Christmas Trivia Quiz! (re: stories by Gogol, Capote & Thomas)

Trivia Quiz for Christmas stories

Nikolai Gogol, The Night Before Christmas (Russian, 1832)

Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory (American, 1956)

Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales (Welsh, 1950)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 12/19/21

Timelessness. Each story suggests the eternal essence of holiday magic, yet their styles capture that feeling in different ways. Match quote to author: a. Nikolai Gogol; b. Truman Capote; or c. Dylan Thomas

1. “One Christmas was so much like another, in those years…”

2. “It’s always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year … announces: ‘It’s fruitcake weather!’”

3. “A clear winter night had come; the stars peeped out; the moon rose majestically in the sky to light good people and all the world so that all might enjoy singing.”

Delicious food! Each story details the treats that accompany the holidays. Match the special food to the author: a. Nikolai Gogol; b. Truman Capote; or c. Dylan Thomas

4. rice, honey, and fat bacon and sausage

5. toffee, fudge, allsorts, crunches, cracknel, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh

6. a beef bone, some Satsuma oranges, flapjacks, fried squirrel, and honey-in-the-comb

Seasonal sounds. Each story evokes sounds that signify winter and holidays. Match the special sound to the author: a. Nikolai Gogol; b. Truman Capote; or c. Dylan Thomas

7. “A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth…. Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south.”

8. “The snow sparkled… Groups of lads and girls appeared with sacks. Songs rang out, and under almost every cottage window were crowds of carol-singers.”

9. “It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence.”

Maxims about life. Each story contains some lesson to be learned. Match the teaching to the author who mentions it: a. Nikolai Gogol; b. Truman Capote; or c. Dylan Thomas

10. “And when we stopped running … everything was good again and shone over the town.”

11. “Home is where my friend is.”

12. “Things are queerly arranged in our world! All who live in it are always trying to outdo and imitate one another.”

Hints of melancholy. Each story alludes to some mystery or sadness as well. Match the quote to the author: a. Nikolai Gogol; b. Truman Capote; or c. Dylan Thomas

13. “One, two, three, and we began to sing … round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. … And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice”

14. “Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends? I think yes.”

15. “She is jeering at me. I am no more to her than an old rusty horseshoe.”

16. Snow! Circle the story which does not mention a snowy Christmas.

a. The Night Before Christmas           b. A Christmas Memory          c. A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Women’s work. Women are a force to be reckoned with in these stories, in vastly different ways.

17. Nikolai Gogol’s story pivots around the actions of certain women. Which is not in the story?

a. One woman beats her husband, then “sighing and groaning, waddled off to tell her old friends of her husband’s unmannerliness and the blows she had to put up with from him.”

b. A witch steals the stars out of the sky.

c. Oksana, the village beauty, is so full of caprices that most of her would-be suitors give up on her.

d. A poor woman receives a white wool shawl knitted by her sister one year.

18. Dylan Thomas describes all but one of the following women in his story. Which does not belong?

a. “Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens.”

b. One neighbor is condemned by his auntie because: “For all the husband’s faults, the wife is guilty.”

c. “Some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edges of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers.”

d. After a few drinks of port, one aunt stands “in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush.”

19. Truman Capote’s tale is dominated by a female friend who is described as all but one of the following. Which attribute does not belong to her?

a. Superstitious, she spends the thirteenth of each month in bed.

b. She was not known to go to movies, eat in restaurants, wish anyone harm, or let a hungry dog go hungry.

c. She takes a long time getting dressed, and loves to preen before a looking-glass in admiration.

d. She was known to kill rattlesnakes, tame hummingbirds, tell ghost stories, and walk in the rain.

20. Beautiful styles! Which is not by Dylan Thomas? [hint: there are two correct answers.]

a. “Snow grew overnight on the roofs of houses like a pure and grandfather moss.”

b. “It seemed to him as though all the houses had fixed their innumerable fiery eyes upon him, watching.”

c. “The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves.”

d. “A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky.”


