Trivia quiz for “Not Without Laughter” by Langston Hughes

Trivia Quiz for Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes (1930)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 9/19/21

1. The Growing Child’s Perspective.  On women, love and marriage. Which of the following quips about women is not in the novel?

a. “X was an intensely dreary girl … who had failed so far to marry, and seemed to have no biological reason for existing.”

b. “I ain’t never seen a yaller dude yet that meant a dark woman no good.”

c. “She knew how it was, of course, that her husband hadn’t written before. That was all right now.”

d. “Treat ‘em like chickens, son. Throw ‘em a little corn and they’ll run after you, but don’t give ‘em too much. If you do, they’ll stop layin’ and expect you to wait on ‘em.”

2. On work, money and justice. Which of the following is not in Hughes’s novel?

a. “She was a good nurse… Sometimes they paid her and sometimes they didn’t.”

b. “On Thursdays she did the Reinarts’ washing, on Fridays she ironed it, and on Saturdays she sent it home, clean and beautifully white, and received as pay the sum of seventy-five cents.”

c. “’I was not thinking of the slave-trade,’ replied X; ‘governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different certainly as to the guilt of those who carry it on.’”

d. “I reckon white folks does think right smart of me … They always likes you when you tries to do right.”

3. On secrets and misunderstandings. Which of the following is not in the novel?

a. “X had lived too long with three women not to have learned to hold his tongue about the private doings of each of them.  … he “saw it with his eyes, but not with his mouth.”

b. “Her longing for love had become an obsession.”

c. “X had discovered long ago that you could hear and see many things by not going to sleep when the family expected you to.”

d. “He had discovered already, though, that so-called jokes are often not really jokes at all, but rather unpleasant realities that hurt.”

4. The Savvy Youth’s Perspective.  As time passes, the narration begins questioning certain statements and truths. Which of the following lines is not in the book?

a. “It was all great fun, and innocent fun except when one stopped to think, as white folks did, that some of the blues lines had, not only double, but triple meanings.”

b. “X wondered how people got to be great, as, one by one, he made the spittoons bright.”

c. “’It’s too bad you aren’t white.’ … X had taken this to heart, not as an insult, but as a compliment.”

d. “How incredible that anyone should insist on living in that squalid building that would be demolished any day now.”

5. The Emerging Adult Perspective.  On religion, fighting, and doing good. Which of the following is not from Hughes’s book?

a. “I’m very ready to believe his character will improve, and acquire from hers the steadiness and delicacy of principle that it wants.”

b. “But I don’t want heaven! I want to live first! … I want to live!”

c. “To those who lived on the other side of the railroad and never realized the utter stupidity of the word ‘sin’, the Bottoms was vile and wicked.”

d. “‘To the uninitiated it would seem that a fight was imminent. But underneath, all was good-natured and friendly—and through and above everything went laughter. No matter how belligerent or lewd their talk was … these black men laughed.”

6.  Not Without Laughter as Migration Novel. A classic in the genre, it depicts an African-American family moving North from a small town to a big city, in hopes of a better life.  Circle the correct sequence of the child hero’s movement in the novel.

a. Stanton, KS to Chicago, IL            

b. New Orleans, LA to Stanton, KS, to Chicago, IL

c. Stanton, KS to Chicago, IL, to Stanton, KS          

d. Stanton, KS to Detroit, MI to Chicago, IL

7. The area where the hero lives in Chicago is nicknamed “The Black Belt”.      True / False

8. Poetry and music! Which of the following poetic descriptions is not from the novel?

a. “Earth and sky were fresh and clean after the heavy night-rain, and the young corn-shoots stood straight in the garden… There was the mingled scent of wet soil and golden pollen on the breeze that blew carelessly through the clear air.”

b. “The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep.”

c. “Funny how old folks like to sing that way, ain’t it?’ ‘It’s beautiful!’ X cried—for, vibrant and steady like a stream of living faith, their song filled the whole night: An’ we’ll understand it better by an’ by!’

d. “While the cynical banjo covered unplumbable depths with a plinking surface of staccato gaiety, like the sparkling bubbles that rise on deep water over a man who has just drowned himself.”

