Showing 821 - 830 of 884 annotations tagged with the keyword "Empathy"

The Slaughterhouse

Schreck, Karen Halvorsen

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman, Rose, describes her childhood during the depression as she struggled with issues of her own identity and her jealousy toward her younger sister, Sophie, who suffers from cerebral palsy and seizures. Rose watches as Sophie is born, as her parents argue, as Sophie is held closely by their mother during her seizures, and as Sophie is given two birthday parties each year. She fantasizes about how life might be if her sister were dead, and imagines her sister hanging from a rack like the animals at the slaughterhouse. Finally, she discovers that Sophie actually needs her and loves her.

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Fitting Ends

Chaon, Dan

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, now a grown man, relates the story of his brother Del's troubled life and early death. The real story, however, concerns the narrator himself, as he reflects on his relationship with Del, his father's behavior toward both of them, and on the possibility that he (the narrator) played a role in Del's death.

When the narrator was fourteen, older brother Del--drunk at the time--was struck and killed by a train as he walked along the tracks. But the central event in the story is the narrator's betrayal of Del. Although Del had saved him from falling off a grain elevator roof, the narrator had falsely blamed Del for the near-fatal accident, out of fear of the father's fury, and because "After years of being on the receiving end, it wasn't in my nature to see Del as someone who could be wronged . . . ." [p. 57]

"My father had good reason to believe this lie . . . . " [p. 55] The incident occurred shortly after Del had been released from a juvenile detention facility--detained there for trying to strangle the narrator and threatening their father with a shotgun.

The narrator (later) finds in Del's notebook an essay revealing Del's intention to reform. But with the passage of time after the grain elevator episode, Del reverts to delinquent behavior; a year later he is dead. The narrator never reveals to his father the truth and the family never discusses Del's death.

At times, over the years, as the narrator searches for meaning and closure he believes he can "take all the loose ends of my life and fit them together perfectly . . . where all the details add up . . . ." [p. 68] In the end, however, we are left wondering whether this is possible--for the narrator--or for anyone.

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A Midwife's Tale

Rogers, Richard; Lee, Kaiulani

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This docudrama traces the life and work of Maine midwife, Martha Ballard (Kaiulani Lee), through the account of her own diary from 1785 to 1812. She and her surveyor husband, Ephraim (Ron Tough), moved from Massachusetts to the frontier of Maine during the Revolution; the rapid social changes in their new republic are felt at the domestic level. Ballard cared for many sick people, more than a thousand women in labour, and their infant children. She also becomes a witness for a woman who was raped by a judge.

A local doctor makes a brief appearance as a bungling meddler; other doctors perform an autopsy of her own deceased niece, which the midwife attends; but most often Ballard works alone. Her five surviving children leave home, and she comes to relate the experiences of her patients to those of her own life.

Her husband shares the slow decline into age surrounded by the frictions of proximity with an uncaring son and his months in debtors' prison. The recreation is interspersed with interviews and voice-over with historian and author, Laurel Ulrich. Ulrich describes her discovery and fascination with the Ballard diary, the difficulties in interpretation, and the still unanswered questions.

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The World Book

Cramer, Steven

Last Updated: Oct-03-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In the past, the father has tried to help the child cope with earache by showing him how the ear works, providing a visual image of the ear's anatomy from the encyclopedia. It didn't help the pain. Now that the father is chronically ill, his adult son tries to help, but cannot (even with an encyclopedia that purports to contain the entire world) produce a visual image, or metaphor, to explain the illness, or "what brought us here." Instead, he gives his father a Walkman, hoping that the music will "help him pass the hours in dialysis."

The son can see his father's blood, circulating in the dialysis machine (just as the father helped the son visualize what was happening in his sore ear), but the son cannot feel (or see, or hear--or, even though he's a poet, find a metaphor to convey) what it is like to be his father. This isolation is ironically emphasized by the son's gift: because of the Walkman, the father falls asleep "to a music I can't hear / And for which there is no metaphor."

