Showing 721 - 730 of 919 annotations tagged with the keyword "Suffering"

King Lear

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The King begins to make bad judgments: he "retires" from the worries of kingship, but expects to retain the privileges; he divides the kingdom, something every king knows better than to do; he banishes his only honest daughter and his most loyal advisor. Lest the reader not get the significance of these actions, they are mirrored in the actions of one of his royal party, Gloucester.

Nature announces impending trouble and the aging king reveals the magnitude of his dementia in a scene of violent delirium. The complex conspiracies among the sons and daughters of the king and Gloucester eventually lead to the violent deaths of most of the principles, clearing the way for an establishment of a new stewardship for the kingdom.

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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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Good People

Merwin, W. S.

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker muses about his assumption--which he now believes to be incorrect--that "any person with normal feelings" or who was well-educated would understand "pain when it went on before them / and would do something about it." He tries to explain why, in fact, this does not happen. Perhaps "it escapes their attention" or perhaps . . . . The speaker enumerates his vision of massive slaughter and destruction--of children, animals, " victims under the blankets." [20 lines]

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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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Neverland

Kinnell, Galway

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

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The scene is a sickroom in which the narrator stands at his dying sister's bed. He wishes that she could be "snatched up / to die by surprise" without ever knowing about death. The sister speaks, "I am in three parts." One is red for pain, one is yellow for exhaustion, and the other is white: "I don't know yet what white is."

The narrator stews for a while in his fears of dying, but his sister speaks again, saying that she is not afraid, but, "I just wish it didn't take so long." "Let's go home," she suddenly says, and he recalls images of their youth, and these images shuttle back and forth into the sickroom until at the end of the poem, "they ratchet the box holding / her body into the earth . . . " [79 lines]

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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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Parkinson's Disease

Kinnell, Galway

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

There are two characters in this poem. One is the man with Parkinson's disease, who is being fed: "He will not accept the next morsel / until he has completely chewed this one." The man stands, shuffles to the toilet, pees, and then has his diaper changed. The second character is his daughter, who does the feeding and "holds his hand with her other hand, / or rather lets it rest on top of his." The daughter helps her father to the bathroom and "holds the spout of the bottle / to his old penis." On the way back, as she walks backward in front of him, "she is leading her old father into the future."

Wait a second! A third character--the subject, "I"--suddenly appears on this intimate scene. Near the end of the poem the invisible "I" turns the reader's attention to himself: "I watch them closely: she could be teaching him / the last steps that one day she may teach me." [64 lines]

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

Anna, the "I" of this journal, suffered the pain of emotional abuse in her childhood. As an adult, she works in a hospice and cares for patients consumed by physical pain. She begins to "hunger for storylessness," wishing to find a way to separate pain from the experience of pain; yet without a narrative frame she cannot recognize pain in its original and pure state--the pain that occurs before language or thought. And so she enters into a meditation practice in order to see pain "uncompounded."

The book is divided into three sections, each reflecting a part of Anna's meditation practice and each containing sections of dreams, meditation notes, and musings on three friends who have died. As her meditations deepen, Anna begins to see pain in more detail, and in so doing begins to understand the difference between pain and suffering. Pain, she concludes, is inevitable. But suffering can be dismantled, carefully, like a house might be. The goal is to keep the house "whole enough" so it doesn't collapse and crush the individual living within.

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Summary:

This is a brilliant reconstruction of a most improbable event: the major contributions made to the great Oxford English Dictionary by a deeply delusional, incarcerated 'madman,' and the development of a true friendship between him and the editor of the dictionary. One sees here the redemptive potential of work and love in even the most deeply psychotic patient.

Incongruously the patient is an American physician who was discharged because of service-related mental instability from the U.S. Army after the Civil War and received a pension for life. He went to Europe to seek relief of his delusional symptoms and ended up killing a man. Judged to be criminally insane, he was institutionalized at the newly built showpiece of the British penal system, the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Broadmoor. While there he read an advertisement requesting volunteer help in reading specific books and making word lists and describing how the words were used in the books for the preparation of the new Oxford English Dictionary.

Over the next twenty years Dr. Minor, who was a voracious reader and had accumulated a large library, became the greatest contributor and maintained a lively correspondence with the famous editor, Dr. James Murray. For these many years they never met and Dr. Murray did not suspect that Dr. Minor was insane and institutionalized. After their meeting they became friends. The institutional care appeared to be very humane and Dr. Minor was a special patient in many ways, yet never regained his normal demeanor.

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