9. What kind of music does the author not describe or evoke in this book?

a. Gospel        

b. Jazz            

c. Country-Western               

d. Blues

10. Ambivalence Rules? The narration leaves the ending open, and judgment remains up to the reader. Which of the following uncomfortable statements is not from Hughes’s novel?

a. “He didn’t know that grown-up people cried, except at funerals … He didn’t know they ever cried alone, by themselves in their own houses.”

b. “White folks will see that the Negro can be trusted in war as well as peace. Times will be better after this for all of us.”

c. “I only had to break it, and I was rid of it forever. So simple! I’d never thought of it before.”

d. “They’re right, though, looking out for themselves… and yet I hate ‘em for it.”


1. a. (That quote is from Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love.)

2. c. (That quote is from Jane Austen, Emma.)

3. b. (A quote from Mitford, The Pursuit of Love.)

4. d. (That quote is from Clarice Lispector, Family Ties.)

5. a. (A quote from Emma, by Jane Austen.)

6. a.

7. True

8. b. (That quote is from Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.)

9. c.

10. c. (That quote is from Nella Larsen, Passing.)


Trivia Quiz for “The Pursuit of Love” by Nancy Mitford

Trivia Quiz for The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 8/29/21

A. The Pursuit of Love and satire

1. Love and marriage. Some of the satire reveals the limitations of women’s lives in the 1920s and 1930s. Which of the following quips about women is not in the novel?

a. “X was an intensely dreary girl … who had failed so far to marry, and seemed to have no biological reason for existing.”

b. “Intelligent and energetic, but with no outlet for her energies, unhappy in her marriage, uninterested in her child, and inwardly oppressed with a sense of futility, she was in the mood either to take up some cause, or to embark upon a love affair.”

c. “No woman really minds hearing of the past affairs of her lover, it is the future alone that has the power to terrify.”

d. A male character says, “Starvation is good for women and beasts; it brings ‘em to heel.”

2. Politics and class. Arch comments on the English gentry run through The Pursuit of Love, though other classes, politics, and issues come under fire too. Which of the following quotes is not from the book?

a. “Uplifting the brother’s no easy job. I’m as busy as a cat with fleas, myself. Lord! How I hate sick people, and their stupid, meddling families, and smelly, dirty rooms, and climbing filthy steps in dark hallways.”

b. “That must be the great hold that hunting has over people, especially stupid people; it enforces an absolute concentration, both mental and physical.”

c. “I hate the lower classes … Ravening beasts, trying to get my money. Let them try, that’s all.”

d. “Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”

B. The Characters

3. Which portraits of the narrator Fanny, and her cousin Linda, are not found in The Pursuit of Love?

a. “Her longing for love had become an obsession.”

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

c. “As she had never in her life done so much as make her own bed, I could not imagine that Christian’s flat could be very tidy or comfortable if it was being run by her.”

d. “When I consider my life, day by day, hour by hour, it seems to be composed of a series of pinpricks.”

4. Linda’s character comes across strongly. Which of the following does not describe her?

a. “There was something furious about her, even when she laughed, which she did a great deal…. Something reminiscent of pictures of Napoleon in youth, a sort of scowling intensity.”

b. “She was a delicate, as well as a highly nervous child … too much crying kept her awake at night, put her off her food, and did her harm.”

c. Like her brothers and sisters, she could not stand boredom.

d. At age 20, she went to Oxford to study Law before becoming a journalist, then a spy.

5. Uncle Matthew: Terrifying or Threadbare? Which of the following pass-times is not enjoyed by Uncle Matthew?

a. hunting his children

b. hating his enemies, other people’s children, and foreigners

c. cracking whips at dawn “with a noise greater than gun-fire”

d. studying ancient languages

6. The Bolter. Fanny paints a portrait of her absent mother as one who leads a life where wicked things are known and rules are flouted. Which of the following mysteries does she not know about?

a. abortion                  

b. Continental travel              

c. style   

d. the Masonic pledge and rituals

C. Romance amid the War and Daily Violence

7. Although hunting kills animals daily, brothers fight in wars, and bombs fall on London, there is relatively little sadness in this book. Which of the following is not from The Pursuit of Love?

a. “He rescued the hare, waded out again, his fine white breeches covered with green muck, and put it, wet and gasping, into Linda’s lap. It was the one romantic gesture of his life.”

b. “Love becomes greater and nobler in calamity.”

c. “When she thought about the war it seemed to her almost a relief that it had actually begun, in so far as a beginning is the first step towards an end.”

d. “Nobody is killed in air-raids, there is a great deal of noise and a great deal of mess, but people really don’t seem to get killed much.”

