A-level English/Wise Children/Key Quotes

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Quotations by theme[edit | edit source]

Because you are not allowed to take the book into the exam, it is important that you learn some key quotes. Here are some of the most important ones.

Shakespeare[edit | edit source]

  • "Shakespeare was a kind of god for him"
  • "Birnam wood is creeping up on Dunsinane"
  • "Perhaps Shakespeare had eaten such a soup!"
  • "Here she is in drag as, famously, Hamlet"
  • "Off with it! You only lent it to me! Nothing was mine, not ever!"
  • "Replicas of Anne Hathaway’s cottage"
  • "Shakespeare, to whom our family owed so much"
  • "Cry God for England, Harry and St George"
  • "Shakespeare, on the note, said, “Have a heart”"
  • "What You Will" - subtitle for the Twelfth Night
  • "Rivers of tears. Tempests of applause"
  • "Water, water everywhere did he think it was the bloody tempest!"

Youth and age[edit | edit source]

  • "So well connected. So legitimate. Oh sod it all. So young"
  • "Pungent smell of old ladies"
  • "Our father had aged more evidently than his brother"
  • "Our old age, the fourth guest at the table"
  • "Deceptions of memory"
  • "Legs, the last thing to go"
  • "Old Melchior did something pathetic, he tried to wave the cameras away"
  • "I knew in my water…"
  • "Boy and girl, a new thing in our family"
  • "Old age was creeping up behind him" (Melchior)
  • "...geriatric chorine..."

Paternity/Absent Fathers[edit | edit source]

  • "My lovely daughters, all four of you"
  • "Father is a hypothesis but mother is a fact"
  • "It is a characteristic of human beings that if they haven’t got a family of their own, they will invent one"
  • "It is a wise child that knows it's own father"
  • "Were both of us mothers and both of us fathers…they’ll be wise children alright."
  • “That man is….your father!” her revelation didn’t have the force it might have had.
  • The jury is still out on the question of her boy’s paternity (lady M)
  • "A father is a movable feast"

Illegitimacy[edit | edit source]

  • "We never felt quite so illegitimate in all our lives"
  • "Welcome to the wrong side of the tracks"
  • "His eyes skidded over us"
  • "And the unrighteous prospered"
  • "So well connected. So legitimate. Oh sod it all. So young."
  • "It is a characteristic of human beings that if they haven’t got a family of their own, they will invent one."
  • "Which mother? Pretty kitty? Grandma?"
  • "Us. Unkissed, unwelcome, worse than unacknowledged"
  • "The jury is still out on the question of her boy’s paternity (lady M)
  • "outside the magic circle of our desire"
  • "It's a wise child that knows its own father... But wiser yet the father who knows his own child."
  • "e's not your father"
  • "there was sod all romantic about our illegitimacy"
  • "By blows"
  • "...children on the wrong side of the blanket..."
  • "...left hand children..."

Fate[edit | edit source]

  • "Fate continued to deal kindly with Melchior
  • "The destination of Melchior had been prepared for him since birth
  • "He was doomed to wear the pasteboard crown
  • "We were doomed to dance and sing
  • "The bastard side of Old Father Thames (Page 1)

Fantasy/Carnivalesque[edit | edit source]

  • "The carnival’s got to stop sometime
  • "Less of a man, more of a travelling carnival
  • "What a joy it is to dance and sing!"

Magic realism[edit | edit source]

  • "As if inhabited by hands"
  • "It made a noise in his belly like barrels rolling around in a cellar"
  • "French knickers doing the can-can with the frilly petticoats"
  • "Perhaps he slipped us one in each pocket of his jacket"
  • "And then hup! He did a backflip out of the window, saving us."
  • "The naked pillows huddled like a corpse"
  • "The bulb flickered on and off"
  • "They let the wind in when they opened the door"
  • "Stopped short at ten years old, never to go again, like grandfathers clock"
  • "And this time got it right, straight on the nosey!"
  • "In on the wind that came with Perry blew dozens and dozens of butterflies..."
  • "Not bad for a centenarian at all, at all."

