"When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?” Frankenstein
‘Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I had laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering.’ Stange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
“I love acting. It is so much more real than life.” The Potrait of Dorian Gray
Read the following article on how we wear masks today in our everyday lives and ask yourself the highlighted questions.
‘Imagine, for just a moment, a world where no one cared what car you drove, what designer handbag you carried, or what job you worked at.
Can you sense the freedom?
But this isn’t reality, because we do care. And because we care we’ve developed habitual masks to please and impress others.
We all wear masks.
There’s a good chance, too, you change your masks so habitually you don’t even notice doing it. Maybe you’ve done it your entire life.
What mask do you wear?
How do you feel about the face you’re portraying for the world to see? Are you truly yourself? Do you feel that you can be you, no matter what social situation you’re in?
In your mind, gather up everyone you know and put them in a room, friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. Everyone is surely cautiously mingling with their masks perfectly placed. But then, imagine a strong wind gust sweeps through the party, blowing all masks off. It’s mayhem, faces are exposed, for maybe the first time, wrinkles and all.
Now imagine that instead of using this vulnerability against one another you patted each other on the back, encouraged uniqueness and supported one another.
Why are we so afraid to be authentic?
Even when our masks irritate our skin, and we can’t relax or be ourselves, we still resist change.
This epic performance is a huge drain on our minds, bodies and souls. It’s a hard act to constantly pretend to be, or feel like you need to be, someone else. Similarly, it’s very draining to regularly act like you feel one way when you really feel another.
Becoming authentic is a process to begin knowing ourselves. To understand our own personality traits, behaviors, values, beliefs, needs, goals and motives. It’s having the courage to acknowledge our limitations, and embrace our own vulnerability.
Make a list of words that describe the person you want to be. Look deep inside and concentrate on who you are, not what you do. Are you passionate, nerdy, curious, loving?
You’ll know when you’ve discovered authenticity because your thoughts, beliefs and actions will originate deep from within and they’ll be resistant to external pressures. The result of this authenticity is a genuine, quiet, vitalizing fulfilment and confidence that resists anxiety, self-doubt and stress.
Wearing a mask protects us from vulnerability. I fear that if I stand tall and exposed, I’ll be “weak” in some way. But when you wear a mask you stand in resistance to your true life and end up attracting realities that conflict with who you really are.'
Adapted from huffingtonpost.com THE BLOG
5 Masks We Wear and Why We Should Take Them Off By Tina Williamson
We all wear masks, disguising parts of ourselves from other people. How we act depends on our clothes, envirnonment and the people around us.
Why do you believe it’s easier for people to people to wear masks than to be themselves?
Let me know in the comments.
We wear the mas
Italo Calvino said that a classic is a book that has never finished what it has to say and this well defines Frankenstein which over the years has really caught the public imagination inspiring countless film and television versions and even video games thanks to strong themes that are still relevant to us today.
At Lost in Classics we can meet and reflect on these themes. This makes us feel part of a wider society and teaches us lessons about life and people. In fact this week in the Facebook Group I will be posting on some of these and it it would be great to have your comments. Sharing our opinions is vital because our interpretation of themes is very personal. It is not stated in plain words. The theme is a message that you take away from the book. We may not agree, we may open each others' eyes with our own unique viewpoint and experience. Reading and listening, the skills we use when reading a novel are mainly passive activities, to complete the experience it is effective to then produce in some way through speaking or writing, or writing and then speaking and put your thoughts out there, to contribute to the universal debate. What will your contribution be?
Let me get the ball rolling by putting in my own tuppence worth on three themes of Frankenstein: bio-ethics, prejudice and revenge.
Perhaps the most important theme of Frankenstein is in the science around it. At the time when the novel was written Luigi Galvani and his nephew Aldini had stimulated muscle contraction using electric currents and attempted to revive the dead through electricity and Jacques de Vaucanson had dabbled in replicating life through machines. This obviously raised ethical questions related to the desire to 'play God'. In our times of genetic engineering these questions are just as important today.
Can you think of any scientific discoveries that have very serious ethical implications? How is Frankenstein a cautionary tale for modern day scientific study? How should we, as a society, weigh ethical concerns with scientific advancement? And on a larger scale the ethics of it who is ultimately responsible for the monster's violent actions – Dr. Frankenstein or the monster? Does Dr. Frankenstein bear any responsibility for the violent actions of his creation? Do parents bear any ethical responsibility for the actions of their children?
