Showing 591 - 600 of 617 annotations tagged with the keyword "Body Self-Image"

The Bell Jar

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Feb-17-1997
Annotated by:
Schaffer, Amanda

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this autobiographical novel, Plath's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, sinks into a profound depression during the summer after her third year of college. Esther spends the month of June interning at a ladies' fashion magazine in Manhattan, but despite her initial expectations, is uninterested in the work and increasingly unsure of her own prospects.

Esther grows disenchanted with her traditional-minded boyfriend, Buddy Willard, a medical student who “had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up, whether they needed it or not . . . . ” Returning home to a New England suburb, Esther also discovers that she's been rejected from a Harvard summer school fiction course. Her relationship with her mother is painfully strained.

Suddenly, Esther finds herself unable to sleep or read or concentrate. She undergoes a few unsuccessful sessions with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon, as well as terrifying electroshock therapy. She becomes increasingly depressed, thinks obsessively about suicide, then attempts to kill herself by crawling into the cellar and taking a bottle of sleeping pills: "red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down." Esther vomits, however, and so, does not die. She is taken to a city hospital and then, through the financial intervention of a benefactor, to a private psychiatric institution.

There, Esther begins gradually to recover. She enjoys the pleasant country-club surroundings and develops a closeness with her analytically-oriented psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan. Esther also undergoes a more successful regimen of shock therapy, after which she feels the "bell jar" of depression lifting.

The stigma of attempted suicide and hospitalization seems to free Esther to behave less traditionally; defiantly, she loses her virginity to a man she's met on the steps of Harvard's Widener Library. At the novel's end, Esther is preparing to leave the psychiatric hospital and is describing herself, optimistically, as transformed.

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The Biopsy

Jones, Alice

Last Updated: Feb-11-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet undergoes a breast biopsy under local anesthesia: "I had thought my skin was a permanent seal. / Now I watch this layer of myself / . . . sprout red flowers . . . . " She observes the (male) surgeon closely, imagines her tissue on its journey to the pathology laboratory, and listens carefully to the surgeon's first words: "this man / who went beyond my skin / as no one else has . . . / as he made me for the first time, his."

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Narrated in the style of an "advice" manual, this is the chronicle of a woman who undergoes a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries. The tone is sardonic. The story begins with the office visit in which the doctor delivers the news and reassures her that she is too "intelligent and sophisticated" to associate her womanhood with her reproductive organs. The physician attempts to persuade the narrator to have her ovaries removed--preventive medicine against the possibility of ovarian cancer--and she finally agrees while groggy from pre-operative anaesthesia. Nothing has prepared her for the emotional and physical lability she experiences after surgery. Even her sexual relationship with her husband is changed.

As she returns for post-operative check-ups, she becomes increasingly conscious of the indignities of the office visit and physical examination: "it strikes [her] that this maximum-efficiency set-up [three cubicles with naked, waiting women] might serve equally well for a brothel and perhaps already does." She feels that she has made a terrible mistake in allowing the doctor to have talked her into anything and that as a male, "there is nothing he can tell you about how you feel, for the simple reason that he does not know."

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Skanks

Sparks, Rennie

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story illustrates how terrifying and painful adolescence can be when lived according to the relentless standards of physical attractiveness, especially thinness. Janine, the teenage narrator, is overweight and unattractive; Dawn is her self-absorbed best friend. Janine is bulimic, a ritual she engages in when not going to the mall looking for boys, that is, looking for someone who will love her. The story illuminates the allure of thinness to an overweight adolescent who believes, because everyone tells her so, that with thinness comes acceptance, popularity, and love.

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The Black Swan

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The setting is Germany in the late 1920s. Rosalie, the central character, is a "sociable," cheerful 50 year old widow who lives with her adult unmarried daughter and her adolescent son. Her manner is youthful but "her health had been affected by certain critical organic phenomena of her time of life." Rosalie is keenly aware of all that menopause implies: the loss of sexual allure and of a (biologic) purpose in life. She feels "superannuated."

Along comes a young man, well-built, who is the American-born tutor for her son. She is overwhelmed by physical attraction for him, becoming infatuated, much to the disapproval of her repressed, cerebral daughter. She feels young and attractive once more, believing that her heightened state of sensuality has resulted in the resumption of what appears to be menstrual bleeding.