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Operation Wandering Soul

Powers, Richard

Last Updated: Sep-18-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Richard Kraft is about as burnt-out as a fifth-year resident in pediatric surgery can be. Overwhelmed by his stint in an inner-city, public hospital in Los Angeles, he seeks to hide from the misery of his patients by avoiding any personal connection with them. Then he meets twelve-year-old Joy, an Asian immigrant trying desperately to learn the puzzling ways of her new culture. She speaks words that trigger memories from Kraft's own childhood as the son of a U.S. agent in Joy's country, and he loses his distance.

He performs surgery on a life-threatening cancer in her leg, pulling back at the last minute in an unreasonable fear that he will hurt her if he cuts too deep. The implied result: incomplete excision of the cancer and a death sentence for the child he now tries, unsuccessfully to avoid. His avoidance is repeatedly foiled by Linda Espera, the physical therapist with whom he is falling in love and who will not let him abandon the emotional needs of any of the children in Joy's ward.

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A Story about the Body

Hass, Robert

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short prose poem (a single paragraph) concisely tells a powerful story. A composer at an artist's colony believes he has fallen in love with a woman of almost sixty, a Japanese painter. One night, late, at her door, she acknowledges their mutual desire, but warns him that she has had a double mastectomy. He leaves her, apologizing. In the morning he finds that she has left a bowl on his doorstep, filled with dead bees covered by a layer of rose petals.

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Talk Before Sleep

Berg, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jul-30-1997
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Determined not to like Ruth Thomas, Ann Stanley is immediately smitten by her charm and force of personality, and especially by her vitality--a vitality that too soon succumbs to breast cancer. As one of a cadre of women almost obsessively devoted to the care of a dying Ruth, Ann nurses Ruth through her final illness, until--in a move curiously like the decision of Charity (also dying of cancer) to keep Sid, her husband, sequestered from her final trip to the hospital, in Wallace Stegner's far superior novel, Crossing to Safety--Ruth flies to Florida to die at her brother's house.

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World of Wonders

Davies, Robertson

Last Updated: Jul-25-1997
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the third novel in Davies’s major work, The Deptford Trilogy. While it is not necessary to read the novels in this trilogy in sequence, doing so makes each story more complete and interesting, and clarifies the relationships between some of the characters. This particular novel tells the life story of the unfortunate boy introduced in The Fifth Business, who was spirited away from his Canadian home by one of the members of a traveling side show, the Wanless World of Wonders.

Magnus Eisengrim, now a master magician, describes his life as an innocent child who was introduced not only to rape, but to the sad world of the "freak" show, as he traveled throughout his formative years with these unfortunate people. The main good which came out of this was that he developed empathy for the members of the side show, and that he taught himself the skills of magic and became an accomplished magician. A turning point in his life occurred when he got away from this terrible environment and became an understudy for a famous English actor. In emulating this man, he moved on to become a marvelous illusionist.

The last part of the story is concerned with Magnus’s role in making a film about the life of Robert-Houdin; he finally tells his life story to the group of people with whom he is working. In this group there is a friend from his early life--a man who treated him badly when he was the actor’s understudy and who doesn’t now recognize him--and the director who is trying to help the group work together. Another important character is a woman with a physical disability which had so altered her appearance that it had warped her world view; Magnus helps her come to grips with her situation. The descriptions of the interactions among these unusual characters are Robertson Davies at his best.

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One True Thing

Quindlen, Anna

Last Updated: Jul-24-1997
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a truly beautiful novel; its many stories remain with the reader for a long time. It is the semi-autobiographical story of the myriad of issues which are manifest as one family deals with the terminal illness of the mother from cancer.

A daughter, who has never considered herself close to her mother, is forced by her father to leave her job as a journalist in New York, to come home and become the primary caregiver. Over a period of several months the mother has chemotherapy and eventually gives up to the slow deterioration of the disease. During this time the mother and daughter rebuild a relationship and come to have mutual respect for each other. One poignant aspect of the relationship is their establishment of "The Gulden Girls Book and Cook Club" as they read old classics together and the mother teaches the daughter the cooking secrets which she has cherished.

The father, a college professor and former mentor of the daughter, absents himself from the home as much as possible, unable to deal with the issues. The female oncologist is very helpful and understanding with both the patient and the daughter. A wonderful hospice nurse gives welcome support. The question of assisted suicide becomes an issue after the mother's death; the daughter is arrested. There is a surprise ending which should not be revealed here, but offers a good forum for discussion.

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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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