Falsely Disguised

By: Alfredo Valverde

Appearance, defined by the Dictionary Reference as the “state, condition, manner, or style in which a person or object appears; outward look or aspect”, is a peculiar characteristic nature gives to living organisms use in order to interact with their environment in an advantageous manner. As it is most known, the term “false appearance” is used as a suggestive behavior of deceit or dishonesty, which leads generally to unfair advantages in any branch of life.  From a merely physical appearance, which might be fairly simple to distinguish from objective reality, to a more complex, emotional or attitude-oriented disguise of reality, a false appearance has important implications in living organisms’ interaction. False appearances are a highly valuable literary topic as is the case of Jane Austen’s novel Emma.  More specifically, the use of false appearances ranges from animals to humans in wide plausibility, which is further exploited and perfectly characterized by Frank Churchill’s role.

‘Survival of the fittest’, Charles Darwin coined term for stating that only smarter and physically enhanced organisms shall live on, leads living organisms in the search for self improvements. Particularly, animals are a great example of physical representations of false appearances. The main purpose for their use of a false physical appearance is protection. A chameleon is probably the most widely known animal to have a defensive mechanism by which it enhances its survival probabilities: camouflage. This not only allows chameleons to be unperceived when right in front of their hunters’ sight, but it offers a better possibility of escape.  An even better example of a false appearance for protection are wild cats, which as domestic cats, curve their back upwards when in the presence of danger in the same way cobras maximize the surface area around their heads from their frontal view. This serves the specific purpose of creating the impression of being “bigger and less fragile”. Animals therefore, have an important usage of false appearances in their own preservation, survival.

When it comes to the other side of the spectrum, however, a more intricate analysis of behavior needs to be performed when dealing with humans. The ability to emotionally deceive individuals is acquired at a young age, and it is expressed the moment a toddler decides to ‘manipulate’ his parents with his crying.  In the adult years, false appearances are an efficient way to obtain desired results from other people’s ignorance in the sense that it allows the disguising of undesirable characteristics of one’s own self, also known as hypocrisy, to approach a person and remain close to them, probably “sucking like a leech” from their many advantages. False appearances however, besides from its directly beneficial application, can also be used to maintain a social status and respectability. Furthermore, it might as well help an individual hide a hurtful situation in one aspect of their life to thrive in others, which is commonly seen in the case of tempestuous family relationships not interfering with the work environment.  In all these, it is important to appreciate how false appearances are commonly used among humans and their social interactions.

In Jane Austen’s Emma, Frank Churchill’s character is filled up with a false reality of himself. He not only pretends to be a different person with different personal preferences, he does it masterly. In order to safeguard his relationship with Jane Fairfax, Churchill displays a playful and provocative character with other females, specifically with Emma with whom he spends valuable ‘flirting’ time. The power of his deception is such that even Jane Fairfax, knowledgeable of his love for her, doubts his real intentions further on in the novel. In a private conversation between Frank and Jane, the reader is able to tell how Jane Fairfax’s has been affected by his pristine performance.  This is appreciated in the novel with the quote “Jane passed between them into the hall, and looked at neither [Frank Churchill nor Mr. Knightley],” (p.325). It basically explains the fact that Jane was conscious of the ‘dangers’ that any interaction with Frank caused but more importantly, she acts coldly with him because she perceives a loss of interest on his behalf. Churchill’s fake appearance in this case is just a sample of how hurtful  manipulation of interests can become.

False appearances have positive consequences such as natural defense mechanisms exemplified by wildlife. However, with respect to human relations, they also have devastating consequences that arise from manipulation. The ability to disguise emotions, rather than a physical aspect, is a dangerous and effective tool that is acquired during childhood. False appearances also have varied uses, which range from the desire of maintaining a certain status and respectability to evading personal troubles. They can also go into much more depth due to the human mind’s intrinsic complexity and are therefore not limited to a blog post’s point of view. Furthermore, in literature, Jane Austen has portrayed a perfect example of this concept in her character Frank Churchill, who not only deceives his community, but also fools his own fiancée.  His success was so thorough it had unintended consequences. Appearances are a double edged sword which must be dealt with great care, so, are you playing fair?

