Showing 811 - 820 of 878 annotations tagged with the keyword "Society"

The Last Gentleman

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Williston (Will) Barnett, the damaged son of an old Southern family, is the protagonist of this rambling, picaresque novel. While living in New York, Will meets Kitty McVaught, a young Alabama woman whose father owns the world's largest Chevrolet agency. Will, who suffers from bouts of amnesia and fugue states, follows Kitty back to Alabama and meets her family, including her mother, who believes the South lost the Civil War as a result of a Jewish conspiracy; her older brother Sutter, a failed physician and self-proclaimed pornographer; her sister Val, a devoted Roman Catholic who works among the poor black children; and a 16 year old brother Jamie, who is terminally ill.

Will's mission in this novel is to discover why his father committed suicide when Will was 12 years old, and thereby achieve some healing of his own memories, but most of the action in the novel involves various members of the McVaught family, especially Sutter and Val, who represent the warfare between animal desire (Sutter) and angelic spirit (Val) in this fallen world. The novel's climactic scene takes place in Santa Fe, where Jamie undergoes a deathbed conversion. Afterward, Will presumably returns to Alabama to marry Kitty and do something constructive with his life.

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Chekhov. A Biography

Simmons, Ernest

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

A comprehensive and quite readable biography of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) by an eminent scholar of Russian literature. Five aspects of Chekhov’s life (as presented here) stand out as particularly interesting: First, the central importance to Chekhov of his self-image as a physician, even in the latter part of his career when he had given up the regular practice of medicine.

Second, the theme of philanthropy (especially in medical and educational areas) that runs through his entire life. For example, even while he was dying of tuberculosis himself, Chekhov was still actively involved in raising money to build a tuberculosis sanitarium at Yalta for poor writers. Third, the fascinating portrait of a person who was extremely compassionate and emotional, yet very reserved and reluctant to express his feelings to others, even to close friends.

Fourth, his long denial (even to himself, perhaps) that he suffered from tuberculosis, even though the diagnosis must have been medically obvious. For example, he began having episodes of coughing up blood as early as 1887 or 1888. Fifth, Chekhov’s fascinating decision to marry Olga Knipper (1901) at a time when he was already gravely ill and an invalid, after having shown no interest in matrimony (and a generally flippant attitude in his relationships with female friends) throughout his adult life.

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Woyzeck

Buchner, Georg

Last Updated: Jun-19-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Woyzeck is the all-purpose servant of a German Captain. The Captain considers him amoral and stupid, largely because Woyzeck is poor. Woyzeck also makes money by allowing the Doctor to experiment on him. He has eaten nothing but peas in order to prove some unstated scientific premise.

Woyzeck discovers his girlfriend, Marie, with whom he has had a son, having an affair with the drum major. He brings Marie to the side of a pond and slits her throat. After getting drunk, Woyzeck realizes that people are looking at him suspiciously and he returns to the pond and presumably drowns himself.

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The Moviegoer

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Mar-25-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

John Binkerson ("Binx") Bolling is a young man from a "good" New Orleans family who for some years has devoted himself to money, sex, and watching movies. During Mardi Gras, when the novel begins, he wakes up to the vague feeling that something more is needed in his life.

We meet his Aunt Emily, a Southern noblewoman, and his cousin Kate, who is said to be somewhat unstable since her fiance's death some years earlier; she is currently engaged to the virtually invisible Walter. The action also takes us to the bayous, where Binx visits his remarried (Catholic) mother and her family, including his sickly adolescent stepbrother, Lonnie. (Binx's father died in World War II; Binx, himself, has survived service in the Korean Conflict.)

Subsequently, Binx takes a trip to Chicago with Kate; on the train she offers to have sex with him, but he refuses. Binx and Kate must then respond to Lonnie's unexpected death. In the end Binx decides to give up his business as a bond dealer and go to medical school, and he and Kate decide to marry.