Planning to declare her love to the tutor, Rosalie arranges a family excursion to the Rhine castle where the black swans swim. In the decaying alcoves of the castle, she does so; the pair will rendezvous that night. The rendezvous never takes place; Rosalie has hemorrhaged. She is found to have a large, metastatic uterine tumor.

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The Culture of Pain

Morris, David

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

On the first page, Morris summarizes his project in this book: to "describe how the experience of pain is decisively shaped or modified by individual human minds and by specific human cultures. It explores what we might call the historical, cultural, and psychosocial construction of pain." Contemporary Western culture tries to convince us that pain is nothing but an aspect of disease and, therefore, a medical problem. But pain only exists in human experience; nerve impulses are not pain.

In calling our attention to the social and cultural meanings of pain, Morris begins with Tolstoy's short novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (see this database). He then presents various images of human suffering: gender-based pain, as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper (see this database: annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Jack Coulehan); religious views, as in the stories of Job and the Christian martyrs; the aesthetic ideal, as manifested in the romantic idea of the sublime as painful; social uses, as in satire and torture (see Kafka's In the Penal Colony, annotated in this database); the relationship between pain and sex, as in the work of Marquis de Sade; and tragic pain, as evidenced in Sophocles' Philoctetes.

Throughout the book, Morris refers to the "invisible epidemic" of chronic pain that exists in the United States today. This epidemic of chronic pain can be adequately understood and treated only by approaching it with a cultural model, rather than a disease model.

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The Dwarf

Bradbury, Ray

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Aimee and Ralph work at a carnival, Ralph collecting tickets at the Mirror Maze where uneven mirrors reflect distorted images. A dwarf named Mr. Bigelow comes to the maze; Ralph takes Aimee in to spy on the dwarf as he goes into a mirror room which reflects him as tall and slender. Ralph enjoys sneering at the dwarf, but Aimee feels sad and also feels very attracted to him. She investigates, learns he's a writer, wants to help him.

She decides to buy a mirror like one in the maze that reflects him as normal. Ralph, out of spite and perhaps some jealousy, replaces the enlarging mirror with one that makes people seem tiny. The dwarf "shrieking hysterically and sobbing" runs out of the maze. Aimee feels desperately sad and guilty, because Ralph would not have played that trick if he weren't irritated by her interest in Mr. Bigelow.

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The Stone Diaries

Shields, Carol

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Stone Diaries recount the life of Daisy Goodwill (1905-199? [sic]). "[W]ife, mother, citizen of our century," her son closes the benediction of her memorial service. Yet Daisy is also the orphaned daughter of an orphan--her dramatic birth a turning point for her father, the neighbours--and a social outcast. Daisy becomes a happy child, a lifelong friend, a college graduate, a consummate gardener, a cultivator of stories, a pragmatist, a romantic, a widow twice (once scandalously, once more ordinarily) . . . . In short, the diaries of "Day's Eye" bear witness to the extraordinary lives of seemingly ordinary "citizens."

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Part of Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul, Houston's essay is a cynical, self-deprecating, painfully honest, and wryly humorous observation of contemporary American women's obsession with their bodies, most notably thinness. Musing on her own lifelong fixation with weighing less, she admits that "for a good part of my life I would have quite literally given anything to be thin . . . a finger, three toes, the sight in one eye." Her essay is a collection of snapshots in her life, moments that bring into focus her displeasure with her body shape and size: walking down Fifth Avenue sizing up other women's bodies; the dinner habits of her family of origin that prohibited bread, dessert, or seconds; her husband's (thin) women employees who eyeball her body; her ongoing relationship with mirrors.

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A Report to an Academy

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Jan-29-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A former ape presents his report to a meeting of the scientific Academy. Less than five years ago, he was captured in the jungles of West Africa. While on the ship returning to Europe, the ape came to the realization that there was no way out: "I was pinned down." Even if he should escape from his cage, he knew there would be no way to go home.

However, the ape developed a profound inward calm, thanks in part to the kindness of the ship's crew. His close observation of the crew and other humans allowed him to imitate them. In general, they were easy to imitate, although some of the viler human habits like drinking schnapps were more difficult to get used to. Finally, he realized that the only way to stay out of the zoo was to become human enough to perform as an ape-turned-human on the vaudeville stage. That's what he did.

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