Sources

“Appearance.” Dictionary.com | Free Online Dictionary for English Definitions . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com

Austen, Jane. Emma . London: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

Appendix

Here you can see the example of camouflage on a chameleon or a defensive cobra.

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From One Generation to the Next

By: Kimberly Urie

A very interesting discussion was had in class this week comparing the three main female characters that we have been exposed to through our reading of Emma and Mrs. Dalloway. A contrast is easy to see when comparing the characters Mrs. Dalloway and Emma just as one would be expected; the two women do exist in entirely different time periods. Change is to be expected when so many years separate the worlds that each character inhabits. But what then of the third character, Mrs. Dalloway’s daughter Elizabeth? Elizabeth and her mother are not separated by the same vast expanse of time that explains the difference between Emma and Mrs. Dalloway, yet there are some apparent difference between mother and daughter as well. This realization might lead one to believe that sometimes change does not need so much time to come about, but can happen much quicker, perhaps even in the span of a generation.

The reader begins to see the differences between Mrs. Dalloway and her daughter very soon after the story begins.  Elizabeth cares “not a straw” for the hats and gloves that Mrs. Dalloway says herself she has a “passion” for (11). Instead, Elizabeth cares more for her dog. Mrs. Dalloway also can not understand why Elizabeth would chose to spend so much of her time with Mrs. Kilman for Mrs. Kilman is poor and as such not of the same social position as the Dalloways. She is also entirely too religious for Mrs. Dalloway’s liking.  Later, when the reader actually gets to see things from Elizabeth’s perspective, more difference between her and her mother become apparent. Elizabeth does not seem to have the inclination to become the perfect party hostess that Mrs. Dalloway strives to be, instead, Elizabeth is urged by Mrs. Kilman to think about actual careers. Though she only considers them briefly, that Elizabeth even has the option of an actual career and is not already set on making a career out of staying at home and hosting events shows a stark contrast in the attitudes of Mrs. Dalloway’s generation toward women and that of Elizabeth’s age.

Mrs. Dalloway and her daughter are not the only example of the changes that can occurs from one generation to the next, such changes take place even today. It is becoming more commonplace and is even applauded for women of my generation to pursue careers, seek higher education, and even study fields previously considered only suitable for men. Women are becoming engineers, attending technical colleges, and pursuing goals outside of the home and family. All of these things may not seem so unusual to the young women of today but things were not quite the same even one generation ago. It was considered acceptable for women to pursue careers and work more so than it had been previously but women were still largely responsible for the home and children, pursuing careers that allowed for such things to remain a priority.  In the span of one generation, from a mother who studied how to be a secretary to a daughter who is now at one of the best engineering schools in the country, the idea of what women can do, and what is acceptable for women to do, has changed dramatically.

Just as Mrs. Dalloway could walk around the streets of London when Emma could not, and Elizabeth could pursue a career outside the home when her mother could not, each new generation has the power to once again redefine what women can do. It does not take the hundred or so years that separate Emma from Mrs. Dalloway for change to begin taking shape. It can take only the generation that separates Clarissa and her daughter or that separates myself from my mother for change to occur. In that span of time, individuals can choose to push the boundaries of whatever limits have already been set and in doing so, set the wheels of change in motion.

Sources:

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. Print.
Austen, Jane, Steven Marcus, and Victoria Blake. Emma. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004. Print.
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Septimus, They Failed You.

By: Joseph Santilli

Suicide is quite an act to make. To some, it is shameful – a demonstration of weakness and inability to cope with life’s problems. To others suicide is admirable – an act of defiance, a form of protest. In Mrs. Dalloway, one of Virginia Woolf’s novels, there is a character by the name of Septimus who is suffering from post-traumatic stress. This has left him feeling devoid of emotions and hallucinating a dead war friend. In short, he is labeled as insane – a lunatic. At the end of the novel Septimus ends his life, the most shocking event to take place in the book. This act of suicide, however, is not only revealing of Septimus’ fragile state, but also of society’s failure to demonstrate human compassion and to aid a fellow human being.

