Showing 671 - 680 of 889 annotations tagged with the keyword "Empathy"

The Transparent Man

Hecht, Anthony

Last Updated: Apr-08-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem begins, "I'm mighty glad to see you, Mrs. Curtis." The speaker is a woman who is dying of leukemia and Mrs. Curtis is the lady who comes around periodically with the book-cart, offering patients something to read. While the other patients are celebrating the holiday with family or friends, the speaker, who has no visitors, feels conspicuous and lonely. Thus, she is grateful for Mrs. Curtis' regular visit, especially since the book-cart lady appears willing to sit down and listen.

The patient's father is afraid to visit, since he knows "that I will predecease him / which is hard enough." Chemotherapy hasn't helped. The leukemia makes her so fatigued that she doesn't even feel like reading. So instead, she sits by the window and looks at the trees. Since the leaves have fallen, the trees look like "magnificent enlargements / Of the vascular system of the human brain."

The patient has given names to these "discarnate minds." For example, "there, near the path, / Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler / Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash." These trees remind her of "The Transparent Man," a toy one of her friends had when they were girls. "It was made of plastic, with different colored organs, / And the circulatory system all mapped out / In rivers of red and blue." At the time she and her friend giggled, but now she remembers the intricacy with amazement, and stares at the riddle of the trees.

The dying patient decides not to take one of the books, but thanks Mrs. Curtis again for coming. [120 lines]

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Letters from a Father

Van Duyn, Mona

Last Updated: Apr-08-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem consists of six "letters" in verse from an aged, chronically ill father to his daughter. In the first he presents in excruciating detail the sorry state of his body, and also Mother, "who falls and forgets her salve / and her tranquilizers, her ankles swell so and her bowels / are so bad . . . " Things are so bad that he has "made my peace because am just plain done for . . . " At the end he mentions the fact that, though the daughter enjoys her bird feeder, he doesn't see the point; "I'd buy / poison and get rid of their diseases and turds."

In the second letter, written after the daughter visited and gave them a bird feeder, he says that Mother likes to sit and watch the birds. In the next one, he talks about how much the birds eat and fight. As the letters progress, they include less and less about the parents' pain and disability, and more and more convey curiosity and, eventually, enthusiasm for bird watching.

By letter #5 the father ticks off the names of numerous species he has observed, and at the end casually mentions, "I pulled my own tooth, it didn't bleed at all." Finally, "It's sure a surprise how well mother is doing, / she forgets her laxative but bowels move fine." He ends by describing his plans for buying birdseed for the next winter. [112 lines]

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Tourette's Journey

Richman, Jan

Last Updated: Apr-08-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem employs language in ways that are characteristic of the involuntary outbursts seen in patients with Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome. The devices include frequent obscenities, word repetition, and a jerky, spasmodic forward motion. The male Tourette patient is thwacking "the roof of the car, knuckles / calloused and winking . . . " He is driving with his wife beside him, patting her thigh, "her thighs are warm as kettles, your palms moist / as hiss . . . " Whatever it is that happens in the last stanza, he becomes excited, "god damn, god fucking / damn, and god bless." [30 lines]

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a beautiful, unattached psychiatrist whose business-like facade fails to conceal a natural empathy that draws men. For her, however, love is a mere epi-phenomenon, easy to explain and resist, until she meets Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck). The famous expert on the guilt complex has arrived to replace the retiring chief (Leo Carroll). Constance is smitten, and so, it seems, is he.

But soon, she realizes that Edwardes is "not well," that he is terrified of dark lines on white: fork marks on a tablecloth; threads in her robe. Worse, she discovers that Edwardes is not, in fact, Edwardes, but an amnesic physician of initials "J. B." who is convinced that he has murdered his analyst. Constance does the right thing by having him removed from work, but she refuses to believe he is a murderer. Wanting to protect her, he leaves. But she, intent on curing her lover, follows him on a journey to retrace his last movements. The task is to recover both a memory and a missing person.

They go skiing (dark lines on white) at a resort where the real Dr. Edwardes had sojourned with his patient-colleague. On a dangerous slope, J. B. suddenly remembers that Edwardes went over the cliff. The body is found, but it has a bullet in the back.

Now hiding from the police, the couple pose as newlyweds and flee to her old mentor in Rochester. Complete with accent and beard, Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov) is a delightful double of the recently deceased Sigmund Freud (1858-1939). It emerges that John Ballantine (Peck) never lost his childhood feelings of guilt over the accidental death of his little brother.

In a gruesome ten-second flashback, the tyke is abruptly impaled on a iron-spike fence. This ancient guilt was reactivated by his doctor’s demise and it was sublimated by the defense mechanism of an assumed identity to keep the dead man alive. An idle slip of the tongue reveals the murderer to be the jealous retiree. The killer threatens Constance and then makes a quick end by dispatching himself instead.

