Trivia Quiz for The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)
For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 10/30/22
With answers below
1. Why leave? Why go there? Many reasons lie behind the choice to leave London for a retreat, at the book’s beginning. Which one of the following is not cited by narrator Charles Arrowby?
a. “To repent a life of egoism”
b. “It is time to think about myself at last”
c. “It affords me a curious pleasure to … watch the violent forces which the churning waves, advancing or retreating, generate inside the confined space of the rocky hole.”
d. “I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house; I saw a blackened ruin.”
e. “(There is only one bed; I am not expecting visitors!)”
2. The Sea: a landscape of the mind. Charles reveals his changing feelings by reflecting on the sea. Which one of the following is not from Murdoch’s novel?
a. “Although the sea was fairly calm I had the same irritating difficulty getting out of it…. Swallowed a lot of water and cut my foot.”
b. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”
c. “The early dawn light hung over the rocks .. with an awful intent gripping silence, as if it had seized these faintly visible shapes and were very slowly drawing them out of a darkness in which they wanted to remain.”
d. “The sea was joyful and the taste of salt water was the taste of hope and joy. … Meeting my sea-dervish companion I shouted, ‘Now aren’t you glad you came to me?’”
3-6. Uneasy truths. The Sea, The Sea includes numerous lessons on life: some are of dubious value, others are heard then forgotten. Match the saying to the source. Characters include: a. Charles ; b. James; c. Rosina d. local folks at the Black Lion inn
3. “A man would drown there in a second.”
4. “Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.”
5. “It’s so easy to frighten people.”
6. “People lie so, even we old men do. Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn’t matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.”
7. Marriage and desire: painful illusions. Which of the following quips is not from The Sea, The Sea?
a. “Our marriages have become a mere farce.”
b. “One of the horrors of marriage is that the partners are supposed to tell each other everything.”
c. “A marriage is so hideously private. Whoever illicitly draws back that curtain may well be stricken … by an avenging deity.”
d. “A long marriage is very unifying, even if it’s not ideal, and those old structures must be respected.”
8. The wisdom and mystery of James. As Charles mulls over his past, the reader gleans curious insights into his relationship with his cousin James. Which one of the following does not apply to James?
a. After Charles plunges into the sea, James rescues him in a miraculous way.
b. His London home is full of gold Buddhas, fetishes, and other oddities from the Orient
c. He was a Nazi sympathizer whose secrets, when revealed, caused a public disgrace.
d. As a boy, he was fond of custard cream biscuits, and he offers some to Charles during a visit.
e. He warns Charles to avoid myth-making, and to stay away from Hartley.
f. When reminiscing with Charles, James says, “What larks we had.”
g. At the end, Charles inherits James’s London house and moves there.
9. Titus: a Long-lost family member? Or a weird coincidence? Which one of the following phrases is not spoken by Titus Fitch to the narrator Charles?
a. “Are you my father?”
b “I want to go home.”
c. “Oh, the sea, the sea—it’s so wonderful. … A swim? Oh—yes.”
d. “I’m against forcing people, I think they should be free.”
e. “We’ll get to know each other one day. There’s time.”
10. Happy ending? A chance encounter with some animals seems to put a happy ending on Charles’s retreat. What animals show up?
b. sea turtles
11. Yet one foe may persist: the mind. Which of the following is not a description of Charles’s thoughts toward the end of the book?
a. “My thoughts still had to be kept on a leash, and there were long dark passages down which they were straining to run.”
b. “My responsibility for Titus’s death, which now so largely occupied my mind, amounted to this: I had never warned him about the sea.”
c. “But suppose nothing happened .. and nothing happened…?”
d. “Time, like the sea, unties all knots.”
e. “Last night someone on a BBC quiz show did not know who I was.”
f. “I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express.”
1. d. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)
2. b. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)
7. a. (That quote is from Père Goriot.)
8. c. (That reference applies to the employer of Stevens, in The Remains of the Day.)
11. f. (That is the ending of Jane Eyre.)
COME BACK NEXT MONTH, for our quiz on Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening (winner of the International Man Booker Prize, 2020).