The doctors that tended to Septimus are the one’s most responsible for his suicide. They are, first and foremost, important figures in society, for they are doctors – people who work for society as a whole, and try to fix its health issues. The first problem occurs when the doctor’s both conflict in their handlings of Septimus’ condition. Dr. Holmes was the first doctor to treat Septimus. When he first diagnosed Septimus, he found that “there was nothing whatever the matter”, and if anything, “hoped to find [Septimus] out of bed”, paying more attention to his wife. Dr. William Bradshaw, however, took a different route with Septimus. He desired for Septimus to remain in bed and separated from those who “he [was] fond of most”, specifically his wife. The two men were “different in their verdict”, and this only led to further instability in Septimus’ life. Septimus was even led to believe that he had done something terribly wrong for he came to wonder, “what was his crime?”, for “he could not remember it”. Though most likely not the intention of the doctors, the negative result upon Septimus had been made. He was left confused on how to fix his problem, and then further led to believe that his problem was as serious as to be some sort of crime, one he could not figure out.

Whenever Bradshaw and Holmes are discussed, they are discussed along with the amount of money they garner and their characteristic of being forceful. Bradshaw and Holmes are described as “men who made ten thousand a year” and who “saw nothing clear, yet ruled, yet inflicted”. Ten thousand a year is a high number and to make such an amount is indicative of the high reputations given to these doctors, which in turn gives power to their advice. If they had been doctors of no significant reputation, the advice given would have not been used. But since people are paying large sums of money to get their advice, they will most likely be highly submissive to the treatments provided. Septimus never wanted the advice of the two doctors in the first place, yet his wife had insisted upon it. He had realized that the doctors never understood his situation. They saw things from one perspective: the biological side. They saw his problems as a symptom of some sort of bodily malfunction, and didn’t even bother to realize his problem from an emotional aspect, thus proving their seeing “nothing clear”. Therefore the imposed treatments, and conflicting ideas of treatment only aggravated Septimus’ situation. One doctor, Sir William Bradshaw, was to be feared because he prospered, but it is not said that he prospered through helping the mentally disturbed. Rather, he prospered by “seclud[ing] [England’s] lunatics”. The word choice used makes a big difference in describing Bradshaw’s success. Using the word “help” has a positive connotation, indicating some kind of good willed nature. The use of the word “seclude”, however, provides for a negative image of Bradshaw. He hides England’s lunatics, he doesn’t help them, and the way he manages his profession is akin to sweeping the dust under the rug. There is no demonstration of human compassion in this quote. Bradshaw is also said to stifle the voices of England’s “lunatics”, one of which is Septimus in Bradshaw’s (and ultimately society’s) eyes. Bradshaw “made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views” until they “shared his sense of proportion”. What we get of Bradshaw is a forceful image: someone who stuffs people into a box and who takes what ‘normal’ people see as the weird of society and forces it to “share his sense of proportion”. One gets the impression of a wealthy mad doctor, bending the will of others because society has given him the power to do so. Poor Septimus was in the hands of Bradshaw, and because society advocated Bradshaw’s high reputation, they in turn are the one’s responsible for Septimus’ suicide, thus confirming their failure to help him.

Towards the end of Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Dalloway confirmed society’s failure in her thoughts. While Clarissa hosted her party, Mrs. Bradshaw revealed that they were late due to the suicide of one of Mr. Bradshaw’s patients (Septimus). On a side note, it is interesting that Mr. Bradshaw is able to attend a party with his wife after having just dealt with a patient’s suicide, another human being whose health was in his hands. How one human can be so indifferent to the death of another is appalling. It shows how no human connection was ever established between the two characters, proving that Mr. Bradshaw most likely engaged in his practice merely for the money. Clarissa is perturbed that Septimus’ suicide is talked about at her party, yet couldn’t help to ponder its meaning. She realized that “death was an attempt to communicate”, and that Septimus’ suicide was an act of defiance. She understood a lot about his situation, but unfortunately said that she did “not pity him…with all [of] this going on”. “All [of] this going on” most likely references the party she hosted, and she comes to believe that his death was “somehow her disaster-her disgrace”. What can be derived from this is that she understands her role in a society that failed Septimus. First she acknowledges her indifference to his death: “she did not pity him”, and then proceeds to acknowledge her debasement of participating in such a society: “somehow it was her disaster-her disgrace”.

