Showing 201 - 210 of 310 annotations tagged with the keyword "Poverty"

The Dress Lodger

Holman, Sheri

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In early nineteenth-century England, Gustine is a "dress lodger" who rents a room and a fraying but elegant robe which she wears to work as a prostitute. The dissolute, violent landlord takes all her earnings and to keep her from hiding the money or stealing the dress, he has her followed by an elderly, sinister-seeming woman, called "the Eye."

Gustine has a baby, born with its heart on the outside of its chest (ectopia)--the beating muscle is covered only in a thin membrane. Gustine loves her child and tries to care for it, in the grinding poverty and filth of the crowded rooming house. She is convinced that the Eye is dangerous.

The young physician, Dr. Henry Chiver, is intent on making his name as a scientific doctor and educator through dissections. Cholera breaks out in the town to challenge his skill; even when confronted with death, however, he perceives an opportunity for research much to the alarm and disgust of citizens who fail to understand the advantages promised by an act of desecration. He is both attracted to Gustine and appalled by her profession; but when he discovers the secret of her child he sees yet another opportunity and his obsession to become a famous researcher makes him lose sight of all that is appropriate.

View full annotation

The Endless Search: A Memoir

Ray, David

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this memoir the poet David Ray describes his troubled childhood and adolescence. Born into a poverty-stricken Oklahoma family, David and his sister lived in a succession of foster homes, after his abusive father walked out and his mother, a needy and often preoccupied woman, found it difficult to care for them. As an adolescent, David was sent to live in Arizona with John Warner, a war veteran who became his "guardian."

From the beginning, Warner sexually abused the troubled adolescent, who spent several years attempting, ineffectually, to escape from his abuser. After graduating from high school in Tucson, Ray accepted a scholarship to the University of Chicago, much against the wishes of his mother, who appeared occasionally in the picture, as well as those of Warner. In Chicago Ray finally freed himself from the abusive pattern.

The memoir provides a heartrending portrait of a succession of dysfunctional relationships, in most of which Ray, or his sister Ellen, emerge as victims or scapegoats. One of these is an intense experience with a sadistic writing instructor named Lowney Handy, who ran a writers’ colony in Illinois, and who may (or may not) have tried to murder David Ray. The book ends with a tension-filled reunion in 1966 between Ray and his biological father, after the young man had successfully completed graduate school and begun his career as a poet and teacher. The old man was just as hurtful as ever, and, reflecting on that last visit and his relationship with his father, Ray recalls some lines from Rilke: it was "so cloudy that I cannot understand / this figure as it fades into the background."

View full annotation

The Death of the Hired Man

Frost, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this domestic epic, a man and woman converse on the porch of their farmhouse. The man is just coming home in the evening; his wife meets him at the door to warn him that Silas, the old ne’r-do-well hired hand, had returned that day. She found him "huddled against the barn door, fast asleep, / A miserable sight, and frightening, too--"

Silas looked terribly ill, yet he didn’t ask for help. Instead, he told her he would cut the upper pasture, and he kept inquiring about the college boy he worked with on the farm a few years back. He and the boy argued all the time; now the old man wants to "make things right."

The husband shakes his head. No, he will not take Silas back. The old man walked away one too many times. You can’t depend on him to stay and finish the job when someone comes around offering him a little "pocket money" to go elsewhere. Indeed, Silas’s brother is the president of a bank; why doesn’t he go to his brother for help? At last the husband quiets down and goes in to see the old man, who is presumably asleep beside the stove. A few moments later, he returns to the porch. To his wife’s query, "’Dead,’ was all he answered." [175 lines]

View full annotation

Doctor Zhivago

Pasternak, Boris

Last Updated: Aug-09-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This complex novel is difficult to summarize. The main characters are introduced separately. We meet Yurii Andreievich Zhivago (Yura) when he is ten, at his mother’s funeral. He goes on to study medicine, write poetry, and marry a young woman named Tonya. We first encounter Larisa Foedorovna (Lara) as the adolescent daughter of a widow who has been set up in a dressmaking business by Komarovsky. Komarovsky later harasses and seduces the young woman. In her anger and guilt, the impulsive Lara tries to shoot Komarovsky at a grand Christmas party, but she misses and inadvertently wounds another man. Subsequently, Lara marries Pavel Pavlovich (Pasha), her childhood sweetheart.

