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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Important Quotations Explained

Postscripts

Key Facts

"I shall in telling it adopt the modern technique of narration, allowing the narrating consciousness to pass like a light along its series of present moments, aware of the past, unaware of what is to come."

Bradley Pearson makes this statement at the beginning of his foreword, describing the formal style of his. The phrase contains Murdoch's commentary on the style of modern novels, which she finds inferior to the more complex narratives characteristic of the 19th century. Murdoch considers Tolstoy, Dickens, George Eliot, and Dostoevsky as literary ideals. She particularly admires their ability to create complex characters and realistic settings. By creating a fictional foreword and using it to comment on the rest of the novel, Murdoch attempts to raise her own work to a similar level of complexity.

"Of course we argue sometimes. Marriage is a long journey in close quarters. Of course nerves get frayed. Every married person is a Jekyll and Hyde, they've got to be."

Arnold Baffin makes this statement at the beginning of Part One, when he is trying to explain to Bradley why he and Rachel fought. Arnold believes that although he and Rachel argue, their marriage can sustain any blow. Rachel later articulates the same notion when she explains why she and Arnold will always remain married, despite their interest in possibly having affairs. Ironically, Rachel's eventual murder of Arnold will prove all of their statements wrong. Their marriage, like that of Priscilla and Roger and Bradley and Christian, is doomed to fail. Murdoch's commentary on marriage in the novel portrays it as an impractical institution. Bradley specifically argues that the idea of marriage is inconsistent with human behavior, since the human soul cannot stand to live in such close proximity to another. Bradley further suggests that marriages lead the individual partners to become mired in loneliness, even though they live as part of a unit.

"Arnold Baffin is a fluent writer. He is a prolific writer. It may well be this facility which is his own worst enemy. It is a quality which can be mistaken for imagination. And if the artist himself so mistakes it he is doomed. The writer who is facile needs, to become a writer of any merit, quality about all; and that is courage: the courage to destroy, the courage to wait."

This quote is from Bradley Pearson's review of Arnold Baffin's latest novel, which is printed in the middle of Part One. The quote highlights Bradley's and Arnold's differing opinions about the nature of art. Bradley tends to be a snob, believing that only carefully constructed books can truly be considered art. Arnold, on the other hand, believes in quickly producing novels and trying to improve the failures of previous ones by writing more. The debate on the artistry of novels relates closely to Iris Murdoch since her own frequently were criticized for being too quickly produced and being artistically immature. Murdoch, like Arnold Baffin, often produced as much as one novel per year. Her detailed exposure of Bradley's review, produces a subtle and comic self- referencing critique of herself.

She had filled me with some previously unimaginable power which I knew I could and would use in my art. The deep causes of the universe, the stars, and the galaxies, the ultimate particles of matter, had fashioned these two things, my love and my art, as aspects of what was ultimately one and the same."

Bradley makes this statement at the beginning of Part Two, just after he has fallen in love with Julian. In it, he links Eros, erotic love, and the ability to create art. The idea that both love and art can provide a sense of truth is a major theme in the book. Only after Bradley experiences love is he be able to break out of his writer's block and create his masterpiece. Even at the end of the novel, he will say that the story is a love story, not simply because he fell in love with Julian but because he was able to touch upon the essential quality of love in the universe which then led to his artistic creation.

"She had managed to tell me that she was writing under duress. She had also managed to convey her destination. "Snow and ice" to which she had drawn attention, patently meant Venice. The Italian for "snow" is "neve," and together with the reference to "Italian words," the anagram was obvious. And in "topsy- turvy" language a little place in the mountains clearly meant a large place by the sea."

Bradley makes this statement at the end of Part Three after reading Julian's letter. It captures Bradley's delusion about his current state of affairs. While it is possible that Julian could still be in love with him, the tone of her letter specifically makes it clear that she is not. As she describes in length, she feels so confused about their relationship that she flees from the seaside cottage and cannot write for some time. Furthermore, she expresses no desire to see him again soon. Despite the clearness of Julian's words and actions, Bradley's desperation leads him to misinterpret the letter. In this quote, he even describes how he determined that Julian wrote the letter in secret code so that he would understand where she is. Bradley obviously is mistaken and no longer acting sensibly, as his own description indicates.

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