Society’s failure to aid Septimus shows two things: 1) that in their fear of the insane, society will get rid of the problem by any means and 2) human’s ultimately do have other things on their minds besides the interest’s of others. The doctors that tended to Septimus’ condition had their reputations in mind, which further fueled their high incomes. Clarissa Dalloway, a representation of a part of society, had her party, which had to be a success so as to further her own social relations, even if that meant not caring much for the suicide of Septimus. People are inherently selfish, and wish to further themselves either through money, reputation, or both. Whatever the reason, this selfishness could have been the one thing Septimus had come to fear in society, what he, throughout the book, called “human nature”.

 

Sources:

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. London: Harcourt, Inc., 1925. Print.

 

 

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Class In My Jammies

By: Joseph Santilli

The classroom setting is a unique one. Some people go to class and find themselves in a white-walled, decoration deprived room with a projector, twenty identical seats, and a podium. Others attend class in larger rooms, designed to hold somewhere near two-hundred people, with three chalk boards connected, two large projectors, and of course, the ever-needed podium. These are the classroom settings most people will become acquainted with someday in their future; or maybe not. Please allow for the introduction of the newest classroom setting: on the left side of the room, your accumulated laundry, forgotten like the practice of cursive. On the opposite side, your dog, chewing away at what could have one day been mother’s gift of a knitted sweater. Your seat is exactly that: yours. Your desk is cluttered and (depending on who you are) the filtration of light ranges from extremely bright to black hole. This is the classroom setting making itself apparent in the world today. Classes can now easily be held online, either for a couple of days during the whole of the semester or for an entire semester. For all of its convenience, however, having class online can carry quite an inconvenience.

One type of online class is one held through a chat room. The interface is quite simple, consisting of a simple box to type in and send messages. Above this box is an area in which the messages that have been sent by all users are displayed. These messages, like emails or text messages, have the possibility of coming off the wrong way. For instance, the teacher may ask everyone to display a simple hello message in order to gather role for class. One might type in “hey” and send it. This kind of greeting may seem informal and is one that can come off as disrespectful to the teacher. Punctuation and word choice greatly affect how tone is gathered from any written material. If a teacher reads “Hello!” or “Hi!”, it may be read as something said cheerfully, in an exuberant manner. A simple “hey”, however, can come off as dull, blatant, and uninterested. The teacher might read the “hey” as such even if it was unintended to be so by the student, resulting in conflicting personalities. Such errors are most likely to be common in a chat room.

The second fault with having class in a chat room, or any other online setting for that matter, is that not all Internet connections are perfect. There can be cases when the Internet fails on a student, and yet their web browser will not display this loss of connection. Thus the student waits upon a screen in which no incoming messages are shown, thinking that perhaps everyone has gone into some sort of hiatus with the conversation. Then after a minute or so, the student realizes with vexation, that their Internet connection has in fact, been faulty. When the connection is re-established, it is then found that a great deal of conversation has taken place in the course of a minute. The speed with which a conversation can take place in a chat room is most definitely greater than that of conversation in an actual classroom. Thus, the student must take care to read through all of the messages to sort out anything of particular relevance. This can be frustrating to a student experiencing a rather bad day with Internet connection. A chat room is also devoid of regulations on conversation flow. In a classroom setting, where one actually goes to a classroom, one raises their hand in order to be called upon by the teacher. No one really speaks out of turn unless the situation calls for it. By seeing the teacher and other students, it is much easier to readily understand when it is appropriate to talk. In a chat room, however, there is no easy way to dictate the flow of conversation. The teacher will pose a simple question such as “Who’s your favorite character and why?”, and those who can readily respond do. The teacher will then try to reach out to one particular student’s response through a message that is just seconds later, overwhelmed by answers from those who have come to answer late. Conversation, again, lacks order, and because of this, may be a rather frustrating experience to both teacher and student.