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The Lifted Veil

Eliot, George (Marian Evans)

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, Latimer, begins the story with a vision of his death, which he attributes to a heart attack. He explains that, always sensitive after a childhood eye affliction and his mother's death, the further shock of a "severe illness" while at school in Geneva enabled him to see the future, and to hear others' thoughts--an experience which he describes as oppressive. He is fascinated by his brother's fiancée, Bertha, the only human whose thoughts are hidden from him, and whom he marries after his brother dies in a fall.

The marriage falters after Latimer eventually discerns Bertha's cold and manipulative nature through a temporary increase in his telepathy. When Latimer's childhood friend, the scientist Charles Meunier, performs an experimental transfusion between himself and Bertha's just-dead maid, the maid briefly revives and accuses Bertha of plotting to poison Latimer. Bertha moves out, and Latimer dies as foretold.

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The Fifth Child

Lessing, Doris

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "free love" context of the nineteen-sixties, Harriet and David Lovatt are throwbacks to a more conservative, traditional, and family-oriented decade. Their life dream is to have a big house in the country filled with children, and it seems that they will succeed. After bearing four young children, however, Harriet is feeling the strain of years of childbearing, sleeplessness, money trouble, and her parents' and in-laws' disapproval of her fecundity.

Her fifth pregnancy is not only unplanned, but also unusually painful and disruptive. Harriet's doctor prescribes sedatives but finds nothing abnormal in her situation. When Ben is born, Harriet jokes that he is like "a troll or a goblin," but no one responds well to this unusually hairy and physically vigorous baby, who in turn does not respond to anything but his own desires and fears.

As he grows older, family pets and other children seem to be in physical danger. Health care professionals do not confirm the couple's conviction that Ben is not normal, but neither do they obstruct the decision to send Ben to a private institution, a removal that leaves the family temporarily happy until Harriet visits Ben and recognizes the institution for what it is, a place where all manner of "different" children are sent to live heavily medicated, physically restrained, and foreshortened lives away from families who do not want them.

Harriet brings Ben home, where he grows up amid what remains of the Lovatts' domestic fantasy, and finds community in a gang of thuggish older boys whom Harriet suspects are involved in various criminal acts. As the story closes, Ben has left home and Harriet imagines him in another country, "searching the faces in the crowd for another of his own kind" (133).

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House Calls

Thomas, Lewis

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

This short autobiographical account gives a flavor of American medical practice in the early part of the 20th century. It also sketches the medical "persona" and the human character of the author's father.

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Touching

Hellerstein, David

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A third year medical student rotates through a gynecology clinic at the university. The attending Dr. Snarr, is supposed to treat his patients' chronic pelvic pain, but only seems to inflict pain himself. The student/narrator wants to comfort the patients, but lacks the knowledge, skills, and authority. The student also feels uncomfortable with issues of sexuality and intimacy with these female patients.

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The Practice

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

In this chapter from late in his autobiography Williams focuses on his subjective experience in caring for patients. The unusual truthfulness of patients in need, their "coming to grips with the intimate conditions of their lives," inspires him both personally and artistically, as a poet. The things that patients reveal about themselves and about the human condition not only keep him going as a physician; they are the stuff of poetry, the human truths that lie beneath the "dialectical clouds" we construct to protect ourselves from contact in everyday life.

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Dream Story

Schnitzler, Arthur

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Fridolin, a doctor, and his wife, Albertine, have been married for a few years and are the parents of a much adored little girl. In a moment of unusual frankness, they decide to confess all their temptations and adventures to one another. Albertine admits that she deeply desired a blond Dane encountered in the previous summer. Fridolin professes to welcome this news and tells of similar attractions. They promise to confide the sexual adventures of their waking and dreaming states.

But Fridolin is not at ease. The idea that his wife desired another-even in a dream-inspires a jealous energy that sends him in search of adventures that will reassure him of his own desirability and hurt if not repudiate Albertine. On the pretext of a house call, he wanders, masked and unmasked, through the decadent private clubs and cafés of night-time Vienna. He toys with the dismal daughter of a patient, an "unspoiled" prostitute, and a sophisticated matron--none of whom he actually claims, all of whom remind him of his wife, one of whom dies, he believes, in protecting him.

Uncertain if his adventure was reality or dream, he returns with tenderness to Albertine, although he has repeatedly vowed to leave her. He tells his entire story; she listens with better grace than he would have done. Then he asks what they should do. She replies that they should be grateful to have "emerged safely from these adventures" . . . "neither the reality of a single night nor even of a person's entire life can be equated with the full truth about his innermost being." "And no dream," he responds "is altogether a dream." (p. 98-9). They begin another day.

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