Today our version of playing God is in the subject of genetic engineering and cloning. In terms of animals and plants there may be benefits for more effective production but my concern is that any possible side effects or negative consequences may take a long time to uncover themselves and by the time any problems come up it may be too late. What is really concerning for me is the manipulation of human genes and this raises ethical questions. Who can say that some genetic traits are wrong? How can we decide that someone's life is worth less than that of others? What makes a good life? Frankenstein is partly responsible for his monster's actions because he immeditaely abandoned him without helping or guiding him in any way as a parent should, but we can't indefinitely continue blaming our parents for our problems in life.
What do you think?
“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?”
Mary Shelley chose to comment on the theme of prejudice not only towards the monster, but also towards foreigners, the lower classes, and women and coming from adults and children alike. By making the question so widespread we can question the destructive and isolating nature of prejudice and how we treat those who appear monstrous when we may be monsters ourselves. The monster seen as an object undeserving of a name and is judged through his appearance, Justine represents the lower classes and how they were suppressed by the upper classes, and she also represents women who suffered prejudice during that time period as they were voiceless and couldn’t defend themselves.
Thanks to the advances in our society we are now in many ways more tolerant of different physical and mental abilities, races, sexes and sexual orientations. But things are far from perfect. In general, which forms of prejudice seem to be declining over time, and which forms seem to be persisting or increasing? Which forms of prejudice most socially acceptable, and which are least acceptable? Why are some forms more acceptable than others? At a psychological level, what are the common denominators that link all forms of prejudice? Does the categorization of people always result in prejudice? What about categorizing people in a positive way -- does that result in prejudice? Does the very categorization of people -- for example, as female, a college student, African-American, or Texan -- necessarily rob them of individuality?
Today prejudice against people of different sexual orientations seems to be decreasing in many countries. Also, in terms of law and legislation prejudice against women and older people is decreasing, at least on paper. Women still encounter prejudice when applying for work and unfortunately cases of violence against women are increasing. Prejudice towards immigrants from other countries has been increasing in the last few years due to terrorism, mass immigration to Europe from Africa and the consequent rise in popularity of right wing political parties. Perhaps this prejudice is based on religion today rather than colour. Prejudice is aways about fear of the unknown. Positive discrimnation aims to gaurantee equal opportunities and is good in principal but does not always work in practice. When I watch TV I notice that today many people have mixed backgrounds and there are all types of families so it is important to speak and meet each other to break down barriers. Unfortunately, technology is encouraging us to isolate ourselves rather than share with others.
Revenge is a key theme in Frankenstein because it motivates both the creator and his monster. The monster seeks Revenge as he feels abandoned by his maker and this is further fuelled by Frankenstein's refusal to give him a mate. Frankenstein himself seeks Revenge on the monster for the deaths of William, Justine, Clerval and Elizabeth and this is all the more distressing for him because as the creator of the monster, he is shares the responsibility. Mary Shelley uses this theme because the desire for revenge is both timeless and powerful. It’s also a response to being hurt or slighted. It’s a reaction to feeling intimidated or victimized. It’s a way to gain power—real or imagined—over others. It’s rooted in primal emotions like passion and anger. And it’s a fundamental human feeling, one we’ve all felt perhaps more often than we’d like to admit. Mary Shelley experienced a lot of grief and loss in her life and it is probable she felt somehow responsible and certainly deeply hurt.
Why are we drawn to stories of vengeance? Why do you like them? Have you experienced holding a grudge against someone for a long time? What was the situation? How did you feel? Relate a time when you were younger that you gave or received payback/revenge for a wrong done. If you are not able to forgive others, you carry the burden on you and hurt yourself. Do you agree? Which is more pleasant, forgiving or taking revenge?
I think we like stories of vengeance because it gives us the possibility to do something with our imagination that we cannot do in our real lives. I don't like to hold grudges because I think when you do, It's you that feels bad whereas the other person involved is walking around without a care, so the bad feeling goes on you and not the other person that it is directed to. I usually keep calm up to a certain point and then I explode. Once when I was at secondary school I had lent something to a classmate that had been bullying myself and other girls for months and after several requests she still refused to give it back. In my rage I actually threw a chair at her! I don't want to advocate violent behaviout but it worked and I also gained the respect of the other girls beacuse I stood up to her but others wouldn't. It's always better to try to forgive but it's not easy whe you feel hurt.