This type of online class is not the only kind. A chat room is most likely to be utilized on occasions in which there is a problem, such as the teacher being unable to make it out of the house due to snow. There are classes, however, that are actually taught online throughout the whole of a semester. When talking with a friend about his experience on taking an online Chinese class, he remarked that the teacher used a sort of program that allowed for any kind of material she referenced to be displayed easily. All of the students used headsets to talk to each other and the teacher. The teacher would call on students to read certain passages and respond to certain questions. This type of online class was a little more efficient at getting the learning experience through than a simple chat room. Yet, despite the efficiency of the class and the ability to remain in one’s room while attending class, this friend voiced the preference to have class in an actual room. He stated that by having class in a room, he felt more focused and that the setting was a little more intimate. To further expand on this, it is a big deal when one is not able to see a teacher teach. Teachers not only use the material at hand to present an idea, but also utilize voice inflections, eye contact, and body movement which all result in engaging the student on a higher level than exhibited in online classroom settings.

As human technology advances, online classroom settings become more sophisticated. Despite their appeal, it is in fact best if actual classrooms remain the backbone of education, with the physical presence of a teacher. There is an art to teaching, and to see a teacher both passionate and vivid makes the topic all the more engaging with both aural and visual appeal. If online classes ever come to be the primary means of an education, I predict the following: increasing obesity issues, disregard for hygiene, drop in social skills, high decrease in teaching jobs, and widespread increase in cheating. To prevent this, I will still gladly raise my hand, and wait to be called on in class.

 

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War: The Unexpected Influence on the Evolution of Time and Space

By: Kimberly Urie

War has without a doubt profoundly effected society since its beginning, but not all of those changes may be so obvious. Time is something that contemporary society takes for granted and relies on, but time was not always treated as it is today. For example, that people will arrive on time, events will take place when planned, and appointments will be kept is not questioned it today’s society; time is very exact, people are expected to know what time it is and to act accordingly. This was not always the way of things and it was war, a war that had a great many other lasting effects on society, that paved the way for time to become so instrumental and precise. The connection between time and war also leads one to wonder at what other things have had such influences throughout their development.

It may not occur to many people to question the origins of modern time. Furthermore, should the curious individual wonder about the evolution of time, it would be even less likely that such an individual would look to war as being such a heavy influence. The first place one might look is the history of the railroad, a well known influence on the development of time zones. As Kern noted however, war has had a profound influence on time, largely for practical reasons.  Soldiers needed to report on time, drills needed to be run in a timely manor, attacks needed to be coordinated, and monumental efforts needed to be organized so that entire countries could unite and move as one in opposition to another. All of these things require a consistency in time. It simply would not work if soldiers showed up at different times or were not on the same page when it came time to mounting an attack. It is for these practical reasons during the war that the way time was treated was forced to adjust and has remained different ever since.

This is just one example of how something that seems so concrete, as if it has always been as it is now, has in fact been influenced profoundly by something completely unexpected. Just as art has been so unexpectedly influenced by the more practical sciences and technology, so has time been unexpectedly influenced by war. It is this connection that Kern discussed in his chapter entitled “The Cubist War”. I thought it very interesting that he noticed such a simple connection in the evolution of time. I also think it begs the question of what other things, things that we today take for granted, have actually undergone a great deal of change? What has been influenced long ago by something that now would seem completely unrelated? Something interesting to consider in answering this question is the other topic of this class: space.

Our concepts of space have certainly changed. The way Emma treats space- a few miles as too far to travel more than a few times a year- is drastically different than the way Mrs. Dalloway treats space- walking on her own through the city just to do some shopping. Since Mrs. Dalloway’s time, the treatment of space has continued to evolve just as time evolved as a result of war. Space has continued to shrink with technological developments such as cars, planes, trains, and even space shuttles that stretch the boundaries of our own atmosphere. It is clear that space has changed just as much as time has but whether simply as a result of technology or as something more surprising, like war, remains in question.

Source:

Kern, Stephen. The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918: with a New Preface. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2003. Print.