1. c

2. b

3. a

4. a

5. c

6. b

7. b

8. a

9. c

10. c

11. b

12. a

13. c

14. b

15. a

16. b

17. d  (That describes Capote’s friend)

18. b (That quote is from Pavlova, A Double Life)

19. c  (That description applies to a character in Gogol’s story)

20. b (from Gogol) and d (from Capote)


Trivia Quiz for “Emma” by Jane Austen

Trivia Quiz for Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

For “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club held at Paper Boat Booksellers, Seattle, WA 3/1/20. Our first meeting.

A. History of the Novel and its Author

1. Emma: A Novel, Three Volumes in Two was published in December 1815, though the year 1816 is printed on its title page. Who was named author of the novel in that first printing?

a. Jane Austen

b. Sir Walter Scott

c. Reverend George Austen

d. Anonymous

2. Of all the characters in Emma, which family most resembles Jane Austen’s own family situation?

a. The Woodhouse family, who has “been settled for several generations at Hartfield, the younger branch of a very ancient family”.

b. The Cole family, who are “unpretending” about their “low origin” and aware that they are “only moderately genteel”.

c. The Bates family, led by the widow of Highbury’s former clergyman, Mrs. Bates, who lives with her spinster sister Miss Bates, who has “sunk from the comforts she was born to”.

d. The Martin family, members of the “yeomanry” who are not well-bred enough to deserve notice.

B. Emma: Plot and Style

3. What is the big secret revealed at the end of Emma?

a. Mr. George Knightley secretly loves Miss Emma Woodhouse (and she loves him too)

b. Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Jane Fairfax have been secretly engaged for months

c. Mr. Martin still loves and wants to marry Harriet Smith (and she loves him too)

d. All of the above

4. Which of the following phenomena existing in 1815 are described as motivating fear and stress among the characters in Emma

a. potential of a maternal death in childbirth

b. financial ties to slavery and moral debates over abolitionism

c. bad weather

d. political and personal turmoil caused by the Napoleonic wars (1793-1815)

5-8.  Maxims, rules of conduct and value judgments

Precepts of “common-sense” and judgments are voiced by many characters, and the narrator, in Emma. Match the speakers with the statements.  The speakers include: a. Miss Emma Woodhouse; b. Mr. Woodhouse (her father); c. the narrator; d. Mrs. Elton

5. “I always say a woman cannot have too many resources—And I feel very thankful that I have so many myself.”       

6. “It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. … but when a beginning is made—when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt—it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.”

7. “The sooner every party breaks up, the better.”

8. “I think they are, without exception the most vulgar girls in Highbury.”                 

9-10. Misunderstandings and Turning Points. Who says the following key quotes?

Characters include: a. Miss Bates; b. Harriet Smith

9. “Service! Oh! It was such an inexpressible obligation!—The very recollection of it, and all that I felt at the time—when I saw him coming—his noble look—and my wretchedness before.”

10. “’Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I?”  


1. d. Anonymous

2. c. The situation most resembling the author’s own life is the Bates family, led by the widow of Highbury’s former clergyman, Mrs. Bates, who lives with her spinster sister Miss Bates, who has “sunk from the comforts she was born to”. That helps us grasp why the author had such deep understanding of class privilege, and what it feels like to be resourceful and worthy, yet not have privilege or rank in society. Ridicule ever haunts these characters, and social exclusion.

3. d. All of the above.

4. c. bad weather

5. d. Mrs. Elton is the one so pleased with her good fortune or “resources.” Emma thinks of her as “pert and familiar… if not foolish she was ignorant, and her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.” (p. 217, Penguin classics).

6. c. the narrator voices this praise of dancing, a constant theme in Austen’s novels.

7. b. Always anxious for everyone’s health, the aged Mr. Woodhouse says, “The sooner every party breaks up, the better.”                                                

8. a. Alas, it is the heroine, Miss Emma Woodhouse, who claims that a farm family, the Martins, is beneath contempt. (She will eat crow later, as is Austen’s way… though she will also break ties with her friend Harriet for marrying Mr. Martin.)       

9. b. Harriet Smith says these words, referring to the ball where Mr. Knightley danced with her. Emma thinks she is referring to the gypsy attack in the woods, where Mr. Churchill came to the rescue of Harriet and escorted her home.

