Showing 851 - 860 of 926 annotations tagged with the keyword "Suffering"

A Very Easy Death

Beauvoir, Simone de

Last Updated: Dec-18-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

A retrospective and reflective review of the last weeks in the life of the author's aging mother. Threaded throughout the chronicle of the progressive downhill course of the patient dying of cancer are flashbacks to the earlier relationships among the author, her sister, and their mother. The course of the illness enables the reader to view many of the common problems that inform the doctor-patient, nurse-patient, and parent-child relationship. The narrator, who is an accomplished writer, creates vivid and timely images of the hospital as experienced by the lay person.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In this memoir Sheed reflects on his experience of three major illnesses: polio; clinical depression, related to alcoholism and sleeping pill addiction; and cancer. He contrasts the incongruous and paradoxical "inner life" of illness, with the often oversimplified prototypical experience represented by AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] literature, various psychiatric orthodoxies, and popular media.

Issues that arise include the tension between medical authority and patient experience, caregivers' and clinicians' projections, friends' and family's misapprehensions, and the surprises, both welcome and horrifying, that occur in the course of treatment and recovery because no illness, mental or physical, follows a textbook format.

The narrative is a wry examination of games patients play as well as a confession, dry and witty but also extraordinarily perceptive, of the failed and false expectations, pretenses, fears, resistances, rage, and qualified pleasures that characterized his personal odysseys through illnesses that have often been simplified and obscured by popular mythmaking.

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Mercy

Solwitz, Sharon

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman looks back on how a rape 15 years earlier still affects her life, her relationships with others, and the way she feels about herself. The event itself is recounted piecemeal throughout the story as the narrator describes the dissolution of her relationship with Lenny, whom she was seeing at the time of the rape, and compares her experience to the gang rape of an acquaintance. She compares Lenny with her husband, Dan, and the ways they dealt differently with the event; Lenny was helpless and passive, her husband, strong and protective. The narrator is caught between the desire to strike back and the need to submit to the mercy of others in order to stay alive.

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Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Ruthie is a thirty five year old overweight mother of two married to Ruben. Ever since her marriage, she has experienced pain with intercourse. She feels like an odd contradiction, with too much flesh and too narrow a vaginal opening, able to experience childbirth but not intercourse. She has read books about pain with intercourse, has tried lubrication, like her doctor recommended, but still the pain continues. She cannot imagine painless intercourse without completely leaving her body and wonders if she would ever get it back afterward.

She imagines what her life would be like if intercourse didn't hurt, how she would be fearless, attractive, sexual; how her husband would no longer turn away from her with indifference. As long as sex is painful, her life is concrete, full of duty and care. She imagines that without pain she would transcend this drudgery, even transcend her husband, and enter an ethereal world which centers around her.

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Last Things

Spark, Debra

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

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The author recounts the last months of her sister's life as she slowly died of breast cancer in her mid-20's. The narrator and her sister, Cyndy, renegotiate their relationship and family roles throughout the illness. The narrator addresses the issue of living despite the prospect of dying, and of trying not to die while in the midst of attempting to live one's life. The narrator also recognizes the centrality of desire (in its broadest sense) in our lives, and describes our guilt about satiating our desires, the sense of loss from not ever really satiating them, and the inability to satisfy the desires of another.

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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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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A Tahitian female lies naked on her belly, terrified by the presence of the spirit of death. Behind her, with an averted phosphorescent eye, the spirit is personified in the form of a harmless old woman dressed in a black shawl. According to island mythology, the title has two meanings: either the young girl is thinking of the ghost, or the ghost is thinking of her. Bold ambiguous shapes and colors (yellow blanket, blue pareu, phosporescent greenish sparks on a violet background) intensify the eerie atmosphere and enigmatic quality of the painting.

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On the Death of a Parent

McLoughlin, J., ed.

Last Updated: Nov-04-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Memoirs)

Summary:

In this collection, sixteen writers (including the editor, in her introduction) recount the deaths of one or both of their parents. They explore a wide range of questions: about the relationship between parents and their children, about the inevitability of the loss of that relationship (if it is lost in death, for, as the editor asks, "is the death of a parent really the end of the relationship?" [p. 2]), and about the conflicts that arise between the necessary separation that comes with adulthood and the complex ongoing attachments which in these stories enrich, haunt, inform and in many ways determine the lives of the tellers.

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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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