Showing 651 - 660 of 899 annotations tagged with the keyword "Empathy"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

In this short volume, Janet Malcolm frames a series of reflections on Chekhov's life and work with her pilgrimage to Chekhov-related sites in Russia and the Ukraine. The book begins with Malcolm's visit to Oreanda, a village on the Crimean coast near Yalta, which is the site where the fictional lovers in Chekhov's story The Lady with the Dog (1899, see annotation) sit quietly and look out at the sea on the morning after their first sexual encounter. While these lovers are fictional, their creator actually spent the last several years of his life as a respiratory cripple living amid the seascapes around Yalta.

The visit to Oreanda occurred near the end of Janet Malcolm's literary journey, but it provides a fulcrum or center of gravity for the book. From there, she constructs a narrative with three interweaving plots. One consists of her reminiscences of the last 10 days or so in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and her visit to Chekhov's estate (now a state museum) in the village of Melikhovo, south of Moscow. A second presents biographical material about Chekhov. Malcolm triangulates and interweaves these two with critical observations about the writer's stories and plays.

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The Case of Dr. Sachs

Winckler, Martin

Last Updated: Nov-27-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

At the heart of this novel is a simple love story. Dr. Bruno Sachs, a slight, stooped, and somewhat unkempt general practitioner in a French village is dedicated to his work and loved by his patients. Sachs is a solitary, self-effacing man who takes his Hippocratic duties seriously and is especially sensitive to the needs of his patients.

In addition to his private practice, Sachs works part-time at an abortion clinic, where he performs an abortion on a distraught young woman named Pauline Kasser. Soon the doctor and his patient fall in love. She moves in with him and becomes pregnant. An editor by profession, Pauline also encourages and assists Dr. Sachs in completing the book he is writing.

The story has many additional layers and dimensions. The reader views Sachs through the eyes of multiple narrators--his patients, colleagues, friends and acquaintances, all of whom write in the first person and present Bruno Sachs as "you" or "he." Thus, the reader gradually builds up a "connection" (empathy) with Sachs by synthesizing multiple glimpses of his behavior and facets of his character. At the same time, Sachs is trying to find his own voice, his own connection, by becoming a writer. At first he jots down random thoughts, then he keeps a notebook, and eventually he produces a complete manuscript.

The book has innovative structural elements that introduce other layers of meaning. For example, the 112 short chapters are organized into seven sections, corresponding with the components of a complete clinical case history: presentation (as in "chief complaint"), history, clinical examination, further investigations, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Similarly, the narratives delve progressively into Sachs' "illness" and follow the "patient" through his course of "treatment."

Another structural element is the cycle of fertility and gestation. The story takes place from September through June, precisely 40 weeks, a pregnancy of nine months, during which Sachs is re-born.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Responding to the suppression of an historic event barely recalled today--5000 Madrid civilians executed for revolting against the invading Napoleonic French army--Goya painted a monumental canvas. The painter depicts fear and defiance in the enlarged white eyes of the patriots still alive, some shielding their eyes and faces with their hands. Profuse blood seeps from the dead lying in groups all over the ground as the firing squad of well-equipped professional soldiers massed together (only their backsvisible to the viewer), shoot at alarmingly close range unarmed, shabbily dressed peasants.

Strong light from a single lantern illuminates the face and body of one white shirted condemned man on his knees, eyes wide-open, leaning forward, arms outstretched, Christ-like, at the moment he is being shot. The powerless, innocent and grieving victims, next to be sacrificed, are hemmed in by a barren hill behind which looms the outline of barely visible city buildings, including a church.

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Cut to the Word

Metcalf, Tim

Last Updated: Nov-12-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Tim Metcalfe is an Australian general practitioner who gave up medical practice to become a full-time poet and writer. A statement on the back cover summarizes the process in relation to this collection of 38 poems: " ’Cut to the Word’ is a moving account of one man’s transition from doctor to poet." He begins with the customary initiation: "We were introduced, respectfully, / to the volunteer dead . . . " (p. 13) He discovers the limitations and uncertainties of his new profession: "In tense moments / I wish my stethoscope / was all they want it to be." (p. 18) And the omnivorous demands of medicine: "I come home from work / and there it is: the family / the oldest crying / at the youngest crying / at her mother’s anger / at her crying . . . " (p. 21)

Metcalfe carries the reader through a series of short, incisive poems describing the doctor’s day-to-day work ("Morning Session, " pp. 47-50), as well as through a number of disturbing poems about the world of mental illness, but the book’s climax--so to speak--arrives with "The Doctor’s Complaint, " in which the physician heals herself "by laying down her stethoscope / and walking right out / of that in-patient clinic." At the end the poet writes, "Like a patient I have learned silence . . . Fine steel scissors in hand, / I cut to the word." (p. 63)

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D Day, 1994

Coulehan, Jack

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this five-stanza free verse poem the speaker, a physician, observes the patient, a young man dying of cancer and suffering pain in the arm he has lost to the disease. The patient watches television, and sees the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of D Day, the Allied landing in France in World War II. The old soldiers, the war veterans, are enviable for the "honor" provided by the source of their losses and injuries, the sense of meaning that comes from winning a war, which is so unlike the arbitrary and passive suffering of cancer in which, as the speaker says, there's "no honor."