All this takes place against the background of social upheaval in pre-World War I Russia. When the war begins, Yura joins the Army medical corps. Pasha leaves Lara and their daughter Tanya to enlist in the army. When Pasha is reported lost behind enemy lines, Lara becomes a military nurse in order to search for him. Thus, Lara and Yura meet at a hospital where his wife Tonya has just delivered a baby boy. Lara and Yura feel attracted to one another, but neither one expresses it. At this point the Revolution breaks out in Petersburg.

As the fighting rages, Lara and Yura are posted to a hospital in a small town, where Yura struggles with his feelings. When he reports his friendship with Lara, Tonya assumes incorrectly that they have become lovers. Over the winter there are food shortages and the threat of a typhus epidemic. As the war ends, Yura returns home to Moscow, and to his old job at the hospital, but his co-workers are suspicious of him. Influenced by Bolshevism, they dislike his use of intuition instead of logic. The family resolves to travel to the Urals. Amidst Marxist rebellions, Yura's family finds room in a cargo train. During the long train ride, Yura reflects on the suffering of peasants and prisoners caused by the revolution. He shares the desire for equality and freedom, but is disenchanted by the revolutionaries' pedantic, insensitive opinions.

The family safely arrives in the Urals and set up a farm. During the long winters, Yura returns to writing poetry. While visiting the local library, he re-encounters Lara. They begin an affair, sharing a common joy in a fully-lived existence. Lara is aware that her husband is still alive, having become a feared member of the Red faction under another name (Strelnikov). Yura resolves to tell his wife about his unfaithfulness and to ask forgiveness, but as he rides home, he is kidnapped by a faction in the Civil War (the Reds) and forced to serve as their doctor.

After some years, Yura escapes from the Reds and walks back to find Lara, who still lives in the same place.  To escape being informed upon, Lara and Yura flee to the farm house where Yura and his family once lived. Again, Yura turns to his poetry, expressing his fears, courage, and love for Lara. He learns that Tonya and a new baby daughter have been deported from Russia. One night, Lara's old lover, Komarovsky, appears and tells them that the triumphant revolutionaries know where they are and will inevitably kill them both. He offers to take them abroad, where Yura could rejoin his family. Yura refuses to accept help from Komarovsky. To save Lara's life, though, he tells her that he will follow them out of the country, but actually remains behind. Alone, he turns to drink.

One night Lara's husband, Strelnikov (Pasha), who is fleeing the new government, arrives. When he learns of Yura and Lara’s love, he leaves the house and shoots himself. Yura then goes to Moscow where he strikes up an affair with Marina and becomes a writer of literary booklets.  His brother finds him a job at a hospital, but on his way to his first day at work, he dies, presumably of a heart attack. Lara, who had been living in Irkutsk, has returned to Moscow and wanders accidentally into the house where his body lies waiting for burial. After several days, Lara disappears, presumably captured and sent to a concentration camp.

View full annotation

The Hospital

de Hartog, Jan

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author came to Houston in 1962 as a visiting professor. While there, he and his wife decided to become volunteers at "J.D." (Jefferson Davis), the county hospital. They found that the hospital was overcrowded, understaffed, over-bureaucratized, and very poorly supported by the county. In particular, they found that the volunteer corps (Women-in-Yellow) was primarily involved in clerical work, rather than providing service to patients.

Marjorie de Hartog wished to form a group that would feed and nurture infants in the nursery, but the hospital authorities thought that was out of the question. This book is an account of how the de Hartogs, their Quaker community, and other Houston citizens developed a significant volunteer presence at "J.D." and, in the process, became aware of the frightful state of patient care. They became activists supporting the opening (and better funding) of a new public hospital.

View full annotation

A Festering Sweetness

Coles, Robert

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems stem from Coles's studies of the lives of poor black children in the South, and Native-American children in the Southwest and Alaska. In his Introduction to the first section of the book, Coles writes, "The words in this section tend to be soldiers." These tough, sad, hopeful, and militant poems give voice to children and adults on the firing-line during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. The poems in the second section, which arise from Coles's work among Native-Americans, are quieter in tone, more radiant, lyrical, and even transcendent.