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In the Penal Colony

Kafka, Franz

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An explorer visits the penal colony, where an officer demonstrates to him the Harrow, an instrument used to inflict capital punishment. The Harrow is an extraordinarily elegant instrument: the condemned man lies face-down on a Bed, while a complex system of needles inscribes the commandment he has broken (e.g. HONOR THY SUPERIORS) on his back. The needles pierce deeper and deeper until the prisoner dies. In the process of dying, however, the condemned man finally understands the nature of justice and his punishment. His face is transfigured, a sight edifying to all those who watch. The officer begins to demonstrate the Harrow on a prisoner condemned to die because he was sleeping on duty.

The machine was conceived and developed by the former Commandant. It soon becomes clear that the explorer does not approve of the death-machine and that he feels morally bound to express this disapproval to the new Commandant, who is already known to have serious questions about using the Harrow as a method of punishment. Suddenly, the officer removes the condemned man from the Bed and takes his place. Before doing so, he adjusts the machine to inscribe "BE JUST." The Harrow begins its grisly work on the officer's back, but malfunctions and goes to pieces--but not before the self-condemned officer has died.

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This Red Oozing

Bryner, Jeanne

Last Updated: Mar-24-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The hostess at Benny's Lounge comes to the Emergency Room after being raped at gunpoint by "a friend of a friend." The doctor makes her tell the story of the rape again: "How tight he holds the muzzle to your neck, / jerks your dark hair like a mane and rips / you until you bleed . . . . " But the poet knows that "this red oozing" will not fill the rapist. It never does. She knows "how he rapes you / endlessly . . . How his boots climb the back stairs / of your mind year after year / as he comes and comes and comes."

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Summary:

Fausto-Sterling is a biologist who challenges various experiments meant to prove the biological bases of sexual difference. The first chapter is a brief introduction describing the interdependence of modern social structure and biology. Chapter Two is called "A Question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter Than Women?" She is partly concerned here with arguments that women are simply less intelligent than men. More interestingly, she takes on scientists who claim that women have a different sort of intelligence than men (more verbal than visual or spatial). Such claims, argues Fausto-Sterling, simply provide a rationale for sexism in education and employment. Fausto-Sterling questions both the techniques used in the experiments meant to prove these differences and the scientists' objectivity.

Chapter Three, "Of Genes and Gender," similarly critiques theories that suggest humans are totally controlled by genetic information. Particularly, she argues that the binary genetic sex model under which biology works is not nearly as obvious or secure as it seems. The author also points out that studies of "sexual development" are almost always about men. This chapter contains discussions of medical views of menstruation and menopause. The author ridicules positions that see menstruation as a disease or sick-time.

Chapter Four moves the discussion to testosterone, arguing against the equation of testosterone with aggressivity and natural superiority. Chapter Six takes on socio-biology.

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Why I Hate Family Values

Pollitt, Katha

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

This essay is found in her collection, Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism. In this particular chapter she rips apart the contemporary fetish of family values and the cult of the nuclear family, exposing these arbitrary socio-political constructions for what they are: "just another way to bash women, especially poor women."

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Summary:

The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.

Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.

Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.

For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.

We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.

Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]

Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.

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Ship Fever

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In early 1847, the young Quebec city doctor, Lauchlin Grant, struggles to extract a living from his boring practice and pines over his childhood sweetheart, Susannah. She is now the wife of a prominent journalist, Arthur Adam Rowley, who has charged Lauchlin with her care, while he travels in Europe to report on the ghastly potato famine in Ireland and his predictions for its effects on immigration.

Even as Rowley's letters are read at home, waves of starving Irish land at Grosse Ile in the St. Lawrence River where thousands are ill or will sicken of ship fever (typhus), and die. Lauchlin is called to help at the quarantine station. Of the hundreds in his care, he rescues only Nora. Having lost her family, Nora decides to remain as a nurse, because she is now immune.

Lauchlin sees Susannah only once more, learning that she too cares for victims of typhus, which is also ravaging the mainland, despite the quarantine. He senses her unspoken love for him and, filled with an inner peace, returns to Grosse Ile, only to contract typhus and die. Nora takes the doctor's belongings to Susannah's home, hoping to meet the woman whose name he had mumbled in his delirium. Instead, she finds Susannah's newly returned husband dreading the loss of his now dying wife.

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