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Technological Education

By: Alfredo Valverde

Technology, defined by Wikipedia as the “usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or serve some purpose”, is one of the branches of human knowledge that has made the most use out of the scientific method. In order to provide humans with daily tools such as computers, technology has implemented the necessary tools to allow the enhancement of communication, labor, politics, economics and education, among many others. The usage of computational technology specifically in education has allowed the displacement from a traditional environment and into an online world, with this latter becoming an everyday more preferable method of education due to an ever growing student population.

Traditional classes, which count with the physical presence of student in them, have several advantages. There is an enormous efficiency in the lecturer-student communication, which allows topics to be covered faster and more efficiently, which is one of the main aims of our current society. Furthermore, the physical presence of a student himself allows a more conscious notion of his own performance in the class. This means that the fact that a student has to constantly concentrate and need to create visual contact with the lecturer and his non-verbal language, preferably in a small, 25 student class, is a promoter of concentration and an enhancer of the learning process. Nonetheless, aspects such as the loss of time invested in transportation to the class and physical space limitations to accommodate the necessary students are true hindrances to the educational processes.

Computational technology has nevertheless, created the possibility to allocate thousands of students in one same educational environment at the same time. Online interactions are becoming more efficient due to the constant improvement in server technology, or in English, the amount of people that can be interacting in a same webpage. Furthermore, the internet is a really powerful tool that has not only provided the possibility to examine infinite amount of information with search engines such as Yahoo©, Google© or Bing©, among others. However, are these advantages worth it? It is important to take into account several determining factors when deciding whether to impart an online lecture. One of them is the fact that classes become less personalized and there is a human desensitization to whatever is brought up into the educational environment. Cultural interactions are completely neglected and even though time’s efficiency may be increased in transportation need’s sake, confusion may arise whenever there are great affluences of commentaries in a chat or important images in a video chat room. Negative aspects may be unlimited so, why do we even care about considering online interactions?

As student populations grow, resources to deal with them remain more restricted. In Georgia Institute of Technology, there is a clear example of enormous student populations for specific classes. Such is the case of the core courses as the sciences and introduction to computing engineering. These classes have opted to involve interactive developed software that evaluates students for their homework and other tasks. Some examples of these are MasteringPhysics© (Physics courses), OWL© (Chemistry courses) or Aplia© (Economics courses), which are online web pages designed for student-computer interaction that will evaluate students knowledge on a topic. These are all part of a hybrid in which traditional classes tend towards technology integration for an improvement student’s absorption of knowledge. Finally, it is important to appreciate how slowly but persistently, the pen-paper-book team has been partially substituted by the computer-internet team.

The educational process goes hand in hand with computational technology. Even though the traditional classroom provides a more stable sense of learning, provided with physical presence, non-verbal communication and multi-cultural experiences, it is being displaced by online education in a crawling process. An ever-increasing student population requires accommodations for efficient grading and feedback of homework and other tasks, which online developed software provides promptly. This means, computational technology with its improved serves and exorbitantly fast search engines are having increasing approval among the academy and its pedagogic purpose and therefore, as the current generations graduate, they become important tools in the labor environment. Lastly, it is important to realize how important multicultural interactions become and that only physical classrooms allow for these interactions to plentifully occur. In a globalized world as the one we have nowadays, the importance of multiculturalism is imprinted in every classroom and must therefore be taken into account at the time of deciding whether classes should be online or not.

Sources

“Technology .” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2011.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology

Appendix

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Most Respectable, This Letter!

By: Joseph Santilli

Luv or h8te it, technlgy iz chnging written communication. If you couldn’t comprehend what was first written at the beginning of this blog, then you may not be well aware of the change technology is inhibiting upon the way people communicate. The years have allowed for the advancement of technology and this advancement may very well be the degradation of written communication as a whole. The way in which one communicated through written forms in the past differed greatly from the way people do so today. If you will allow, let us step back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. As an example of how time and technology has changed written communication, we will primarily focus upon Jane Austen’s written work, Emma.