D. Snappy Style. Match the quote to the character it describes. The characters include: a. Lord John Fort William; b. Moira Kroesig; c. Uncle Matthew

8. “I have only read one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It’s so frightfully good I’ve never bothered to read another.”

9. “To think I ruined nine months of my life in order to have that.”

10. “Poor old thing, I suppose she likes him, but, I must say, if he was one’s dog one would have him put down.”


1. d. That quote is from Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn.

2. a. That quote is from Nella Larsen, Passing.

3. b. That quote is from Villette by Charlotte Brontë.

4. d. Linda did not study law, go to Oxford, nor pursue any profession.

5. d. Uncle Matthew, as we know from no. 8 below, only ever read one book: White Fang by Jack London.

6. d.

7. b. That quote is from Love in the Time of Cholera.

8. c. Uncle Matthew

9. b. Moira Kroesig

10. a. Lord John Fort William (Louisa’s husband)


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 “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

Trivia Quiz for “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (1819)

For West Seattle Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 11/15/20

A. Stories found: Long-lost treasures

1. Both “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” are presented as manuscripts found in the papers of a man who is not the author. What is the name of that man?

a. A. Knowitall                      

b. Diedrich Knickerbocker

c. Ibet Ucantguess                  

d. William “Billy” Goatsgruff                       

e. Pudley Vanvrink

B. Legends prompted by unkind women and the unlucky men they know

The characters in “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” inhabit small rural villages, where marriage—for better or worse—seems to dictate their fortunes. This is because women, even young maidens, are seen to hold immense power over the men in their thrall.

2. Which of the following nouns and adjectives is not used to describe Dame Van Winkle?

a. a termagant            

b. a virago      

c. tart  

d. sharp          

e. lenient        

3. Which of the following adjectives is not used to describe Rip Van Winkle?

a. henpecked              

b. obedient     

c. foolish        

d. bellicose                 

e. good-natured

C.  The Hudson Valley: A Unique Rural Setting

4. There are many picturesque places named in the two tales by Washington Irving, where the action mostly takes place along the Hudson River in New York state. Which one of the following places is not named?

a. Tappan Zee                        

b. Connecticut           

c. Kaatskill or Catskill Mountains

d. Tarry Town            

e. Brown Willy                                  

d. Sleepy Hollow

D. Changing Times in America

The narration uses a number of striking adjectives to conjure up a world that has vanished with the passage of time and movement of peoples across North America.

5. Which of the following adjectives do not describe Rip Van Winkle’s village in the days before his strange mishap?

a. sleepy         

b. fairy           

c.  magical     

d. populous    

e. tranquil

E. Wisdom: inherited and shared

There are a number of odd sayings and forgotten proverbs in these stories.  Match the proverb with the thing or entity it describes.  The items described include:  a. the outside; b. a woman; c. a sharp tongue

Saying or Proverb:                                                                             

6. The only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.            

7. The only side of the house which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband.           

8. A being that causes more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole races of witches put together.           

F. Irving’s Style: Sly irony

Washington Irving’s style could be described as folksy, as his narration claims to relate oral histories inherited from Dutch settlers and their wives. Yet it is not without irony and sly humor.

9. Which of the following actions or traits are not portrayed as explaining the high regard people felt for schoolmaster Ichabod Crane?

a. He had read several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s History of New England Witchcraft.

b. He sang very loudly; the people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening, were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal melody.

c. He possessed an enormous library, and he would readily lend books to neighbors.

