Showing 871 - 880 of 921 annotations tagged with the keyword "Suffering"

Age of Iron

Coetzee, J. M.

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mrs. Curren, a retired classics professor in Cape Town, South Africa, is dying of cancer. The novel is in the form of an extended letter to her only daughter who has fled apartheid and lives in the United States. During her final days, Mrs. Curren takes in a homeless alcoholic man who appears on her doorstep. Her housekeeper's son Bheki is involved in an uprising. While helping his mother search for him, Mrs. Curren witnesses the burning of a black township and discovers the boy's bullet-ridden body.

Later, Bheki's friend, who seeks refuge at her house, is killed there by government security forces. In anger and despair, Mrs. Curren is forced to confront the "age of iron" apartheid has wrought. Her only companion in all this is the alcoholic drifter, who agrees (or does he?) to send this last letter to her daughter.

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The Bell Jar

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Feb-17-1997
Annotated by:
Schaffer, Amanda

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this autobiographical novel, Plath's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, sinks into a profound depression during the summer after her third year of college. Esther spends the month of June interning at a ladies' fashion magazine in Manhattan, but despite her initial expectations, is uninterested in the work and increasingly unsure of her own prospects.

Esther grows disenchanted with her traditional-minded boyfriend, Buddy Willard, a medical student who “had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up, whether they needed it or not . . . . ” Returning home to a New England suburb, Esther also discovers that she's been rejected from a Harvard summer school fiction course. Her relationship with her mother is painfully strained.

Suddenly, Esther finds herself unable to sleep or read or concentrate. She undergoes a few unsuccessful sessions with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon, as well as terrifying electroshock therapy. She becomes increasingly depressed, thinks obsessively about suicide, then attempts to kill herself by crawling into the cellar and taking a bottle of sleeping pills: "red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down." Esther vomits, however, and so, does not die. She is taken to a city hospital and then, through the financial intervention of a benefactor, to a private psychiatric institution.

There, Esther begins gradually to recover. She enjoys the pleasant country-club surroundings and develops a closeness with her analytically-oriented psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan. Esther also undergoes a more successful regimen of shock therapy, after which she feels the "bell jar" of depression lifting.

The stigma of attempted suicide and hospitalization seems to free Esther to behave less traditionally; defiantly, she loses her virginity to a man she's met on the steps of Harvard's Widener Library. At the novel's end, Esther is preparing to leave the psychiatric hospital and is describing herself, optimistically, as transformed.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Seventeen year-old Phyllis Halliday lives with her parents near the maximum security penitentiary in Kingston, Canada. In the year 1919-20, she establishes a forbidden, epistolic relationship with convict Joseph Cleroux, who is serving a sentence for theft and extortion. Messages, money, and small gifts of tobacco, chocolate, and a ring, are concealed in the quarry next to her home where the convicts are sent to work. Influenced by the newly released film with Mary Pickford, she dubs her new friend "Daddy Long Legs," and herself, "Peggy."

Both Phyllis and Joe fear being caught, and they suffer from parallel illnesses. As she falls in love with the man whom she has never met, she neglects her studies, hoping that he will come for her when he is discharged. However, on that day, he is immediately put on the first train out of town. His letters dwindle and cease, but Phyllis continues to wait and hope.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Elizabeth Carpenter is preparing for her fiftieth wedding anniversary and hoping that her children will come home for the event. She nurses her irritable, invalid husband, a retired teacher, who has been a rigid father and is now bedridden with a chronic illness. He is too proud to ask for the things he needs or wants, and spends his vacant hours comparing what he perceives as the dull, dutiful Elizabeth to the "other woman" he loved long ago.

Their oldest child, Victoria, once a fragile beauty full of promise, is institutionalized for a chronic mental illness characterized by irrational fears and self-doubt. The middle child, Jason, is a psychiatrist who has been unable to establish trusting relationships and seeks affirmation through multiple sexual adventures. The youngest child is Emily, a concert violinist whose way of achieving peace is to live abroad, avoiding commitments and her family from whom she is hiding the fact of her own son, Adam. But the reunion leads them to revisit relationships and events in the past and results in some surprises for their present and future.

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The Black Swan

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The setting is Germany in the late 1920s. Rosalie, the central character, is a "sociable," cheerful 50 year old widow who lives with her adult unmarried daughter and her adolescent son. Her manner is youthful but "her health had been affected by certain critical organic phenomena of her time of life." Rosalie is keenly aware of all that menopause implies: the loss of sexual allure and of a (biologic) purpose in life. She feels "superannuated."

