it all" is contrasted with "perky visitors" and the flowers that they bring.

The poet imagines that the tumor of which his wife has been cured now resides in "Tumor Hell" where it lies "bleak and nubbled like a poorly / ironed truffle." The doctors who practice in teaching hospitals show the students how to deal with tumors: "batter it . . . strafe it . . . sprinkle it with rock salt and move on."

Now that his wife is better, the poet and his friends consider how he has fared. At first he was unable to concentrate, made lists, "wept, paced, / berated myself, drove to the hospital" and was "rancid with anger." Yes, it was awful, but he rejects pity--even self-pity. Only his wife has the right to give a name to the experience: "let her think of its name and never / say it, as if it were the name of God."

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Late-Blooming Flowers

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Young Prince Yegorushka has managed to squander his family's limited resources and now lies in a drunken stupor. His mother (Princess Priklonsky) and sister (Marusya) reluctantly send for Dr. Toporkov, the elegant and highly successful physician whose father was once a serf on their estate. The cold, haughty, and uncommunicative Toporkov appears, gives a few orders, and rushes away. Yet, the princess views the man as a savior and exclaims: "How considerate, how nice he is!"

Marusya also falls ill, and Toporkov makes several house calls, "walking importantly, looking at no one." Old Princess Priklonsky tries to ingratiate the doctor by providing him with a hefty bonus and inviting him to tea. But rather than warming up, Toporkov lectures them "with medical terms without using a single phrase which his listeners could understand."

Some time later, a matchmaker arrives with an astounding proposal--the doctor wishes to marry Marusya for a dowry of 60,000 rubles. (The truth is he will marry anyone for that price.) The Priklonsky family immediately turns the down proposition, ostensibly because of Toporkov's peasant background, but really because they don't have 60,000 rubles to their name.

Meanwhile, as time goes on, Marusya falls in love with the doctor. As she becomes sicker with consumption, the family's financial straits become worse. Finally, with her last five rubles, Marusya seeks help from Toporkov, throwing herself at his feet and proclaiming her love. The astounded doctor experiences an epiphany. He suddenly realizes the worthlessness of all his money-grubbing in an outpouring of love for the dying woman.

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Ear Ache

Smith, Dave

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A young boy lies "coiled in my stale bed," suffering from an intractable ear infection, "overwhelming cures / with sourceless pus." His "coarse, cursing, and door slamming" grandfather comes into the room and lays his "scar-sizzled" hand on the boy's erythematous ear. The old man leans over and blows cigarette smoke into the child's ear. [44 lines]

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The Shell Lady's Daughter

Adler, C. S.

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Kelly is torn between being "best friend" to her mother, who, though she is sprightly and lovely, seems to have withdrawn from adult relationships, and pursuing her own friendships and life at school. Her father, a pilot, is gone from home a lot of the time, so she and her mother live a fairly isolated life.

It is not until her mother is suddenly whisked off to the hospital at the end of one of the father's visits that Kelly learns there is something seriously wrong with her. No one, however, will tell her precisely what happened or what's wrong. She is sent to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out her mother's hospitalization, and for a time isn't even allowed to communicate with her mother by phone.

Eventually she learns that her mother is clinically depressed and has been suicidal. In the meantime she learns a great deal about coping with loneliness, uncertainty, and new adult relationships, with a strait-laced grandmother and a senile grandfather as well as a disabled young man, a neighbor in Florida, who takes her seriously and helps her find a new self-assurance in spite of--or perhaps in part because of--her difficult circumstances. Faced with a choice of boarding school or returning to a mother still in gradual recovery, Kelly firmly opts to live with her mother and learn about both the responsibilities and the limits of caring for a parent who needs love but not co-dependency.

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The Seed and the Sower

Van der Post, Laurens

Last Updated: Dec-20-2000
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This post-World War II tale is a joint reminiscence rendered by two Englishmen who have survived the war in the South Pacific, including concomitant internment in a Japanese POW camp. They meet over the Christmas holiday after a separation of five years.

The first segment has to do with Lawrence's memory of his relationship with Hara, a terror of a camp commander. The central portion of the work shifts to a document that has been saved by the narrator-author (the second of the two survivors) and was written by a mutual comrade, a South African officer who was not able to leave the prison camp alive. This is the longest and most detailed of the sections and dwells largely on the officer's relationship with a disabled brother and his assessment of how the guilt engendered by this relationship affected his entire adult life.

The third and final section is Lawrence's recall of the last few days of his service prior to his capture by the Japanese and a strange and wonderful few hours with a woman whose name he never learned. Lawrence's decision to share this very intimate secret with his host and hostess is stimulated by his view of their son sleeping with a play sword in the same room with their daughter who is cuddled with a toy--and the unavoidable reflection on the gender significance of this scene. The holiday is over and Lawrence returns to his service, leaving the narrator and his wife to review the three days they have passed together.

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