I would love to hear your thoughts, let me know in the comments and please ask if you would like to join the Group and explore other themes this week. No hard feelings if you don't!
English is a mixture of different languages and as much as 70% of its vocabulary has Latin origins. Latin prefixes and sufixes were used to create new terms to describe new words and concepts, particularly so around the time Frankenstein was written when new scientific theories were being born and in Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Latin remained the language of the educated as was Mary Shelley, in fact her book is shrewn with references to literature and Roman and Greek myths and legends, typical of the Romantic Age. Like today, in that atmosphere, it might have been 'chic' to pop in some foreign words but I don't think she would have included them if she thought her readers might not understand. It is also true that Mary was well travelled and maybe picked up some foreign words. Don't forget that Mary Shelley was only twenty years old when she wrote the story.
The situation today is quite different. I am no expert but it seems to me that over time English has won the supremacy over Latin and in fact the most commonly used and familiar words in everyday conversation today are from Old English because they are generally shorter, while Latin based words remain in the realm of more formal writing.
I noticed when reading Frankenstein that I met many words of Latin or French origin that we no longer use today or that are extremely formal today but that I was able to understand thanks to the fact that I speak Italian and French. Other native speakers may not be able to make these associations and have to rely on the notes at the back of the book! So, if you are a speaker of a Latin based language you may understand better than the average native!
Let's look at some examples
'They possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill and delicious viands when hungry;'
A viand is in English 'an item of food' but French speakers will recognise the word as coming from 'viande' ( meat ). 'Viande' itself comes from the Latin 'vivenda', a form of the verb 'vivere' - to live. So meat is life! (But I am vegetarian!)
'Shall I meet you again, after having traversed immense seas, and returned by the most southern cape of Africa or America?'
Traverse means 'cross, travel across or through'. As you can see, today it is more common to use a short verb or phrasal verb. Again from French to Latin, from Old French 'traverser', from late Latin 'traversare' which Italian speakers will recognise also in the form 'attraversare'.
'Yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in his generosity, so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit, had she not unfolded to him the real loveliness of beneficence and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaring ambition.'
Although you may find this word in a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, it is certainly more formal today and more common synonyms are 'benevolence, good-heartedness, kindheartedness, kindliness, kindness or charity'.
Originally from Latin 'beneficus' 'generous, kind, benevolent' from 'bene' (good) and 'ficus' from 'ficere', a form of 'facere' (to do, make)
'I felt the greatest eagerness to hear the promised narrative, partly from curiosity and partly from a strong desire to ameliorate his fate if it were in my power.'
Definitely formal, meaning 'to improve or make better', this verb comes from the French 'améliorer', from 'meilleur' (better).
'We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, but the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed.'
This word meaning 'whim, fancy, notion, fad, impulse, quirk, foible, urge', may be slightly more familiar but not as much as its original Italian 'capriccio' and French 'caprice'. There is also the Italian expression 'fare i capricci' which is the equivalent to 'play up', 'fuss' or 'throw a tantrum' in English.
'For some time I was lost in conjecture as to the cause of this, but yesterday an idea struck me, and if it is well founded, I conjure you to avow it.'
Today conjure means 'cause to appear', 'make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere', 'recall' but its archaic meaning is 'to appeal vehemently to' like in Italian 'scongiurare' (beg, implore) orginally from Latin 'conjurare' ( con - together, jurare - swear ). The begging meaning derives from 'swear' in the sense make a solemn appeal to deity.
So don't feel discouraged, you understand more than you think!
I hope you have enjoyed this taster. On Tuesday I will also have an infographic available with other words from Frankenstein so if you would like to receive it, just leave me your email address in the comments or via the contact page and I will be pleased to add you on my newsletter list and you will also receive future infographics that I make every month!
whim, whimsy, vagary, fancy, notion, fad, freak, humour, impulse, quirk, eccentricity, foible, crotchet, urge
This month I am thinking about novels for next year and also creating a free diary that will motivate you to follow along in 2019 and keep track of your reading. Next year will be very exciting for lostinclassics!
So now is a good time to remind ourselves why we are here and what the benefits of reading classic novels are, based on what we have learned together already this year.
