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
[...] 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. [...]
[...] presents Anna's sickness as a fundamental crisis in his self- understanding; on this point the muses know so little of myself, how should I think to know another?'” (Brown). Though Banville does not use loss as a device for Max to express his innermost pain or emotions. In fact, Max does not mention much of Anna, aside from her untimely death. Even after Max and Anna find out from Dr. Todd that she has cancer, they continue their mundane tasks at home, like drinking tea and removing coats. [...]
[...] Max lives in the past. He knows this and so does his daughter, Claire. She states that all her father has “every truly wanted” is to be “Concealed, protected, guarded” and that's the past is . such a retreat” for him. He goes there “eagerly, rubbing . [his] hands and shaking off the cold present and the colder future” (Banville 60-61). He goes back to Ballyless to look for answers, but the answers aren't there, or remain in the mysterious sea. [...]
[...] Also present in The Sea is the theme of what Joseph McMinn has called quest for an authentic self, for reliable knowledge of the world” (129). While remembering Connie Grace, again Max muses on reality: “which is more real, the woman reclining on the grassy bank of my recollections, or the strew of dust and dried marrow that is all the earth any longer retains of her? (Banville 87). Each description represents Max's abandonment of the present, his obsession with the past, and the lack of understanding that he has of reality. [...]
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