Showing 791 - 800 of 878 annotations tagged with the keyword "Society"

The Road to Wellville

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fall of 1907, Will and Eleanor Lightbody, a wealthy, neurotic couple from Peterskill, New York travel to Battle Creek, Michigan to immerse themselves in the routine of the famous sanitarium run by corn-flake inventor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. They meet Charlie Ossining who is seeking his fortune in the fickle market of Battle Creek's breakfast food industry. The Lightbodys have just lost their infant daughter and Eleanor is taking Will to the "san" for the cure. An inveterate meat-eater with a sexual appetite, Will was addicted, first to alcohol, and then, to opium, after his wife spiked his coffee with an off-the-shelf-remedy for drink.

At the sanitarium, they must occupy separate rooms, refrain from sex, and piously eat inflexible non-meat diets. Therapies include five daily enemas, exercises, "radiated" water, and an electrical "sinusoidal bath," which accidentally fries one of the residents. Kellogg is gravely disappointed in Will's inability to toe the "physiologic" line, but he is more deeply disturbed by his adopted son, George, whose chosen life on the street is a perpetual embarrassment.

Worried about his sexual prowess and deprived of his wife, Will becomes obsessed with his beautiful nurse and opts for the stimulation of an electrical belt; equally frustrated and bent on self-starvation, his wife turns to the quack "Dr Spitzvogel" who specializes in nudism and "manipulation of the womb." Brought to their senses by humiliation, Will and Eleanor go home.

Meanwhile, Charlie has joined with George Kellogg and borrowed from Will to keep his business afloat, but he realizes that he has been swindled. He only narrowly escapes jail, during a fiery commotion created by George who is then murdered by his adoptive father.

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Nana

Zola, Emile

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As the book opens, Fauchery, a drama critic, is waiting for the hottest play in Paris to open. "The Blonde Venus" has bad music and bad actresses, but a new star, Nana, who appears on stage clad only in a diaphanous wrap brings down the house anyway. Nana is an experienced concubine. She exploits the hysteria caused by her nearly nude performance to win Steiner, a wealthy banker. Steiner buys her a country house where she entertains other lovers to win more gifts. Here she also has a brief affair with the penniless student George.

Steiner soon sets her loose and she takes up with Fontan, an actor. She tries to be domestic and kind, but Fontan beats her, then abandons her and she turns to streetwalking. Threatened by the police, who in order to prevent the spread of syphilis can imprison women and perform mandatory gynecological exams, she quickly searches for a new, wealthy lover. She finds Muffat whom she humiliates, trampling on his uniform and sleeping with whomever she likes. One day, Muffat finds her in the arms of young George and then with his elderly father-in-law. Nana also brings home Stain, a streetwalker, to be her lover and confidant.

Young George finally grows so jealous of Muffat and of his brother, another of Nana's conquests, he kills himself in her bedroom. Her other lovers must step over the bloodstain to approach Nana's bed. Soon after, Nana catches smallpox and dies miserably, the disease ravaging her beauty. She dies in 1870 just as the Franco-Prussian War begins.

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Woman on the Edge of Time

Piercy, Marge

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Consuelo Camacho Ramos (Connie) was placed in Bellevue Hospital because she abused drugs and alcohol after the police killed her blind, African-American lover. She was accused of child abuse and her daughter was put up for adoption. When the novel opens, Connie has been released and is living in New York with little money and no hope of a job.

She begins to be visited by an individual from the year 2137 who calls "himself" Luciente. He communicates with Connie mentally and she visits his world in the same way, experiencing everything without moving her body. Luciente’s community is not divided along gender lines. Indeed, "he" turns out to be what Connie calls "female," though the name means nothing in this future world.

Reproduction takes place in an artificial environment in which fetuses are delivered at ten months to improve their strength. Every child has three "mothers," but is raised by the entire community. Luciente’s community is fighting a war against forces that want people to live in a hierarchical system in which women all become prostitutes, victims of a larger, manipulating force, a battle Connie also fights in her world.

When Connie breaks the nose of her niece’s pimp, he takes her back to Bellevue. No one believes that she did not provoke the attack. They assume she is mad. In an exemplary moment, the nurses who attend to Connie talk over her head about how dirty these mad people are. Left tied to a bed for many hours, Connie has urinated on herself and has been unable to wipe her nose. The nurses ignore every word she says.