Quotations by character[edit | edit source]

Nora/Dora[edit | edit source]

"Hello let me introduce myself I'm Dora Chance".

  • "But if I told you that, I’d be lying"
  • "What a joy it is to dance and sing"
  • "Nora was soon in love again"
  • "As soon as they started to call me Nora, I found that I could kiss the boys"
  • "I've got a tale and a half to tell"
  • "We were going exclusively for Lady’s A’s sake"
  • "It is a characteristic of human beings that if they haven’t got a family of their own, they will invent one"
  • "All of a sudden, I was feeling chipper"
  • "Searching for the lost limb…Nora…the best part of me"
  • "She used Shalimar, me, Mitsouko"
  • "Identical we may be, but symmetrical, never"
  • "Our careers went down the toilet with the profession itself"
  • "He loved us both but I was the one he talked to."
  • "Vulgar as hell"
  • "It was all too literal for me"
  • "Drunk in charge of a narrative"
  • "You never forget the first time. Ill never forget the last time either"
  • "Drunk in charge of a baby carriage"
  • "Lo how the mighty have fallen"
  • "Couple of batty old tarts with their eyes glued on their own ghosts."
  • "Treacherous, lecherous chorus girl."

Perry[edit | edit source]

  • "The carnival’s got to stop sometime"
  • "Less of a man, more of a travelling carnival"
  • "Not bad for a centenarian"
  • "One doesn’t marry a man like that"
  • "He deflated"
  • "He’d brought me on a pilgrimage"
  • "It made a noise in his belly like barrels rolling around in a cellar"
  • "Bigger than ever and brown as a berry from the Brazilian sun"
  • "Where he loved, he never altered, nor saw any alteration"
  • "Magician, producer, explorer, seducer, rich man, poor man, but never beggar man or thief"
  • "Birnam wood is creeping up on Dunsinane"
  • "He was the size of a warehouse, no bigger, the size of a tower block"
  • "It was his name on the cheques"
  • "Oooh, wasn’t he a handsome young man"
  • "Size of a polar bear"
  • "Huge but dapper"
  • "Peregrine swept us up into his arms"
  • "He looked as big as the burning house"
  • "Another fad. Like movies. Like oil. Like espionage"
  • "He was not the love of my life, but all the loves of my life at once"
  • "Did I see the soul of the one I loved when I saw Perry, not his body?"
  • "He doubled up as sugar daddy"

"Nora fluxy me constipated"

Melchior[edit | edit source]

  • "Knicker-shifting, undo your brassiere from the back of the gallery eyes "
  • "His eyes skidded over us"
  • "Fate continued to deal kindly with Melchior"
  • "Offed with the old and onned with the new"
  • "And the unrighteous prospered"
  • "What shall I do without my crown? Othello’s occupation, gone!"
  • "Our father had aged more evidently than his brother"
  • "Old Melchior did something pathetic, he tried to wave the cameras away"
  • "I sometimes wonder if we haven’t been making him up all along"
  • "Dark and brooding"
  • "Then Melchior did something wonderful. Who'd have thought the old man had it in him?"
  • "Our greatest living Shakespearian"
  • "Bent on making an exhibition of himself to the very end"
  • "As dark and sexy as the inside of a London cab in wartime"
  • "Melchior dreamt up his own father"
  • "Prince of players"
  • "in his voice like Hershey's syrup"

Lady A[edit | edit source]

  • "One doesn’t marry a man like that"
  • "Cackling away in her genteel fashion"
  • "Even when they robbed their mother of her home and money"
  • "We were going exclusively for Lady’s A’s sake"
  • "Don’t go before you’ve had coffee…"
  • "She twinkled"
  • "Lady Atalanta Hazard, the most beautiful woman of her time"
  • "I’d even hoped that she and Perry might make a go of it"
  • "Our geriatric little girl"
  • "I live mostly in the past these days, I find it’s better"
  • "Have you got anything in the shape of a cucumber, my good fellow?"