Along comes a young man, well-built, who is the American-born tutor for her son. She is overwhelmed by physical attraction for him, becoming infatuated, much to the disapproval of her repressed, cerebral daughter. She feels young and attractive once more, believing that her heightened state of sensuality has resulted in the resumption of what appears to be menstrual bleeding.

Planning to declare her love to the tutor, Rosalie arranges a family excursion to the Rhine castle where the black swans swim. In the decaying alcoves of the castle, she does so; the pair will rendezvous that night. The rendezvous never takes place; Rosalie has hemorrhaged. She is found to have a large, metastatic uterine tumor.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Dr. Papper, a revered figure in the field of anesthesiology, questioned why it took so long for anesthesia to be "discovered": after all, pain and suffering existed long before the mid-nineteenth century. This book is a result of Papper’s graduate studies in literature and history and explains his thesis that "societal concern with pain and suffering, and the subsequent development of surgical anesthesia in the Romantic era . . . are outgrowths of Romantic subjectivity."

The book provides biographies of scientists, physicians and poets, such as Humphry Davy, Thomas Beddoes, Sr., Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, along with analyses of Romantic poetry as related to pain and suffering. Papper theorizes that the exchange of ideas amongst these intellectuals and the political upheavals of the time paved the way for society to recognize that the pursuit of happiness could include the relief of pain.

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Welcome to My Country

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Slater subtitles her book, A Therapist's Memoir of Madness. Embedded in this definition are two elements: a psychotherapist's composite experiences with a small cadre of patients and the therapist's personal experience with a mental disorder. The author draws the reader into a fascinating series of anecdotes based on therapeutic encounters.

These stories are as much, if not more, about the therapist's deepest responses to her patients than about the patient him or herself. This particular approach adds an element of confession to the work that one does not often find in clinical studies. And, finally, Slater takes the reader backward in time to her own past as a woman with profound emotional pain.

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The Culture of Pain

Morris, David

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

On the first page, Morris summarizes his project in this book: to "describe how the experience of pain is decisively shaped or modified by individual human minds and by specific human cultures. It explores what we might call the historical, cultural, and psychosocial construction of pain." Contemporary Western culture tries to convince us that pain is nothing but an aspect of disease and, therefore, a medical problem. But pain only exists in human experience; nerve impulses are not pain.

In calling our attention to the social and cultural meanings of pain, Morris begins with Tolstoy's short novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (see this database). He then presents various images of human suffering: gender-based pain, as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper (see this database: annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Jack Coulehan); religious views, as in the stories of Job and the Christian martyrs; the aesthetic ideal, as manifested in the romantic idea of the sublime as painful; social uses, as in satire and torture (see Kafka's In the Penal Colony, annotated in this database); the relationship between pain and sex, as in the work of Marquis de Sade; and tragic pain, as evidenced in Sophocles' Philoctetes.

Throughout the book, Morris refers to the "invisible epidemic" of chronic pain that exists in the United States today. This epidemic of chronic pain can be adequately understood and treated only by approaching it with a cultural model, rather than a disease model.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Dr. Cassell examines the social and cultural forces that encourage the practice and teaching of a medicine that is governed by the disease theory. This theory discounts the impact of illness on the patient and ignores the suffering that the patient is experiencing. Cassell does not debunk science and technology, rather he encompasses them within the moral enterprise of medicine as tools for helping patients.

The ability to provide compassionate attention to the patient as individual (i.e., with unique values, life experiences, family interactions, etc.), trustworthiness and self-discipline are required characteristics of a "good physician." Cassell illustrates and personalizes the philosophical shift towards focusing on the sick person with stories and anecdotes.

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Snow Falling on Cedars

Guterson, David

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel is set on San Pedro Island off the coast of Washington in 1954. Kabuo Miyamoto, a member of the island's Japanese-American community, is on trial for the murder of Carl Heine, a fellow fisherman. Heine's boat was found drifting one morning, with his body entangled in a net. While the death initially appeared accidental, bits of circumstantial evidence accumulate that seem to implicate Miyamoto.

Miyamoto's family was unjustly cheated out of some land by Heine's mother during the time the island's Japanese community was incarcerated in a "relocation camp" in California during the War. The dead man's traumatic head wound appeared suggestive of a Japanese "kendo" blow. Carl Heine's blood type was found on a wooden gaff on Kabuo Miyamoto's boat.

As the trial proceeds, the story of Carl, Kabuo, and what happened that night gradually evolves, as does the tale of Ishmael Chambers, the local newspaper reporter, who had a "charmed love affair" with Kabuo's wife when they were both adolescents, just before the Japanese families were sent away in 1942. It is clear, however, that this is more than a story of one man's guilt or innocence; it is a story of a community's fear and prejudice against the Japanese-Americans in its midst.

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