View full annotation

Clock Without Hands

McCullers, Carson

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the early 1950's, Milan, Georgia is a racially divided town where secrets are plentiful and the meaning of justice is muddled. J. T. Malone, a 40-year-old pharmacist who failed his second year of medical school, is diagnosed with leukemia and told he has only 12-15 months to live. In some ways, Malone's last year of life parallels the declining fortunes of the town's leading citizen, Judge Fox Clane, an overweight and elderly former Congressman who suffers from diabetes and a previous stroke. Judge Clane's wife died of breast cancer, his only son committed suicide, and his daughter-in-law died during childbirth. He raises his grandson, John Jester Clane, and aspires to restore the grandeur of the South in conjunction with redeeming his personal hoard of Confederate currency.

Judge Clane hires Sherman Pew, a "colored boy" and orphan, as his personal assistant, but Sherman eventually resigns from the position when he can no longer tolerate the Judge or his prejudice. Sherman moves into a house located in a white neighborhood. A group of townspeople including the Judge plots to get rid of him. A local man bombs the building and Sherman dies. Shortly after his death, the United States Supreme Court announces its decision supporting school integration.

The Judge is infuriated and goes on the radio station to express his opinion, but he has not prepared a speech. Instead, he begins babbling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The radio station cuts him off. Malone has been listening to the Judge on the radio, but his wife turns it off. Integration no longer matters to Malone. Near the end of his life, Malone finds solace in the renewed love for his wife, Martha. He finally appreciates the order and simplicity of life. The pharmacist dies peacefully in his own bed.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Williams's autobiography recounts his life from his first memory ("being put outdoors after the blizzard of '88") to the composition of "Patterson" and a trip to the American West in 1950. The book's 58 short chapters epitomize the writer's episodic and impressionistic style, presenting a series of scenes and meditations, rather than a narrative life story.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Nathaniel Lachenmeyer’s memoir is a reconstructed account of his father Charles’s battle with paranoid schizophrenia and Nathaniel’s inability or unwillingness to recognize his father’s need for help. After his father’s death, Nathaniel contacted many of the people who had known his father, both when he was a student and college professor and later when his illness forced him into mental hospitals, squalid apartments, and homeless living on the streets. Nathaniel’s search to understand his father after his death led him to interview the many health care workers, police, street people, restaurant staff, and others who knew Charles when he was very ill.

Charles was delusional, often hearing voices and talking to his mother, who had been dead for years. Typical of people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, Charles did not see himself as mentally ill. Therefore he did not like to take medications and would refuse treatments when he could, although his health care workers could see substantial changes for the better when he was on medication. He believed he was the victim of a mind control experiment, forced on him by his persecutors. He died out of touch with his family, having suffered almost twenty years on his own with his illness.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Thirty-one-year-old waitress and aspiring (but inexperienced) boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) tries to get aging trainer-coach Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to take her on, but where Maggie is unstoppably optimistic, Frankie is worn out, even burned out, and he repeatedly refuses. The two are brought together by Frankie's assistant, ex-fighter Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman). Freeman, whom the other characters call Scrap, narrates the film.

Maggie and Frankie have their ups and down, but Maggie rapidly becomes a formidable boxer, a great favorite with fans. Eventually she finds herself in the ring as challenger for the world welterweight title. The unscrupulous defender delivers an illegal punch to Maggie, resulting in a fall that leaves her paralyzed below the neck.

At this point the story turns from boxing to Maggie's injury, which is incurable and worsening because she is bedridden. After Maggie loses a leg to bed sores, she tells Frankie that she doesn't want to go on, and she asks him to put her out of her misery. Short as her career has been, she has known success and happiness beyond the dreams of her dirt-poor upbringing, and she wants to leave life while she can still remember those good things.

Frankie, a serious Catholic, has religious qualms. His priest tells him not to get involved. From his own point of view, Frankie has come to feel attached to Maggie, and at first he steadfastly refuses Maggie's request. Maggie, unable to act in any other way, bites her tongue violently in an attempt to bleed herself to death. After witnessing her agony, Frankie tells the priest that keeping Maggie close to him--in other words, not killing her--has come to feel like a sin. He then acts to rid himself of that sin. He covertly removes her air supply and then injects her with adrenalin. Frankie does not return to his gym, vanishing without a word.

View full annotation