Daisy[edit | edit source]

  • "Enter Daisy"
  • "White that matched the cat that matched the telephone"
  • "I could tell at a glance that she was tight as a tick"
  • "She overshot the drive and screeched to a halt"
  • "She was a trouper and a half alright, she'd got legs, guts, leather lungs, tits out to here, chutzpah, sass, star quality. But class - no"

Lady Margarine[edit | edit source]

  • "To butter or not to butter?"
  • "She reached middle age quicker than any woman I knew"
  • "The jury is still out on the question of her boy’s paternity"

Saskia[edit | edit source]

  • "She later admitted she’d put something in the cake, but whether it would have made Melchior ill, very ill or finished him off altogether we never found out"
  • "So well connected. So legitimate. Oh sod it all. So young"
  • "Saskia gave me a dirty look"
  • "Her hair redder than ever"
  • "I felt that odd familiar shudder of distress when I saw Saskia"
  • "You never loved us!"
  • "Being unique amongst mammals a cold blooded cow"
  • "mercenary bitch"

Imogen[edit | edit source]

  • "Developed a unique line of goldfish breasts"
  • "She’d got a fishbowl on her head with a fish in it"

Tiffany[edit | edit source]

  • "Oh my little sister Lily is a whore in Piccadilly and my mother is another in the Strand"
  • "Her hands were full of flowers"
  • "not on your life, you bastard"
  • "marry your auntie instead"
  • "Pull yourself together and be a man, or try to"
  • "There's more to fathering than fucking"
  • "Never a sweeter or more innocent girl than our Tiffany, even though she didn't know enough not to flash her tits all over the papers"
  • "The sweetest girl in London, but naïve"

Gareth[edit | edit source]

  • A celibate one – a non-combatant, as it were.
  • "To add to the hypothetical,disputed, absent father that was such a feature of our history, now you could add a holy father, too. Put it down to liberation theology."
  • "The priest and the game show host, not so different, really."

Grandma Chance[edit | edit source]

  • "Memory lane is a dead end"
  • "What the fuck d’you mean?"
  • "Hope for the best, expect the worst"
  • "Toot sweet"
  • "Made ‘mountaynes’ out of ‘molehills’"
  • "She took to children like a duck to water"
  • "The boarding house clung to respectability by the skin of it’s teeth ...you could have said the same of her"
  • "She didn't so much talk as elocute"
  • "She wasn't going to let Hitler inconvenience her drinking habits"
  • "Grandma invented this family. She put it together out of whatever came to hand... she created it by sheer force of personality"
  • "She was a mystery"
  • "When I saw you two, the penny dropped"
  • "She was a naturist, she was a vegetarian, she was a pacifist"
  • "When the bombardments began, she’d go outside and shake her fist at the old men in the sky"
  • "She was our air raid shelter, she was our entertainment, she was our breast"

Gorgeous George[edit | edit source]

  • "Clown Number One to the British Empire"
  • "He didn't travel. The moment he stepped off his native soil, he stopped being funny. In California, he was not bawdy, he was lewd"
  • "Gorgeous George, having stayed himself with a flagon, was trying out a chorus of 'Rose of England' in a defiant and self-conscious manner"

Genghis Khan[edit | edit source]

  • "He was like a bloody dictator in that studio"
  • "He pressed a button on his desk and Nora's chair collapsed..and she went sprawling, legs in the air"
  • "An orchid had never bit him back before"
  • "Genghis Kahn was staking his all on art"

Ross 'Irish' O'Flaherty[edit | edit source]

  • It's only a writer...Ross O'Flaherty RIP"
  • "A great future behind him, already"
  • "The last flame of a burned out case"
  • "'God, you're lovely', he said...I wouldn't be able to return the compliment, alas"
  • "old soul"

Puck[edit | edit source]

  • "Puck looked like a little man but wasn't; he was an aged child"
  • "Puck was all fingers, goose you as soon as look at you, unmentionable habits"
  • "You might find that Puck in your laundry basket, when you least expected it, curled up inhaling your soiled lingerie"
  • "Puck passed by and goosed me"
  • "if a questing hand reached up from under the tablecloth, you knew it was Pucks night out, too"
  • "He drilled holes in the walls of the ladies' toilets and liked to take a peep and I don't know what else"
  • "old ladies loved him"
  • "he had the high tenor of an angel"