The Sea, the Sea
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|The Sea, the Sea|
First edition cover
|Publisher||Chatto & Windus|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|LC Classification||PZ4.M974 Sd PR6063.U7|
The Sea, the Sea is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as he begins to write his memoirs. Murdoch's novel exposes the motivations that drive her characters - the vanity, jealousy, and lack of compassion behind the disguises they present to the world. Charles Arrowby, its central figure, decides to withdraw from the world and live in seclusion in a house by the sea. While there, he encounters his first love, Mary Hartley Fitch, whom he has not seen since his love affair with her as an adolescent. Although she is almost unrecognisable in old age, and outside his theatrical world, he becomes obsessed by her, idealizing his former relationship with her and attempting to persuade her to elope with him. His inability to recognise the egotism and selfishness of his own romantic ideals is at the heart of the novel. After the farcical and abortive kidnapping of Mrs. Fitch by Arrowby, he is left to mull over her rejection in a self-obsessional and self-aggrandising manner over the space of several chapters. "How much, I see as I look back, I read into it all, reading my own dream text and not looking at the reality... Yes of course I was in love with my own youth... Who is one's first love?"
"The Sea! The Sea!" (Thalatta! Thalatta!) was the shouting of joy when the roaming 10,000 Greeks saw Euxeinos Pontos (the Black Sea) from Mount Theches (Θήχης) in Trebizond in the year 401 BC. The story is told by Xenophon in his Anabasis. There is a parallel realism in that Arrowby in his whimsy, retreats also to be near the sea in his golden years.
While this parallel exists, the generally accepted meaning of the title amongst professionals is derived from a French poem entitled Le cimetiere marin (Translated The Graveyard by the Sea). The fourth line of the poem reads "La mer, la mer, toujours recommencee." In English, it states "The Sea, The Sea forever re-starting." The meaning of this title is directly linked to the post-script in which Murdoch essentially unravels her traditional closed ending into an unorthodox and puzzling mess. This trademark of Murdoch demonstrates her likeness to disorder and realistic endings of novels as opposed to a traditional "where are they now" ending. This forever restarting sea ties into the novel in both the post-script and in Charles Arrowby's experience throughout the story, finally ending with no real conclusion to his situation - a classical Murdochian ending.
|Awards and achievements|
|Booker Prize recipient
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