10. Which of the following reasons are not listed to explain why schoolmaster Ichabod Crane wishes to marry Katrina Van Tassel?

a. She loves learning; they often talk about books    

b. She is plump as a partridge, ripe and melting                  

c. She has vast expectations (i.e. fortune)

d. She wears ornaments of pure gold and short petticoats to show off her pretty ankles

G. Timeliness of “Rip Van Winkle”

11. There are aspects of “Rip Van Winkle” that make it surprisingly timely for modern-day readers. Which of the following does not apply?

a. At the end, Rip and his wife—who has grown kinder over the twenty years of his absence—are reunited, thus making the story a celebration of patience and long marriages.

b. The story ends with a moment when the populace is agitated about an election, and the villagers worry that Rip has come to start a riot.

c. The postscript acknowledges the indigenous people whose land the Dutch settled, and speaks respectfully about the Indians’ belief in an old squaw spirit.


1. b.

2. e.

3. d.

4. e.

5. d.

6. c. The “only edged tool that grows keener with constant use” is a sharp tongue.

7. a. The outside is “The only side of the house which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband.”

8. b. The being which causes perplexity is a woman.

9. c.

10. a.

11. a.


Trivia Quiz for “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

Trivia Quiz for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 12/13/20

A. Ebeneezer Scrooge et al.: Dickensian characters par excellence

1. At the beginning of A Christmas Carol, the narrator informs us that Scrooge is all but one of the following. Which is not a trait shared by the first Scrooge?

a. hard and sharp as flint                    

b. secret and self-contained

c. solitary as an oyster                       

d. a grating voice                   

e. dressed “all in his best”

2. The adult Scrooge had one friend in the world: his business partner, Jacob Marley. Unfortunately, however, Marley has died. How long ago did Jacob Marley die?

a. last week                

b. seven years ago      

c. last year      

d. yesterday

3. In his initial encounter with his nephew, Scrooge belittles those who celebrate Christmas for all but one of the following reasons. Which reason is not in the story?

a. they live in a world of fools                       

b. they worship the birth of Jesus Christ

c. they find themselves a year older              

d. they have to pay their bills without money

4. In contrast, his nephew describes Christmastime differently. Identify which phrase is not voiced by Scrooge’s nephew in describing the season, in the early scene:

a. it is a time due veneration, given its sacred name and origin

b. it is a time to clean house and wash everything

c. it is the only time, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures

d. it is a time that makes people feel good, despite the cost

B. Darkness and light: significant symbols

5. Which of the following is not in A Christmas Carol?

a. The opening scene takes place during a gloomy, foggy cold night

b. The last scene takes place on a day described as: “clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold” with “Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air”.

c. The hair of Tiny Tim is described as “golden floss, glowing like a halo”

C. The Three Spirits.  Match the descriptions below to the supernatural characters

The characters include:  a. Ghost of Christmas Present; b. Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come; c. Ghost of Christmas Past


6. “It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.”

7. “It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man… its hair was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle on it… from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light.”        

8. “Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard, but no Sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.   … Notwithstanding its gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease.”

D. The Women of A Christmas Carol: Cynics or Sages?

9. Mrs. Cratchit, like Scrooge’s niece by marriage and the charwomen, refuse to honor Scrooge. The narrator, in describing their dislike for the man, seems to :

a. Excuse the behavior, with a proverb: “Bless those women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in earnest.”

b. Condemn the behavior, by mentioning: “What then? If she be like to die, she had better to do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

c. Accept the behavior, with the note: “Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did.”

E. History and Language

10. Which of the following details, signaling the historical situation of London in 1843, do not exist in A Christmas Carol?

a. people cook their meals in the oven at the local bakery, for lack of proper equipment at home

b. people roast chestnuts on the fire

c. people enjoy a pudding that “smells like washing day” when its cloth is unwrapped

d. people have pillow fights in the street on Christmas morning

11. Why did Charles Dickens use the word staves instead of chapters?

a. to indicate that each section is another board making up the walls of Scrooge’s prison, since a “stave” means a narrow strip of wood or iron plate, which when placed edge to edge form the sides, covering, or lining of a vessel (such as a barrel) or structure.

b. to signify that the novel was a carol in prose form, because in music a “stave” is the five lines and four spaces between them on which musical notes are written.


1. e.

2. b.

3. b.

4. b.

5. c.

6.  b. This description (“It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head”) pertains to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

7. c. The Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as “It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man.”

8. a. The Ghost of Christmas Present is depicted as: “Notwithstanding its gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease.”

9. c.

10. d.

11. b.


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