Ann Blake is a lonely, divorced, childless English teacher whose ninth grade class includes Karen, a girl who is dying of cancer ( probably lymphoma). As an adjunct to the medical treatment and prayer/faith healing that the child receives, Ann hopes that she might instill in Karen a purpose to live for, through her creative writing

The Infinite Dark refers to a story the students read during that school year, and the teacher ponders on what this phrase really means. She has assumed it means death, but, as Karen regains her health and moves on to another grade and forgets about Ann Blake, Ann realizes that for herself the infinite dark means being unconnected from others, being alone, not making an impact that is permanent--a sort of death in life. As the teacher tries to facilitate healing in the student she ironically realizes that she herself has known little about living her own life.


The role of the teacher trying to reach a student and to help her heal can be compared to that of a doctor trying to treat a patient. Instead of retreating from the student, as many doctors might be inclined to retreat emotionally from dying patients, this teacher fearlessly intrudes into her life. This intrusion has a positive impact on the student while it comes at some cost to the teacher, as the student's life goes on without her. This story raises issues around the physician's role in a patient's life, the boundaries of that role, and the appropriateness of getting involved in the more personal aspects of a patient's life.

Primary Source

Life on the Line


Negative Capability

Place Published

Mobile Ala.




Sue Brannan Walker & Rosaly Demaios Roffman

Page Count