Thursday, February 14, 2008

ILE-Discussion Questions Part 2

5. At what point does Lucia realize that the Chevalier de Seingalt is Casanova? What does he do or say that causes her to realize that the adult Casanova is a different person than the young man whom she loved and who loved her? Why does this realization make her finally enter into the wager he proposes?

On page 155 it says, "When did I see my Giacomo in that silken Frenchman? In retrospect I can scarcely believe my recognition was not immediate, the very moment he was brought to my box at the theatre. . .In any case, when his wig blew off in the storm by the Amstel, there was no doubt."
At first, when he expresses his bitterness about women, she begins to see he has changed-"the bitterness born of his first betrayal, the contempt it had engendered for all other women." Also in his telling her of how he was wronged by a woman in the past, he "revealed that in his heart he accounted as some sort of cheap swindle what was my life's great tragedy." I think she always thought of his love being greater than hers, but as she realizes this is not true, she enters the wager to show that she was indeed worse off because of his love for her.

6. Lucia states in the beginning of the novel that she is annoyed to be aroused by the figure of Monsieur le Chevalier de Seingalt because she is "the one who arouses desire" [p. 6]. How does this early insight into Lucia’s personality affect the reader’s opinion of her as her story unfolds? Lucia seems to believe that even before her illness she was a "carnal" being, as evidenced by her "satisfaction" with her submission to the Count of Montereale [pp. 99–100]. Does Japin create a sense of inevitability in Lucia’s fate, even before her unfortunate illness?

I felt more like Japin didn't want to portray her as a victim, even though she experienced many tragedies in her life. She is a very strong woman to have made the decisions she has made.

7. Monsieur de Pompignac taught Lucia that intellectual reasoning and knowledge are paramount. Lucia learned her lessons well. While overcoming smallpox, Lucia concludes: "If my reason could save me from this moment, there was nothing from which it could not deliver me" [p. 93]. However, Zélide tells Lucia, "Reason is but the shell of consciousness, beneath which emotion is far more knowing" [p. 117]. Does Lucia reconcile Zélide’s teachings with those of Monsieur de Pompignac? Is the conflict of reason versus emotion ever reconcilable for her? Which serves Lucia better in her life: reason or emotion?

Okay, I was aware of this conflict between reason and emotion throughout the book, but couldn't quite grasp the final message. The comment from Zelide quoted above for me has a depth that my mind has been too lazy to fathom. In the end Lucia says, "For a long time I too tried to carry the yoke of reason, but it was too heavy for me. I rejected it." It seems that more than one winning over the other, we need both at different times in our lives and for different purposes.

8. Does the Venice that Lucia visits with Zélide [p. 128] measure up to the image of that city impressed upon her by the Countess of Montereale [pp. 36–38]? Likewise, does the Amsterdam that Lucia inhabits [p. 163] measure up to the image of that city impressed upon her by Monsieur de Pompignac [p. 142]? How does Japin develop his portraits of these two cities through Lucia’s eyes?

Lucia says on page 125, "Compared with my fallen dream (the tarnished image she had of Venice after she knows she will never be with Giacomo), the Venice I found with Zelide was far worse: sludge on the bridges, alleys choked with rubbish...", etc. As she mixes a bit with society, she finds it very much the same as the Countess described--when she goes to the theatre and nobody is even watching the show, they are all so absorbed in making their place in society. It confirms her opinion that Giacamo never would have been successful if she had been by his side.
Amsterdam only partially lived up to its reputation of "tolerance". I love this part: "It was some time before I realized a thing assumed among the Dutch: Tolerance is not the equal of acceptance. Indeed, the two are more nearly opposites, the former sometimes serving as subtle means of repression. To accept another is to embrace him unconditionally, now and always. But to tolerate him is to suggest in the same breath that he is rather an inconvenience, like a nagging pain or an unpleasant odor demanding temporary forbearance."

I guess he develops the portraits of the two cities by starting out with what she envisions, and then the comparison with reality, and her eventual adjustment to her world.


Margreet said...

Shelley, I love your analysis of the book, and your answers to the DQ!!!

Toby said...

Yes, me too. You get an A+. I was concentrating more on how Lucia wanted G., but couldn't have him than how the cities affected Lucia's perceptions of them.

Chain Reader said...

You are so nice! After I read your comments I thought, "Wow, did I write something really intelligent?" So I read through it again, and all I found was quite a few typos! I'll have to fix that--English is the only language I know, so I had better get it right!

Toby said...

Number 5 question is answered in part 3 of the book in case anyone is looking for it. Must be strange not to recognize G at first. I would have at least recognized his voice. I still wonder why G changed his name? Does anyone know yet?