Mary Shelley and the Power of Words

Mary Shelley on the Courage to Speak Up Against Injustice and the Power of Words in Revising the World

“Words have more power than any one can guess; it is by words that the world’s great fight, now in these civilized times, is carried on.”

By Maria Popova

“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men*,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her 1914 anthem against silence — a line Rachel Carson leaned on in summoning her epoch-making courage to speak inconvenient truth to power as she awakened the modern environmental conscience.

“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality… what I most regretted were my silences… My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde admonished a generation later in her blueprint to “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” — her own courageous and catalytic manifesto for another vital awakening.

One hundred years before Lorde’s birth, Mary Shelley (August 30, 1797–February 1, 1851) — another woman of extraordinary vision, courage, and passion for justice — explored the actionable might of words in social change and the power of breaking silence in a tiny, potent fragment from her enormous penultimate novel, Lodore. Read the full piece at Brain Pickings.

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