10. a. Miss Bates. Knowing this character may resemble the author’s own family members, makes her blunder—and Emma’s snub—all the more painful, and she is portrayed to perfection in the recent film Emma by Miranda Hart.

After this quip, one reads: “Emma could not resist. ‘Ah! Ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me—but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.” (300). Funny, yes, but not to poor Miss Bates. After that, everyone is upset: Miss Bates is mortified, Mr. Knightley is disgusted, and Emma must be taught a lesson before the happy ending may ensue and order be restored.


Good bits from “David Copperfield” (instead of a quiz)

On David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)

Sadly, the West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club lost momentum after our first meeting in March 2020 on Emma, due to the covid-19 lockdown during the months of April–July 2020. I didn’t make a quiz, because I had no idea if people would still be willing, outdoors, to join me in August 2020 for a discussion of David Copperfield. (They did! and our discussion ranks among my peak life experiences.)

Instead of a trivia quiz for David Copperfield, I offer some favorite bits from the novel that I copied down just for fun.

1. The wisdom of the child: a capacity of being pleased

“This may be fancy, though I think the memory of most of us can go farther back into such times than many of us suppose; just as I believe the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed, I think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may with greater propriety be said not to have lost the faculty, than to have acquired it; the rather, as I generally observe such men to retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity of being pleased, which are also an inheritance they have preserved from their childhood.”
–pp. 24-25, Penguin Classics edition of David Copperfield

2. Childhood idyll: David’s bedroom in the little house of Mr. Pegotty, on the seashore

“It was the completest and most desirable bedroom ever seen—in the stern of the vessel; with a little window, where the rudder used to go through; a little looking-glass, just the right height for me, nailed against the wall, and framed with oyster shells; a little bed, which there was just room enough to get into; and a nosegay of seaweed in a blue mug on the table. The walls were whitewashed as white as mild, and the patchwork counterpane made my eyes quite ache with its brightness.” (p. 42)

[Ed. note: the bright patchwork may have been something like my first quilt, circa 1974, below]

One of the many quilts I’ve made, now available to you too!

3. Love calls: Mr. Barkis woos Pegotty

“On the very first evening after our arrival, Mr. Barkis appeared in an exceedingly vacant and awkward condition, and with a bundle of oranges tied up in a handkerchief. As he made no allusion of any kind to this property, he was supposed to have left it behind him by accident…  After that occasion he appeared every evening at exactly the same hour, and always with a little bundle, to which he never alluded, and which he regularly put behind the door, and left there. These offerings of affection were of a most various and eccentric description. Among them I remember a double set pig’s trotters, a huge pin-cushion, half of bushel of apples, a pair of jet earrings, some Spanish onions, a box of dominoes, a canary bird and cage, and a leg of pickled pork.

Mr. Barkis’s wooing, as I remember it, was altogether of a peculiar kind. He very seldom said anything, .. contenting himself now and then asking her if she was pretty comfortable; and I remember that sometimes, after he was gone, Pegotty would throw her apron over her face, and laugh for half-an-hour.” (pp. 154-155).

4. Mr. Dick, on the dissemination of knowledge

Loved the introduction of Mr. Dick, in the part where David has re-found his Aunt Betsey (and is waiting to know what will be done with him). Mr. Dick is the eccentric and very pleasant man who lives upstairs at Aunt Betsey’s house.

When little David visits Mr. Dick in his room, and finds him working on a manuscript about King Charles I, he notes a kite in the corner. As Mr. Dick explains, “I made it. We’ll go and fly it, you and I.”
Then the narrator shows the detail:
“it was covered with manuscript, very closely and laboriously written; but so plainly, that as I looked along the lines, I thought I saw some allusion to King Charles the First’s head again, in one or two places.
‘There’s plenty of string,’ said Mr. Dick, ‘and when it flies high, it takes the facts a long way. That’s my manner of diffusing ’em. I don’t know where they may come down. It’s according to circumstances, and the wind, and so forth; but I take my chance of that.’
His face was so mild and pleasant, and had something so reverend in it, though it was hale and hearty, that I was not sure but that he was having good-humored jest with me. So I laughed, and he laughed, and we parted the best friends possible.”  (p. 213, Penguin edition).

