'The Sea, The Sea' by Iris Murdoch - A review.

Essay by pibandpobUniversity, Bachelor's April 2005

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I very much enjoyed The Sea, The Sea. Iris Murdoch's adept writing talents are present throughout, and she utilises a skilful method of characterisation that almost creeps up on the reader. Despite the protagonist being a contemptuous person, I nevertheless felt rather sympathetic towards him.

The first section of the book, entitled 'Prehistory', is very lengthy, and contains detailed trivialities. The information the reader is given seems at first to be inconsequential, but one later discovers that it is the perfect set-up for us to ascertain Charles's true character. Once the people from Charles's past begin to appear on his doorstep, we learn that Charles is actually an egotistical bore who has used his position and promises of love to exert power over those around him.

The unreliable narrator is often shown as a figure of stupidity, less capable at deciphering what surrounds them than the reader. The reader consequently unfolds the true meaning of events by interpreting the narrator's incorrect account of the story.

By implementing the technique of an unreliable narrator, Murdoch forces the reader to be acutely conscious of the vital part that memory and subjectivity play in recreating the text in a cohesive and significant narrative form. What markedly reveals Charles's unreliability as a narrator is his perspective on James and his apparent relationship with him. We begin to see that his stance is very subjective in his own favour, as he recalls oblique childhood memories of James and reflects that his life is more 'successful' than James's. As the story continues, we discover that James is virtually a 'saintly' person who feels very satisfied with his life - quite the opposite of Charles.

As an unreliable narrator, Charles is seen to be manipulating history to suit his own purposes, and reforming...