The patient has asked whether a scan would explain the pain in his phantom limb; the physician muses that a scan is the wrong place to look, not just because there is no arm to scan, but because what the cancer patient really lacks is a story which can make sense of and justify his misery. The veterans have such a story. Although they are aging and have suffered, the speaker longs to give his patient "their battles," the sense of significance and value (a story recognized by the whole world, as the TV broadcast indicates) which cancer lacks.

The poet plays with the "D's" of D Day: "deception, danger, death," are all inherent in the world, but seldom accessible to confrontation as they are in war (to this extent war is like the scan, making the sources of pain visible and so manageable). A fourth "D" is added, for "deliverance," implying that the "old men's stories" of battles and victory compensate for their suffering in a way that nothing can for the cancer patient.

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The Paralytic

Greuze, Jean-Baptiste

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

The setting is a room in a home. Stretched out--half lying, half sitting--an elderly man ("the paralytic") gazes passively at a plate of food that is being held out to him by a gentleman who stands, bending toward him. In contrast to the paralytic, who wears a brown house coat, the standing men is properly dressed, but has a cloth draped over his left arm and holds a utensil in his right hand. The paralytic's arms, slightly bent, extend limply over his body; one foot rests on a stool and his lower limbs are covered with a blanket.

Hovering around the invalid with all eyes turned in his direction are several women, children, and a dog. The only figure who is not looking at the patient is a boy who kneels at his side, with an arm placed gently on the man's leg. In his stretched out position, the paralyzed man occupies a large space at the center of the picture and dominates it. The viewer's attention is further drawn to this central figure by the lighting--the background is dark while the cushion against which the man rests is light and glistens, and the man's face is bathed in light. Hence the viewer participates with the family in focusing attention on the invalid.

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Philoctetes

Sophocles

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

En route to the way to the Trojan War, warrior Philoctetes, wielder of the bow of Heracles, is bitten by a poisonous snake at the shrine of the goddess Chryse. The infected wound becomes so painful that Philoctetes’s screams of agony repel the Greek commanders, who order Odysseus to leave him on the island of Lemnos. Ten years later (the time of the play’s opening scene), Odysseus returns to Lemnos with Neoptolemus, son of the now-dead Achilles, to retrieve Philoctetes’s bow. It has been prophesied that only with this bow can Troy be conquered.

Promising him glory and honor, Odysseus convinces Neoptolemus to win Philoctetes’s trust and take the bow. Philoctetes, delighted to see any human and especially another Greek, shares his story with Neoptolemus, begs him to take him back to Greece, and entrusts him with the bow when he is overcome by a spasm of pain.

Deeply moved by witnessing Philoctetes’s misery firsthand, Neoptolemus confesses the truth to him, but tries to persuade Philoctetes to accompany him to Troy. When Odysseus appears, Neoptolemus returns the bow, declaring that only with Philoctetes himself wielding it will the prophesy be fulfilled. He asks forgiveness, and invites Philoctetes to come back with him to be healed and then on to Troy to contribute to the battle. The only thing that ends Philoctetes’s refusal is the sudden appearance of Heracles, who announces that Philoctetes and Neoptolemus must join together to take Troy.

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The Lesson

Hearle, Kevin

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker had a childhood disability--"my strange, unruly hands"--that made tying his shoes a task to be dreaded, symbolizing failure. He addresses a caregiver who patiently ("for three years, for an hour each day") had taught him to tie his shoes. She reassured the child, "The doctors don't know / everything. You will be normal // someday. Normal."

The caregiver has also experienced bodily difficulties--from curvature of the spine caused by childhood spinal [tubercular] meningitis. She tells the child about her out of body experience ("You told me you'd died once") when she had seen herself on "the table," the "frantic" doctors calling her back "to the particular / boundaries of the flesh." She allowed them to bring her back.

Now, the adult speaker, no longer disabled, ties his shoes "by instinct," "my mind giving itself // up to the common world / of things" but when he focuses on the task, he slows down and remembers his caregiver; he becomes aware of his body, he becomes aware.

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In Memorium

Hearle, Kevin

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is in memory of poet, John Logan (1923-1987), who, it is surmised, killed himself by jumping off a building. The speaker of the poem imagines what might have been troubling Logan, who had been disabled by strokes.

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Sense and Sensibility

Austen, Jane

Last Updated: Oct-11-2002
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood suffer similar reverses in appearing to lose the affection of their chosen suitors. But whereas Marianne indulges her exorbitant sensibility in her relationship with, and loss of, her suitor Willoughby, Elinor's quiet good sense enables her to bear up when it seems her suitor, Edward Ferrars, will marry another woman. Austen rewards Elinor with Edward's hand, while Marianne must be content to learn to love a steadier husband, Colonel Brandon.

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