[Ed. note: As author of a few scholarly tomes whose utility has never been exactly clear, though they certainly provide interesting thoughts from obscure and famous sources, and share beautiful images from rare books. During my time in academe, they provided the all-important “cultural capital” to retain employment as a professor. Yet I can think of no better way to disseminate facts than to throw them to the winds! * see the comment and next steps below]

5. Aunt Betsey’s marriage advice: not bad for a grumpy frumpy wayward woman!

“I have been a grumpy, frumpy, wayward sort of a woman, a good many years. I am still, and shall always be. But you and I have done one another some good, Trot,–at all events, you have done me good, my dear; and division must not come between us, at this time of day.”

“Division between us!” cried I.

“Child, child,” said my aunt, smoothing her dress, “how soon it might come between us, or how unhappy I might make our Little Blossom, if I meddled in anything, a prophet couldn’t say. I want our pet to like me, and be as gay as a butterfly. Remember your own home, in that second marriage; and never do both me and her the injury you have hinted at!”

I comprehended at once, that my aunt was right; and I comprehended the full extent of her generous feeling towards my dear wife.

“These are early days, Trot,” she pursued, “and Rome was not built in a day, nor in a year. You have chosen freely for yourself,” a cloud passed over her face for a moment, I thought, “and you have chosen a very pretty and very affectionate creature. It will be your duty, and it will be your pleasure too—of course, I know that; I am not delivering a lecture—to estimate her (as you chose her) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not have. The latter you must develop in her, if you can. And if you cannot, child,” here my aunt rubbed her nose, “you must just accustom yourself to do without ‘em. But remember, my dear, your future is between you two. No one can assist you; you are to work it out for yourselves. This is marriage, Trot; and Heaven bless you both, in it, for a pair of babes in the wood as you are!”  (p. 645)


Trivia Quiz for “Jamaica Inn” by Daphne du Maurier

Trivia Quiz for Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (1936)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 9/27/20

A. Heroes and Villains

1. “Tainted by Merlyn blood”: the brothers Jem and Joss Merlyn seem to live under a curse. Examples from the book include all but one of the following. Which affliction do they not share?

a. both brothers have stolen property from others

b. both brothers have witnessed their father beating their mother and express indifference to women’s rights

c. both brothers have committed murder

d. both brothers keep slovenly homes, speak and act in ill-tempered ways, and have poor hygiene habits

B. You call that love? Gender relations, prejudices and expectations

The Merlyn brothers express many comments on women in Jamaica Inn, but they are not alone. The heroine Mary Yellan also speaks ill of her sex. Match the quote to the character who says it.

Characters include: a. Francis Davey; b. Jem Merlyn; c. Joss Merlyn; d. Mary Yellan


2. “Starvation is good for women and beasts; it brings ‘em to heel.”

3. “Women are always mean.”

4. “Why were women such fools, so short-sighted and unwise?”

5. “I know the dreams of women better than you do yourself.”

6. The women in Jamaica Inn conform to conventional gender roles in many ways, including all but one of the following. Which act does not appear in the novel?

a. Eyeing the dirty household of a bad-tempered bachelor, the heroine “set to work at once.”

b. Aunt Patience acts like a “frightened child” in the presence of her husband, Joss Merlyn.

c. Aunt Patience fawns like a “whimpering dog that has been trained by constant cruelty.”

d. At the end, the heroine agrees to marry the vicar despite her preference for a horse thief.

7. The heroine imagines other ways to live, if only she were a man. Which of the following careers is not mentioned?

a. clerk in a law office

b. tramp the road

c. work on a ship

d. do a man’s work on a farm

C. Cornish flora, fauna and place names

8. There are many picturesque places named in Jamaica Inn, where the action spans the Cornish peninsula in southwestern England. Which of the following is not named?

a. Trewartha Marsh

b. Barouche-Landau

c. Brown Willy

d. Twelve Men’s Moor

e. Rushyford

f. Cheesewring

9. This wild and windswept part of England is home to strange rock formations as well as much flora and fauna; it all comes alive in beautiful descriptions. Which of the following is not present?