Connie learns to manipulate the system, not swallowing her pills and telling her counselor that indeed she was sick but now feels much better. She draws the line, however, when she is chosen to be a subject in an experiment. The doctors plan to implant electrodes into the patients’ brains to control the patients’ emotions. Connie kills the doctors by slipping poison into their coffee.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In her youth, Mrs. Palfrey had been a model British woman. She married a military man, moved to Borneo and lived happily and properly, giving direction to the natives. She and her husband retired in Britain. Now, however, Mrs. Palfrey is a widow. Her daughter Elizabeth, who lives in Scotland, has not invited her to stay and she is not sure she would want to. Instead, she courageously decides to move into the Claremont Hotel in London, where she meets the other permanent residents who, like herself, are old and rather poor.

Mrs. Palfrey gets the attention and envy of the group when she tells them that her oldest grandchild and heir, Desmond, works at The British Museum and will undoubtedly be coming to visit. He never comes.

One day as Mrs. Palfrey is out for a walk, she falls. A young man, Ludovic Myers (Ludo), comes out of his basement apartment to help her. He takes her inside, doctors her knee, and gives her a cup of tea. He is trying to write a book and finds her an excellent study.

Mrs. Palfrey asks him to pretend to be Desmond so that she can save her reputation. He agrees. Mrs. Palfrey fancies that she is in love with him. They meet rarely, though once he invites her to dinner at his house. He makes an otherwise lonely and dull existence exciting. He is the only one who visits The Claremont without immediately rushing out, feeling as if a terrible duty has been fulfilled.

When one of the older residents at The Claremont becomes incontinent, the management forces her to move. She dies quickly, alone in an understaffed nursing home. Mrs. Palfrey has another fall and winds up in the hospital. Ludo comes to see her; he spends more time with her than any of her family.

She dies.

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As a young woman, Fermina Daza kept a lengthy and passionate correspondence with Florentino Ariza, who was socially her inferior, but was desperately in love with her. They became engaged through their letters, exchanged through hiding places and telegrams in code.

But one day, when Fermina Daza comes close to Florentino Ariza in the market, she feels suddenly ill and tells him it was all a mistake. Instead, she marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino, a European-educated perfectionist, who falls in love with her on a medical visit. Their tumultuous but affectionate marriage lasts over fifty years, through a civil war, cholera outbreaks and the Doctor's brief affair with a patient. Juvenal Urbino distinguishes himself by instituting policies to combat cholera. He dies, falling from a tree as he attempts to catch his pet parrot.

Florentino Ariza comes to the wake. He is now about seventy and controls a wealthy shipping operation. After the other guests leave, he approaches Fermina Daza, saying, "I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and ever-lasting love."

She throws him out of the house, but continues to think of him. He becomes a regular visitor. Finally, they take a boat ride together, down the rivers that are being slowly drained and poisoned, listening for the cries of the manatees. They do not return, but prepare to sail on forever.

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The Body in Pain

Scarry, Elaine

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Scarry argues that pain is the most absolute definer of reality. For the person in pain, there is no reality besides pain; if it hurts, it must be real. This characteristic of pain makes it useful politically. In torture, for example, the reality of the one being tortured is reduced to an awareness of pain, while the torturer’s world remains fully present. This is realized most emphatically when torture is described as information-gathering. The torturer insists on questions that for the tortured are no longer of any concern.

War also makes use of pain. In the dispute that leads to war, one country’s beliefs are pitted against another’s. Both sides’ positions are thus called into question; if there is disagreement about the facts, it becomes apparent that the facts are based in opinion, not reality. The injured bodies of war re-connect the victor’s beliefs with the material world. If the injured body is the ultimate in reality, the injured bodies of war can be used to signify the reality of the victor’s position. Simultaneously, the pain of individuals in war is transferred to inanimate objects or large groups. Thus, one speaks of "Division Six" being wounded or weapons being disabled.

This language also uses the absolute reality of the body in pain to secure the truth of a cultural/political position. Scarry discusses the reality-producing quality of pain in Judeo-Christian scriptures, Marx, and humans’ relationships with inanimate objects.

