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Word Count: 674
Summary An older woman is diagnosed as having cancer The story is of the progression of her symptoms and the effects of her illness and eventual death on her husband and grown children The years of silent compliance with the expectations of children and spouse begin to erode as the woman becomes sicker The relationship between the aging couple and the place of the ill mother in the priorities of her children clarify The tale ends with the death and a tiny glimpse of resolution of decades of strife and unexpressed rage between man and wife Commentary This long short story is beautifully crafted and painfully real in the issues of family that it raises It serves as a study of the variety of responses of spouse and children to the news of terminal illness In attempting to show their love husband and children fail to listen to the dying womans expressed wishes It is this inability to be heard that has tormented the entire life of this woman--and will torment her into her death bed The lesson for the reader is hear believe and heed the wishes of the dying Tell Me a Riddle By Tillie Olsen SummaryPlot Discussion After forty-seven years of clinging to each other through poverty parenthood the death of a son and the burials of unrealized dreams a married couple finds their union on the brink of dissolution The apparent catalyst of their blowup is the Haven a retirement community that the husband wants them to move into while the wife insists on staying put in their family home Their battles over this issue unearth many of the womans long pent-up resentments about their marriage What finally stops the couple from separating legally or physically is news of the wifes terminal illness--news that the husband wants to keep hidden from her He tries to submerge the reality of her dying in a blitz of enforced togetherness He lays
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