a. “long stones that stood on end, balancing themselves in a queer, miraculous way”

b. “strange hot winds” that blow in from Spain

c. wild sheep, buzzards, and ravens: “all solitary things”

d. a silence that “belonged to another age … past and vanished … when men did not exist but pagan footsteps trod upon the hills”

D. The weird vicar!

10. The vicar of Altarnun, Mr. Francis Davey, is an ambiguous character, full of paradoxes. Which item on this list of paradoxical attributes is not in the novel?

a. He professes God’s love, yet his artwork depicts the members of his parish in grotesque caricature that reveals an abiding cynicism.

b. He suffers from albinism and is described as a “freak of nature,” yet he seems very strong and powerful in some ways.

c. He has very short stubby fingers, but plays the piano beautifully.

d. His house, a rectory, is described as lacking any papers, books or art with biblical themes.

E. Style and technique

Daphne du Maurier may not be terribly innovative stylistically, but she does recycle clichés in interesting ways to describe human manipulation. Match the quote with the character in question.

Characters include: a. Francis Davey; b. Jem Merlyn


11. He “played her as an angler plays the fish upon his line”

12. She “rose like a fish to his bait”


1. c. only one of the brothers, Joss Merlyn (Aunt Patience’s husband), is a murderer.

2. c. Joss Merlyn has the distinction of saying, “Starvation is good for women and beasts; it brings ‘em to heel.”

3. b. Jem Merlyn complains, “Women are always mean.”

4. d. Mary Yellan despairs of her sex, “Why were women such fools, so short-sighted and unwise?” 

5. a. The creepy pastor, Francis Davey, declares to Mary: “I know the dreams of women better than you do yourself.”

6.  d. At the end, the heroine does not agree to marry the vicar. She flees with the ill-tempered horse thief, Jem Merlyn (who, compared to his terrifying brother, is a prince). He’s honest in his boorishness, promising her “a hard life, and a wild one at times… and little rest and comfort. Men are ill companions when the mood takes them.”

7. a.

8. b.

9. b.

10. c.

11. b. Jem Merlyn insinuates himself into the heroine’s good graces, “played her as an angler plays the fish upon his line.”

12. a. Francis Davey succeeds, when she “rose like a fish to his bait.”


Trivia Quiz for “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

Trivia Quiz for Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 10/18/20

A. Friends or Lovers?

1. Peter Walsh and Clarissa Dalloway express deep compassion and love for each other. But they also find fault. What trait does Clarissa not have, according to Peter?

a. she knows how to have fun            

b. she is bitter

c. she has too many parties                

d. she needs people                

e. she is talkative

B. Social Portraits

Familial, societal, and marital obligations loom large over the characters in Mrs. Dalloway; those characters who have no families are seen as lonely outcasts, unmoored. Yet even the most privileged come under ironic scrutiny by this wry narrator. Match the quote to the character.

The characters include: a. Lucrezia Warren Smith; b. Peter Walsh;

c. Clarissa Dalloway; d. Elizabeth Dalloway; e. Miss Doris Kilman


2. “Like some dumb creature who has been brought up to a gate for an unknown purpose, and stands there longing to gallop away, X sat silent.”

3. “I never go to parties. Why should they ask me? I’m plain, I’m unhappy.”

4. “What an extraordinary habit that was, Clarissa thought, always playing with a knife.”

5. “She had a sense of comedy that was really exquisite, but she … frittered her time away … talking nonsense, saying things that she didn’t mean, blunting the edge of her mind, losing her discrimination.”

6. “They were perfectly happy now, she said, suddenly, putting the hat down. For she could say whatever came into her head. That was the first thing she had felt about him…”

C.  London and Westminster: A Uniquely Historic Urban Setting

7. There are many picturesque places named in Mrs. Dalloway, where the action mostly stays in the historic center of London. Which of the following places is not named?

a. Westminster Cathedral                              

b. Fleet Street             

c. Brown Willy

d. Regent’s Park         

e. Hyde Park                          

f. Big Ben                  

g. Bond Street

8. Mrs. Dalloway includes some memorable portraits of city life and famous monuments when the characters walk or ride around in London. Which of the following is not present?

a. “With thoughts of ships, of business, of law, of administration, and with it all so stately (she was in the Temple), gay (there was the river), pious (there was the Church), made her quite determined, whatever her mother might say, to become either a farmer or a doctor. But she was, of course, rather lazy.”

b. “As for Buckingham Palace (like an old prima donna facing the audience all in white)”

c. “Crossing the Seine, he saw the Louvre shimmering in the winter sun.”

d. “There was Regent’s Park. Yes. As a child he had walked in Regent’s Park.”

