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Style vs. Substance in The Sea

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  1. Introduction
  2. Calling 'The Sea' a 'pageturner'
  3. The things that Max observes
  4. The superfluous acute detail
  5. Exploring the loss through the slippery notion of reality and truth
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works cited

The Sea is no doubt, a difficult novel to read. John Banville's language can be quite strenuous, and at some times, enigmatic. No major events or plot points seem to occur in The Sea, that is, externally. There is not much of a linear plot, if any. Almost everything that happens in the main character's tale has already happened to him. The narrator of The Sea is an old man named Max Morden, whose entire life consists of his memories; even his present life in which we are introduced to him is infused with nostalgic pining. The Sea is a piece of literary fiction, which can often be described as putting prose before plot, or style before substance. Literary fiction mainly focuses on style, but that is not to say that The Sea lacks substance. The themes of past and present, and loss run rampant throughout the novel. Two memories prevail in Max's mind, intermittent fragments of his lost love Anna, and reliving his childhood summers in Ballyless with the Grace family.

[...] New York: Vintage International Brown, Matthew. Sea.? E-Keltoi Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies 1.4 (2006). JSTOR. Emerson College Lib., Boston, MA Apr . Friberg, Hedda. the Murky Sea of Memory: Memory's Miscues in John Banville's The Sea.? An Sionnach: A Review of Literature & Culture and the Arts Creighton University Press (2006): 111. JSTOR. Emerson College Lib., Boston, MA Apr . Jackson, Tony. ?Science, art and the shipwreck of knowledge: The novels of John Banville.? Contemporary Literature 38.3 (1997): 510-533. JSTOR. Emerson College Lib., [...]


[...] The Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of style is distinctive manner of expression (as in writing or speech).? All writers have their own unique style, and Banville's is very distinct, featuring: high- language, elaborate diction, wordy descriptions, black humor, and cryptic metaphors. Houghton-Mifflin describes substance as thread or current of thought uniting or occurring in all the elements of a text or discourse.? There is an undeniably distinct current of thought throughout The Sea, and that current consists of waves of nostalgia and longing for the past, combined with undercurrents of loss. [...]

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