In Emma, the main characters all reside in the village of Highbury. Their society is small and there is no such thing as cell-phones or computers with internet-access. In fact a great deal of communication within the novel relies upon letters; actual hand-written letters. These letters take quite an amount of time to be received since there are no mailmen in cars to help expedite the process. When reading excerpts from Emma, one can see the difference in written communication between then and now. For example, Emma (the main character) has a close friend who is being pursued by a rather well-to-do farmer named Mr. Martin. The climax of Mr. Martin’s desire for Harriet comes in the form of a letter whose content is a direct proposal of marriage. When Emma reads this letter, she checks several things:

“The style of the letter was much above her expectation. There were not merely no grammatical errors, but as a composition it would not have disgraced a gentleman; the language, though plain, was strong and unaffected…”

What should be noted is that Emma knows the contents of the letter before reading it. Instead of directly jumping to what Harriet should do, Emma takes the time to read the letter and dissect it’s relevance as a written work. She inspected the “style of the letter”, noticed its lack of “grammatical errors” and even ascertained that it’s composition “would not have disgraced a gentleman”. It seems that Emma takes the time to breakdown Mr. Martin’s ability to write as this allows her insight into what sort of education he has had and how he is comparable to those of her class: the upper class. When she references “gentleman”, she does not mean someone who is kind and much obliged to the needs of others; one who treats ladies exceptionably well. She rather uses “gentleman” to reference a man coming from the upper class. The care in which she takes to analyze the structure of the letter is quite like the care she takes with every other letter that is received throughout the course of the book. It is evident that letter’s are highly significant in judging character and class. A simple letter as seen, holds so much power as to be read for style and structure even after it’s content is known. Nowadays, a letter does not hold so much power. People can instantly communicate with a phone call, text, or message on a social networking site. As a result of this, people can communicate with several people several miles away in an instant. It is highly common to send and receive letters and as a result, they are no longer looked into so much except for their contents.

As evidenced by the excerpt above, spelling and composition is of high importance. Today, a great deal of written communication isn’t paid careful attention to. People are living in a fast paced world and the result has been intentionally misspelled words and broken grammar in informal conversation. People will frequently see “nvm” instead of “don’t worry” or “roflmao” instead of “that was hilarious to the extent that I have found myself rolling vigorously on my floor”. Today’s written communication would most likely confound Emma and fall deep below her expectations for anyone with an education. If Emma were to live in today’s world, she would find herself thinking that whoever wrote with nvm’s, lol’s, thnx’s, and ttyl’s were highly uneducated people.

Written communication is an art. And in the art of the letter, there is an audience that comes with it. In Emma, letters are no trivial matter. Especially when they come from friends far away. In one instance, a character by the name of Mr. Weston receives a letter from his son stating that he will be near Highbury and most likely come to visit. Several friends read this letter and “congratulat[e]” Mrs. Weston in a “warm and open” manner after the news had been revealed. The letter is of great importance and is read by several friends and made a great spectacle of. Mr. Weston could have simply stated the news without the letter. The importance of the letter, this artifact of written communication, however, was highly necessary. Today, people can receive messages on their computer or text messages on their phones in an instant. Because of the amount of written communication that can be done within one single hour, it would seem ludicrous to be congratulated every time one received a message or to even share each received message with every single person in one’s social circle.

Technology has broken down the towering structure of formal writing and most people, from my experience, only exert attention to formalities when the writing being done is for a class assignment. As a testimony to the change of written communication, the art of the letter has been “dumbed” down. People no longer check to make sure whether the style is disgraceful to a gentleman or not. They most likely don’t even think about social class when they read a letter. A letter is now read solely for its contents. Technology is useful and has made written communication a lot more fast-paced. But written communication is an art, and technology is lowering its standards when it comes to social interactions. As a personal interjection, I recall when cursive was taught in elementary school because it seemed to be a vital element to written communication. An element to the art that further enhanced its quality. But now that people have averted to emails, wall posts on social networking sites, and text messages, all of which barely use cursive, it’s being taught in some school’s has fallen out. A friend of mine, in a desire to learn cursive, switched elementary schools. As a remark of caution, if we are not careful, technology may very well kill off the art of writing, and in its campaign of becoming stronger, potentially chip away at other arts. Can’t play the trumpet? There’s a keyboard that can make the sounds for you! Can’t reeed my wrds? 2 bad. Pardon me while I go lol.

Sources: Austen, Jane. Emma . London: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

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