Sunday, February 24, 2008

ILE ~ discussion questions ~ Part 3

Part 3 ~ Theatrum Amatorium (9-19)

9. Toby said, "I haven't finished the book yet, but I had been wondering if when I was younger, if I had hid my face from my old boyfriend, would he had realized it was me? Wouldn't he had recognized my voice? That is what I would ask Lucia & G." Good question. Bonnie wondered, "Wouldn't Giacomo have recognized the voice of his very recent lover when Lucia appeared as a decrepit old woman?" Although Lucia confides what she did, I'm not sure this would be enough to fool him. What do you think?
"I am as happy to see you prosperous," I said in Italian, attempting the higher, softer voice of my youth, "as you must be disturbed at seeing what has become of me."
10. How did Lucia's feelings toward her parents change, and why?

11. What is the significance to Lucia of the story of her feebleminded cousin Geppo (pp. 147-179)? (Bonnie: Although I just finished the book last night, I'm asking, "Who?" I know I read those 32 pages, but ... huh?)

12. Lucia states, "At last, I had stopped imagining myself in the gaze of others. . . . And so the mask I had put on to distance myself actually brought me closer to other people" (p. 198). How does wearing a veil bring Lucia closer to others? How does Lucia’s veil affect others’ perception of her? Does it affect how she perceives herself?

13. Of Amsterdam society Lucia says, "Tolerance is not the equal of acceptance. Indeed, the two are more nearly opposites, the former sometimes serving as a subtle means of repression" (p. 163). In the book, appearances and looks are very focal to the urban societies of eighteenth-century Europe. Is Western society in the twenty-first century any different than Amsterdam with respect to its treatment of scarred or unsightly people? How might contemporary Western society respond to a veiled woman?

14. Lucia says, "I too tried to carry the yoke of reason, but it was too heavy for me. I rejected it" (pp. 230—231). From Lucia’s point of view, the Age of Enlightenment resulted in confusion rather than progress. How does Casanova reflect this confusion? Can Lucia reject the confusion of her age entirely, or has she been shaped by it herself? Has Lucia’s education, her exposure to scholarship and reason in the house of the Morandi Manzolinis (pp. 103–108), benefited her in any way that she is not acknowledging? How might Lucia have fared differently if she had been schooled in religion and faith and never exposed to science and knowledge?

15. How are Lucia’s emotional and physical relations with the adult Casanova different from her relations with other men? What has Giacomo Casanova learned as a seducer of women? Is he more artful than Lucia when it comes to seduction? How does viewing Casanova through Lucia’s eyes alter the reader’s preconceptions of Casanova?

16. After her illness, Lucia deduces that she must abandon Casanova because staying with him would have "produced two unhappy people," whereas leaving him would have produced "only one" (p. 97). After meeting de Seingalt years later, she recalculates with hindsight: "Would the tender Giacomo of Pasiano have ever changed into the cynical Jacques de Seingalt if I had listened to my girlish heart and not subdued my fierce desire with clear-eyed foresight? What if I had dared to show him myself ravaged, trusting to our love, letting life and nature run their course instead of sacrificing myself like some inane operatic heroine? In that case, I alone would have been disfigured; now we both were" (p. 158). With the benefit of hindsight, might Lucia have trusted to their love if she had the chance to do it again? Should she have? How might Lucia’s life have turned out differently if Casanova had rejected her? Is Casanova in fact "disfigured" by Lucia’s youthful rejection of him?

17. Casanova states the lesson of his own life: "It is unpardonable sin not to take what love puts before you" (p. 223). What does Lucia think of this "lesson"? Why does Lucia not view this as her own life’s lesson?

18. After their wager is over, and Galathée removes her veil to become Lucia again for Casanova, she says of her appearance "at that moment it wasn’t a source of shame. ... Suddenly I saw, like some saintly vision, the lesson Fate had been trying to teach me" (p. 217). What did Lucia learn in that moment? Did this revelation make her suffering worthwhile in her view?

19. What in Seingalt’s final letter to Lucia makes her change her mind and leave with Jamieson?

And let's review any of these previous questions:

Part 1 ~ The Benefit of Love (1-4)

1. How do Lucia’s early relationships shape the person she becomes? What does the Countess of Montereale give Lucia that her own mother cannot?

2. Lucia claims to have faith in self-delusion. She says, "Self-delusion has the benefit of letting us believe that everything is still possible. I have a talent for that" (p. 14). She also says, "Truth is more than the things you see; that is why its value is only relative. I am very careful with it" (p. 16). And she goes so far as to say, "The only thing that can change reality is the mind. ... If one would change things, one needn’t touch them; one need only see them differently" (p. 46). In what ways does Lucia delude herself? When does she choose the truth over self-delusion?

3. Lucia says of men, "Most aim to please with little understanding of our pleasure. ... More than anything, men want that which has been withheld. A happy certainty is no match for a mystery denied. Given a choice, a man will always take the unknown" (pp. 8–10). What is Lucia’s opinion about men?

4. Why did Giacomo change his name to Seingalt? (Toby's question)

Part 2 ~ A Great Imperfection (5-8)

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?

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?

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?

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?

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