1. It's a challenge!
In my private lessons, it is always more motivating to work with students who have a clear goal or objective (an interview, a meeting, an exam, being able to talk to visiting English speaking friends) simply because they are more focused. In life challenges are important to stimulate us to improve. At first glance we can feel overwhelmed by the size of a task, but if we know where we are headed, we can break the journey up into smaller, more reachable stages. Reading a classic novel can seem daunting but every day in the Lost in Classics Group I post on a different aspect of the novel so that, breaking the job down, step by step, each month you can become more familiar with at least one author, some useful language issues and some thought-provoking themes, one novel at a time. If you have followed me this year, you may have noticed that we started in January with a short story of four thousand words and have worked up slowly to seventy-four thousand words with Frankenstein this month. That's a great achievement! Is there a book that you have always wanted to read? Tell me and we can do it together next year!
2. The Book Club!
The book club is the perfect way to bring everything together and also share the reading, as each person in the meeting takes on a different role. Read as much as you can, enough to find something to share for your chosen role; practise speaking in a relaxed way in the company of fellow book lovers.
3. Reality is stranger than fiction!
I must say that the authors we have seen this year have been a fascinating bunch! Their personal lives have seemed like novels themselves, not the least the wonderful Agatha Christie who, as we saw last month, once disappeared for 11 days provoking a huge man hunt! We have seen the scandalous existence of George Eliot (who had a relationship with a married man), Lewis Caroll (accused of pedophilia), Edgar Allan Poe (thought to have been an alcholic and drug addict) and George Orwell (whose writing is still banned in some countries). We have also met the well-connected Edith Wharton (from a rich, old New York family), Mary Shelley
( from a literary family, married to Percy Shelley, friend of Byron) and Scott Fitzgerald (part of the Lost Generation along with Ernest Hemingway). Is there an author that you would like to get to know better next year?
4. Novels are full of language you can use yourself!
Each writer has his own writing style, influenced by the social and historical context he is living in. Since March I have looked for lessons to be learned from each novel we have read in terms of vocabulary and grammar. In this way we have learnt about informal versus formal language, semantic changes, idiomatic expressions, etymology, slang, inversion, archaic and obsolete language, phrasal verbs and much more. Following my Group you could now be more confident in these language and vocabulary questions. Not bad for nine months, huh? That means a lot of acquired vocabulary to use in your own speech or writing, or grammar structures that you will recognize in other contexts. If you sign up for my newsletter, I can also send you my infographics that can serve as quick, visual reminders.
5. You can reflect on life's themes
People who read classic novels have better empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. It's true, there is actually a study on that! (read here). Reading allows us to experience the lives of others or see our own from another point of view. The sad fate of Ethan Frome taught me the importance of doing what you want without worrying about the opinion of others. In Silas Marner and the Black Cat we saw what a devastating effect drugs and alcohol can have on people's lives. Both Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) and Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's) sought to improve their situation in life, but could not escape their past. This month in Frankenstein, we will face such themes as the ethics of recreating life! Plenty of interesting reflections and discussions can be had here. Do you ever comment on an online news article? It's a great way to practise expressing your opinion. Why not share your ideas in the comments to my blog articles here or in the Group.
6. Emotional connection aids long term memorization!
If you have been trying to improve your English for years without success the reason could be lack of emotional connection. When you read constructed dialogues in a text book you may understand the vocabulary and grammar immediately but you won't remember it long term because you don't care about the speakers. But if you read...
'And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.'
...ok it's the third conditional and that is difficult to get your head around in any case, but this is Jane Eyre, speaking to Rochester. She has no money and no connectionsbut she can imagine a different situation for herself and because it's Jane Eyre it's personal, you have seen her grow and you feel for her situation and that makes it all the easier to understand.
This is basically a summary of what I am trying to do with Lost in Classics. I would love to have your feedback so please look out for my questions on Facebook and in my newsletter this month or let me know directly if there are any books you would like to read together this year.
What is this?
When I started lostinclassics I looked for language lessons in the books I was reading, such as for example the use of phrasal verbs or inversion in conditionals and I explained them through examples found in the text. I also did reviews of the books I read and tried to give some advice on how to read classics using the various resources I know of. Then I switched to just reviews and lately I have been doing a bit of creative writing inspired by my reading. Who knows what I will come up with next!