D. Time and its vicissitudes

9. Some of the most vivid passages endeavor to describe time’s power and elasticity, and how people who are otherwise intimate perceive time’s passing so differently, unbeknownst to each other. Which of the following is not in the novel?

a. “For she was a child, throwing bread to the ducks, between her parents, and at the same time a grown woman coming to her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms”

b. “Odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me—the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought.”

c. “There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.”

d. “The word ‘time’ split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells … white, imperishable words… flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time.”

e. None of the above—they are all in the novel.

E. Style and technique

Virginia Woolf is a master of psychological narrative. We feel like we are listening to the characters’ most secret thoughts, yet sometimes they surprise us. It is that changeability that makes her work so satisfying, just like a rich inner life. Plus, their thoughts are often funny or weirdly fascinating! Match the person to the quote. Characters include: a. Septimus Smith; b. Clarissa Dalloway   


10. “Her people were courtiers once in the times of the Georges and she, too, was going that very night to kindle and illuminate.” 

11. “He was not afraid. At every moment Nature signified by some laughing hint like that gold spot … to show, by brandishing her plumes, shaking her tresses, flinging her mantle this way and that, beautifully, always beautifully … her meaning.”


1. b. 

2. d. Clarissa’s daughter, Elizabeth Dalloway, is described as: “Like some dumb creature who has been brought up to a gate for an unknown purpose, and stands there longing to gallop away, she sat silent.”

3. e. Miss Doris Kilman says, “I never go to parties. Why should they ask me? I’m plain, I’m unhappy.”  [Her name gives it away; she’s a natural killjoy, the overeducated female in a society with no place for her.]

4. b. Peter Walsh. Clarissa’s description reveals her annoyance/affection for the man who’s constantly fidgeting: “What an extraordinary habit that was, Clarissa thought, always playing with a knife.”

5. c. This is Peter Walsh’s take on Clarissa Dalloway: “She had a sense of comedy that was really exquisite, but she … frittered her time away … talking nonsense, saying things that she didn’t mean, blunting the edge of her mind, losing her discrimination.”

6. a. Lucrezia Warren Smith. In a passage rendered heart-breaking by our realization of her young husband’s broken brain, shell-shocked by his military service in WWI, we look into this young wife’s mind where all is well … temporarily, and in an illusory way, until it’s not.  “They were perfectly happy now, she said, suddenly, putting the hat down. For she could say whatever came into her head. That was the first thing she had felt about him…”

7. c. Brown Willy is in Cornwall, a place captured magnificently in Daphne Dumaurier’s novel, Jamaica Inn.

8. c.

9. e.

10. Clarissa Dalloway imagines her party along the lines of a courtly event, during the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century heyday of the Hanover kings: King George I (1714-1727), King George II (1727-1760), King George III (1760-1820), and George IV (1820-1830).

11. In the life and death of Septimus Smith, Woolf expresses the most lyrical, perfectly mad yet endearing descriptions of a human’s spiritual bond to the natural world, such as: “He was not afraid. At every moment Nature signified by some laughing hint like that gold spot … to show, by brandishing her plumes, shaking her tresses, flinging her mantle this way and that, beautifully, always beautifully … her meaning.”