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Gabriel

Sand, George

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Jules, the Prince of Bramante, has been disappointed in his hopes of having a male heir. His oldest son and wife produced only a girl child, then died. Jules decides to have their child, Gabriel, raised as a boy. She is to be instructed that women are mindless slaves to men, born to suffer, so that when, at adolescence, her sex is revealed to her, she will decide to accept instead the sex her grandfather has given her.

When she is told the truth, Gabriel does not abandon her male costume or demeanor, but she does want to make sure that Astolphe, her cousin who should rightfully inherit the family fortune, has all the money he needs. She sets out to find him. They meet in a bar and before Astolphe learns her identity, they fight with some thieves and are taken to prison. In prison, they swear life-long affection and decide to travel together, winding up in Venice for the carnival.

Astolphe, who has long been disturbed by his attraction to the gentle Gabriel, asks her to dress as a woman to attend a masquerade. She agrees, and he is dumb struck by her appearance. Every man at the ball falls in love with her and when Astolphe reveals that (as he believes) she is really a man, many are astonished. When Astolphe returns home that night, he catches a glimpse of Gabriel undressing and realizes that she is a woman. They become lovers.

Gabriel dresses as a woman and becomes submissive. But Astolphe is unable to achieve the higher love to which Gabriel aspires. He is consumed by jealously, finally locking Gabriel in her room. She escapes and leaves him, returning to her male identity. The story ends when Gabriel is murdered by a man hired by her grandfather to cover up her disobedience. Sand revised the play in 1850 and made Gabriel into a much less independent character named Julia.

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The Cancer Ward

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the men's cancer ward of a hospital in a city in Soviet Central Asia. The patients in Ward 13 all suffer from cancer, but differ in age, personality, nationality, and social class (as if such a thing could be possible in the Soviet "classless" society!). We are first introduced to Pavel Rusanov, a Communist Party functionary, who enters the hospital because of a rapidly-growing neck tumor.

We soon learn, however, that the book's central character is Oleg Kostoglotov, a young man who has recently been discharged from a penal camp and is now "eternally" exiled to this particular province. Only two weeks earlier, he was admitted to the ward in grave condition from an unspecified tumor, but he has responded rapidly to radiation therapy. Among the doctors are Zoya, a medical student; Vera Gangart, a young radiologist; and Lyudmila Dontsova, the chief of radiation therapy.

Rusanov and Kostoglotov respond to therapy and are eventually discharged; other patients remain in the ward, get worse, or are sent home to die. In the end Kostoglotov boards a train to the site of his "eternal" exile: "The long awaited happy life had come, it had come! But Oleg somehow did not recognize it."

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Inter Ice Age 4

Abe, Kobo

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The prelude describes a tidal wave approaching Japan. The story is a first-person narrative by Professor Katsumi, inventor of a self-programming computer which can predict the future. Katsumi and his assistant, Tanamogi, plan to predict the future of a private, individual destiny. They choose a subject from the street and follow him. The next day's paper announces his murder.

To solve the case and forestall suspicion, Katsumi downloads the contents of the man's brain, reconstructs his existence, and questions him/it. The victim did not see his murderer, but he tells the team his mistress had sold her aborted foetus for 7000 yen. Then the mistress is murdered. Katsumi's wife has a forced abortion and receives 7000 yen. Katsumi suspects an organization. His assistant Tanamogi volunteers the name of an organization experimenting with extra-utero development of foetuses, and arranges for Katsumi to visit their lab. Gradually Katsumi learns of a vast conspiracy to create an underwater nation, complete with genetically altered water-oxygenating humans and animals, bred in anticipation of the predicted destruction of Japan by a tidal wave.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In his study, Professor Starr examines the evolution of the practice and the culture of medicine in the United States from the end of the colonial period into the last quarter of the twentieth century. His major concerns are with the development of authority, and the Janus image of professionalization as medicine has gained power, technical expertise, and effective modes of diagnosis and treatment and at the same time seems to be getting further from the patient.

At the time of publication, our society had finally begun to take a hard look at the impracticality and the inhumanity of continuing on the trajectory of American medicine developed one hundred years ago. Starr invites the reader to consider the impact of modern stress on the profession and, more intently, on the constituency it is dedicated to serve.

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