Showing 851 - 860 of 921 annotations tagged with the keyword "Suffering"

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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The Night-Side

Skloot, Floyd

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This book is a series of essays about the illness experience. The author developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) after a viral illness in 1988. Suddenly, this 41-year-old public policy analyst, who was also a successful writer and a competitive runner, was thrust into the world of severe disability. He developed subtle but extensive neurological deficits that affected his concentration and memory. For months he could hardly get out of bed. He discovered that not only was the cause of CFS unknown, many physicians did not even believe it was a "real" illness.

"Double Blind" tells the story of Skloot's participation in an ill-fated clinical trial of Ampligen, an experimental treatment for CFS. Other essays describe the author's experience with alternative medicine, including an intensive course of Ayurvedic "detoxification" ("Healing Powers") and a visit to Germany to encounter Mother Meera, an avatar of the Divine Mother ("Honeymooning With the Feminine Divine").

"Home Remedies" presents his comic experience with helpful calls and letters telling him how to get rid of the illness. Other essays deal with Skloot's learning to cope with chronic disability. A final section includes poems about the illness experience of several composers and artists (e.g. Carl Maria von Weber, George Gershwin, and Vincent van Gogh).

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May's Lion

LeGuin, Ursula

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

May's Lion is really two stories in one: the first is narrated by a woman who knew May, the story's protagonist, when the narrator was a child, and she retells the story May told her about the time a sick mountain lion came into her yard. Uncertain of what to do, she called the sheriff's office. Police officers shot the lion because, according to May, "there was nothing else they knew how to do."

The second story is the narrator's fictionalized recounting of May's story. In this version, May (now called "Rains End") finds the lion in her yard, and in spite of her own fear she believes he has come for a reason. She offers the animal a bowl of milk, and sings softly to soothe him. She realizes "He had come for company in dying; that was all." This she offers him, and the lion dies there in her yard.

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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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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Showalter identifies clusters of syndromes, or mini-epidemics, which she suggests represent late-twentieth century manifestations of the entity which was called hysteria in nineteenth century western culture. Opening with the history of psychiatry's involvement in hysteria in the time of Charcot and Freud, she traces the replacement of hysteria or conversion reaction by modern hysterical analogues such as: chronic fatigue syndrome, recovered memory, Gulf War syndrome, multiple personality syndrome, satanic ritual abuse, and alien abduction.

In separate chapters she examines each of these entities--how it presents, how it fits into her theory of mass hysteria as a cultural response to the millennium, and how it is being handled by health care professionals. Showalter contends that "Redefining hysteria as a universal human response to emotional conflict is a better course than evading, denying, or projecting its realities." (p. 17)

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The beautiful Polish student, Marie Sklodowska (1867-1934) (Greer Garson), is the only woman graduate student studying physics in Paris. She attracts the attention of her kindly professor by fainting in class. A father of two daughters, the professor realizes that she is both brilliant and poverty-stricken. He offers her a paid research project, and, without revealing her sex, arranges for her to occupy space in the laboratory of absent-minded Professor Pierre Curie (1859-1906) (Walter Pidgeon).

At first, Curie is annoyed by her presence, but he soon realizes that she is immensely gifted. When she decides to leave Paris (and physics) after standing first at her graduation, Curie is horrified and clumsily proposes marriage to stop her. Their union will be based on respect, reason, and physics, he claims, and she accepts. With his support, she embarks on an obsessive project to isolate what, she realizes, must be an unknown element in the compound pitchblende--a substance that emanates rays like light.

Four years of intense labor with few resources, inadequate facilities, incidental child-bearing, the threat of cancer, and many disappointments lead to the isolation of a minute quantity of radium in 1898. The Curies share the 1903 Nobel prize in physics with Henri Becquerel. Their future seems assured, but tragedy soon strikes: the distracted Pierre is run over by a horse-drawn cab and dies instantly.

Madame's grief is powerful, but she recalls her husband's prophetic words and returns to work. In the final scene, the elderly Madame Curie, now twice Nobel laureate (1911 chemistry), delivers an inspirational lecture on the promise of science to help "mankind" by curing and preventing disease, famine, and war.

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