Trivia Quiz for “Villette” by Charlotte Brontë

Trivia Quiz for Villette by Charlotte Brontë (1853)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 1/17/21

A. Villette and satire

1. In the voice of her narrator Lucy Snowe, author Charlotte Brontë expresses an “English” opinion on Continental manners and beliefs. Which of the following are criticized in the novel?

a. Catholicism: the dogma and practices                   

b. French clothing styles        

c. The landscape of Belgium (Labassecour)  

d. The physique of Belgians  

e. all of the above

2. For the modern reader, some of the satire seems accidental. Consider the narrator’s claim that “M. Emmanuel was away three years. Reader, they were the three happiest years of my life.” What does she mean by that?

a. she finds happiness without a man            

b. she loves managing a business

c. solitude turns out to be bliss          

d. all of the above

B. The Character of Lucy Snowe

3. Which of the following portraits of the youthful narrator are not found in Villette?

a. “With my usual base habit of cowardice, I shrunk into my sloth, like a snail into its shell.”

b. “Joyful and full of hope, I looked to each day as an exciting adventure.”

c. “Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heart-poverty, as the beggar from thieves”

d. “A keen relish for dramatic expression had revealed itself as part of my nature; to cherish and exercise this new-found faculty might gift me with a world of delight, but it would not do.”

4. True or False:  The narration includes long descriptions of the heroine’s uncertainties and anxieties, because she is supposed to be writing the words as the action transpires.

True  / False

C. The School

5. The school run by Madame Beck is described in ambiguous ways. Which of the following comments are not in Villette?

a. “It is true that madame had her own system for managing and regulating this mass of machinery; and a very pretty system it was.  … ‘Surveillance’ and ‘espionage’—these were her watchwords.”

b. “Here was a great houseful of healthy, lively girls, gaining knowledge by a marvelously easy method, without painful exertion or useless waste of spirits; not, perhaps, making very rapid progress in anything; taking it easy, but still always employed, and never oppressed.”

c. “Disappointment and Poverty awaited all those who remained unwed at age 17; they were cast out to an unknown fate and Madame Beck forbade mentioning their names ever after.”

d. “Not a soul in Madame Beck’s house, from the scullion to the directress herself, but was above being ashamed of a lie; they thought nothing of it.”

6. The relationship between Lucy Snowe and M. Paul Emmanuel strikes modern readers as offensive. Which of the following quotes does not describe him or his actions?

a. “He used to warn me not to study too much, lest ‘the blood should all go to my head’”

b. “He said that, of all the women he knew, I was the one who could make herself the most consummately unpleasant”

c. “his absolutism verged on tyranny”

d. He tells Lucy Snowe: “Limited are your powers, for in tending one idiot, you fell sick.”

D. Style: Classical allusions and flourishes

7. The style of Villette may appear old-fashioned to us because of the author’s reliance on maxims.  Which of the following maxims is not found in this book?

a. “To change the world, we women need first to change ourselves—and then we need to change the stories we tell about who we are.”

b. “There is nothing like taking all you do at a moderate estimate: it keeps mind and body tranquil; whereas grandiloquent notions are apt to hurry both into fever.”

c. “By whomsoever majesty is beheld for the first time, there will always be experienced a vague surprise bordering on disappointment.”

d. “To a feather-brained school girl, nothing is sacred.”

8. Gothic conventions also run through Villette, notably the sad nun who haunts the school and its grounds. What quotes do not describe the tragic ghost?

a.  the ghost was a mirror image of the heroine, “a soon-depressed, easily deranged temperament” that is, a figment of Lucy Snowe’s imagination.

b. “The legend went … that this was the portal of a vault … the bones of a girl whom a monkish conclave of the drear middle ages had here buried alive, for some sin against her vow.”

c. “M. le comte de Hamal was the nun of the attic”

E. Gender roles

9. Villette includes views on women’s behavior that may seem strange to modern readers. Which of the following is considered “dangerous” for a young, single woman?

a. gazing on paintings at an art museum

b. serving as untrained companion to a severely mentally disabled person, with no support


1. e.

2. d.

3. b.

4. False

5. c.

6. c.

7. a.

8. a.

9. a.


Trivia Quiz for “The Green Knight” by Iris Murdoch

Trivia Quiz for The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch (1993)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 2/21/21

1. The five sections of The Green Knight include all but one of the following. Which is not a subheading of the book?

a. Eros            

b. Mercy         

c. War            

d. Justice

2. In the voice of her omniscient narrator, author Iris Murdoch casts a foreboding shadow over events to come. Already on page one, we are presented with ominous warnings. Which of the following phrases is not on page one of The Green Knight ?

a. “Once upon a time there were three little girls – […] and they lived at the bottom of a well.”

b. “Dogs don’t forget. He’ll run away.”

c. Clement said to the girls, “Peter Mir is dead.” […] “Their fates are bound together.”

d. “This dog business will end in tears.”

