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 “Family Ties” by Clarice Lispector

Trivia Quiz for Family Ties by Clarice Lispector (1960)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 6/27/21

A. Hell begins at home. In the thirteen short stories that make up Family Ties, Clarice Lispector paints some memorable portraits of human interaction; in their dark tonality and weird imagery, they make family life seem like a certain kind of hell.

1. Among the events that typically unite family members, which one is not depicted in the book?

a. meals                       b. a birthday party       c. a funeral            

d. a quiet evening at home

2. Among the sayings that are often spoken among family members, which one is absent from this book?

a. “Go to hell!”           b. “Happy birthday!”  c. “I love you.”           

d. “It’s not my fault!”

3. Certain words recur in the prose of Clarice Lispector to describe family members. Which of the following words is not typical of her views?

a. “ugly”         b. “too skinny”            c. “aged and poor”      d. “fat”             e. “kind and wise”

B. A vague sense of place

4. The stories are set in Brazil, yet they are lacking in local color except for certain small details. Which of the following is not present?

a. one story is set in the exuberant streets of Rio during Carnival

b. in one story, the characters are dressed up because they intend to visit Copacabana too

c. the month of May is described as “autumn”

d. the characters have names such as Dona Carlota, José, Zilda, Olaria, and Glorinha

C. I’m not ok, and neither are you: A nightmarish world of the mind

Mental instability and upsetting states of mind afflict many characters in this book. Match the situation to the character. 

Characters: a. the grandmother in “Happy Birthday” ; b. the woman in “The Buffalo”; c. the young girl in “The Mystery in São Cristóvão”; d. the wife in “The Imitation of the Rose”


5. a frightening nocturnal vision that causes prematurely white hair

6. paralyzing fear and anxiety

7. grief, loneliness, and despair                     

8. suspicion of other people, repressed fury that explodes suddenly            

D. Animals: not anyone’s best friend

9. There are several animals depicted in Family Ties. Which is not found in the book?

a. a chicken that gets its head chopped off

b. an enormous cat that stands in the street before disappearing

c. a parrot that swears in Spanish

d. a dog that is abandoned by its owner

E. Finally it’s over: the sweetness of ending

Some of the most poignant moments in Lispector’s prose are found at the end of the stories, as if in relief.

10. Which of the following lines were not written by Clarice Lispector in the book we read?

a. “as if she were snuffing out a candle, she blew out that day’s tiny flame.”

b. “From the open door he saw his wife sitting upright on the couch, once more alert and tranquil as if on a train. A train that had already departed.”

c.  “The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net.  … So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.”

d. “And she got her new shoes.”

e. “the whole house seemed to lie in wait for that breeze of plenitude to blow once more after dinner. Perhaps it would happen some other autumn evening.”


1. c.

2. c.

3. e.

4. a.

5. frightening nocturnal vision that causes prematurely white hair: c. the young girl in “The Mystery in São Cristóvão”

6. . paralyzing fear and anxiety: d. the wife in “The Imitation of the Rose”

7. grief, loneliness, and despair: b. the woman in “The Buffalo”

8. suspicion of other people, repressed fury that explodes suddenly: a. the grandmother in “Happy Birthday”          

9. c.

10. c. Those beautiful lines were written by Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God.  (They are the last words in that book.)


the joy of imagination, shared


This morning, my mind and hands take up a new task that feels very familiar: researching and writing a quiz. A literary quiz, to be precise. As I remain wrapped in the warm glow of Gabriel García Márquez’s words, from the last pages of Love in the Time of Cholera, I am suddenly pulled to the computer. Because I suddenly realized these quizzes are a joy–simple and cheap to procure–and you may like them too.

I hereby vow to share the monthly quizzes I’ve been creating for the “West Seattle Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club with you, here on this blog. (I’ll even post the answers too!)

In a little while after it’s written, I’ll start with today’s, and then work my way backwards, on a daily basis, through all the books listed below, which we read during the months of covid-19 plague fears and lockdowns, back to March 2020 when we first met.

Because if there is one thing the reader realizes in finishing Love in the Time of Cholera, it is that lockdowns, however tedious and frightening, may give rise to new pleasures …

and all pleasures, like love, are meant to be shared.

(Like the dandelion-blowing woman from the Larousse publishing company, above, je sème à tout vent – I’ll sow [or throw] wisdom to the wind.)

The sooner, the better. You never know who might be waiting. And it’s never too late to start anew!

West Seattle Classic Novels (and Movies) book club reading list, March 2020-July 2021, titles read:

Jane Austen, Emma [March 2020]

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Daphne Dumaurier, Jamaica Inn.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Washington Irving, “Rip van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charlotte Brontë, Villette

Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Nella Larsen, Passing

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, film, dir. George C. Wolfe, adapted from play by August Wilson

Clarice Lispector, Family Ties

and Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez, for July 25, 2021.

American literature art conflict creativity death design humor work

day whatever

email I wrote today:

Dear ….,

In case you’re wondering why I’m already on email at 5:45am, it’s because of the shortage of white cotton!!!  I was lying awake worrying about how I’m going to get enough fine tight-woven white cotton to line the face masks I’m selling, because demand is robust to put it mildly.  It is scary to be so much in demand, in a way, at the same time that it is thrilling.

But now that I’ve ordered probably way too many expensive flat white sheets (which may or may not arrive–I’ve never seen so many orders be “cancelled”!), I can calm down, drink my coffee (thank goodness there’s no shortage of that yet) and enjoy the dawn.  It is fun to feel needed, but now that my supplies are shrinking, I’m developing a whole new appreciation for supply and demand, and how a crisis throws assumptions about what is valuable out the window. I’m also developing a certain sympathy for price gougers. After all, why not, right?  (But so far, I’m holding the line on my own principles, and charging only $5 each or free to elderly, unemployed and medical personnel.)

Ouf.  This is what they call a teachable moment, I guess.

While keeping anxiety at bay, barely, I went for another morning walk. Mailed my first mail-order of face masks! And ruminated over the growing list of orders..  (“How will I ever get them all done?” / “This is awesome!!! I am having so much fun!”)

Seeing the library in the tender early light made me realize how much I miss going there. Before I met my funny new friends, the library was a rare source of laughs, when we first moved here.
That is where I discovered some excellent reads:

  1. Liane Moriarty, Three Wishes: [heroine’s to-do list]: “Reduce stress in measurable, tangible ways, both professional and personal, by no later than March 1.” (p. 208) On being in despair over a miscarriage and a divorce: “Death was the hot bath you promised yourself while you endured small talk and uncomfortable shoes. You could stop pretending to have a good time when you were dead.” (p. 244)

Also: Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers, and really, anything by her!

  1. Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You: [child contemplating her mother]: “’Keeping house’, she had thought. She still powdered her nose after cooking and before eating; she still put on lipstick before coming downstairs to make breakfast. So they called it ‘keeping house’ for a reason, Marilyn thought. Sometimes it did run away.” (p. 29)

Here’s a good corona-joke:

2020 is a unique Leap Year. It has 29 days in February, 300 days in March and 5 years in April. 

 [with thanks to Tom]

See you tomorrow; I’ve got to get back to work!!!

ps, yesterday’s batch of masks:

Masks made on April 15 2020