3. After finishing The Green Knight, it appears that some of the most ordinary objects and animals may carry symbolic meaning. Which one of the following is not important to the plot?

a. snakes                     

b. seals                       

c. swans                      

d. rocks                      

4. True or False:  The omniscient narration includes long descriptions of the characters’ uncertainties, hopes, and fears, because they hide their feelings so well, and the book includes no other clues to their feelings, no letters or dialogue.                     

True  / False

5. Bits of famous myths, legends, and works of art are found throughout the book and help motor the plot of The Green Knight, though their exact significance remains unclear. Which of the following is not mentioned in The Green Knight?

a. Rembrandt’s painting, Polish Rider                      

b. Milton’s Poetical Works

c. The Celtic myth of the Selkies (or Silkies)           

d. The Bible, esp. Genesis “Cain and Abel”

e. The Greek myth of Leda and the Swan                 

f. All are mentioned in The Green Knight

6. Fears and secrets of sexuality run through The Green Knight. Which of the following quotes is not in the novel?

a. “Sometimes she thought she knew why Joan liked Tessa, and she did not like that either.”

b. “He’s been retarded by your girls, they’ve inoculated him against women, against sex.

c. “Louise who was convinced that the girls never discussed sex, was in fact quite right.”

d. “’I feel sort of paralyzed about the whole business, I wish I was gay.’ Bellamy also wished that Harvey was gay.”

7. The novel reveals a masterful sense of pacing, internal coherence, and seemingly predestined movement in time. Although the actions are more or less ordinary, the work has a mythic dimension. Which of the following lines is not by Murdoch?

a. “We need someone to come to break the enchantment, someone from elsewhere.”

b. “The Fall is ahead, and I am afraid of it.”

c. “The legend went … that this was the portal of a vault … the bones of a girl whom a monkish conclave of the drear middle ages had here buried alive, for some sin against her vow.”

d. “Well then, I dare you to walk across!”

Whose Wisdom Counts? Match the wisdom with the character who speaks the following advice. 

The characters include: a. Damien Butler; b. Tessa; c. Lucas


8. [to Harvey]: “Your kind of unhappiness must cure itself. You have a healing substance in your own body and soul, it is called courage. Your mother has it too. Call upon it, let it flow. Read, study, think.”

9. [to Sefton]: “Travel light, simplify your life. Beware of being involved in the problems of other people, altruism is too often simply a busy exercise of power. … Do not marry. Solitude is essential if real thinking is to take place.”

10. [to Bellamy]: “Do not seek solitude. Return to some small flat near to your friends and get a job … wherein you can be extremely busy every day relieving the needs and sorrows of others. And do, as a sign of sanity, go back to your dog!”

11. One character possesses a special gift, described as “a strange not unfriendly presence or form of being which joined her life with the life of things.”  Who has that power, manifest in telekinesis among other things?

a. Moy            

b. Aleph                     

c. Rosemary               

d. Sefton

12. As biographer of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Murdoch was well versed in Existentialism: the belief that crucial defining moments make us who we are, again and again, through our lives in recognizable patterns. The narrator thus invites us to judge characters on their actions, as in the following, which applies to which character?  “Now however, at this very moment of his being grown-up and free, he was handed a terrible new burden of responsibility.”

a. Bellamy                 

b. Emil                       

c. Peter Mir                

d. Harvey


1. c.

2. c.

3. a.

4. False

5. f.

6. c. [Louise was quite wrong about her daughters’ sexual ignorance!]

7. c. (That quote is from Charlotte Brontë, Villette.)

8. b. Tessa is the one who prods Harvey: “Your kind of unhappiness must cure itself.”

9. c. Lucas counsels Sefton: “Travel light, simplify your life.”

10. a. Damien Butler, the one-time priest, advises Bellamy, “Do not seek solitude.”

11. a. Moy

12. d. Harvey