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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Postscripts

Part Three of Bradley Pearson's Story, 2

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Postscript by Bradley Pearson

Bradley is found guilty at his trial. The prosecution argues that he murdered Arnold Baffin out of jealousy of his success. They even show the ripped up pieces of Arnold's books. Bradley's fingerprints were found all over the murder weapon, the fireplace poker. Furthermore, Bradley never truly defends himself by suggesting that Rachel committed the crime. The court pities Rachel, considers Christian glamorous, and laughs at Francis Marloe. In the end, everyone believes Bradley to be a cold, calculating figure and he is sent to jail.

Although Bradley did not kill Arnold, he does admit that he did bad things in the events leading up to Arnold's death. He neglected Priscilla, treated Rachel unfairly, and envied Arnold. Still, he is no longer the man who treated others so contemptuously. He says that his love for Julian has transformed him because, as Plato says, "love is one of the gateways to knowledge." By loving her, the "black Eros" entered him and gave him the mystical energy to write. Although in prison, Bradley feels content. In fact, he compares being in prison to being in a monastery and considers his ability to write to be an almost religious experience. His only sadness comes when he considers his poor dead sister, Priscilla, and when he considers that blue-eyed Julian is still out wandering in the world.

Postscript by Christian

Christian's postscript suggests that Bradley grossly misrepresented her in his novel, particularly by saying that she was romantically interested in him. She further asserts that Bradley long has lusted for her and has hated her ever since she left their dull marriage (a fact that he fails to mention). Since the events in the novel, she has married Bradley's friend, Hartbourne, and opened a successful salon in London. She has pity for Bradley, but considers him a cold figure who grossly exaggerated her faults.

Postscript by Francis

Francis calls himself a psychoanalyst in his postscript and offers an absurdly Freudian interpretation of Bradley Pearson's tale. He sees Bradley as a repressed homosexual with a fierce Oedipal complex, who hated women and only could be sexually stimulated when Julian appeared to be a man. Francis sees sexual imagery throughout Bradley's story, such as the Post Office Tower resembling a phallus and his mother's shop being a symbolic womb. Francis concludes his postscript by advertising his book on Pearson's psychology, soon to be published.

Postscript by Rachel

Rachel has no sympathy for the "murderer of her husband." She considers his novel to be full of lies. She states that she and her husband never maintained the closeness with Bradley that he describes. Instead, they always took pity on him as an older, but not very talented writer. Furthermore, her daughter did not have an affair with him and considered him a "funny uncle" who hung around their house almost like a "family pussycat."

Postscript by Julian

Julian has married her old boyfriend; her name is now "Julian Belling." She lives in continental Europe and is a published poet. She has not communicated with her mother for many years. She says that she felt so overcome with grief following her father's death that she scarcely remembers all that happened. She recalls that as a girl she fell in love with the man that she thought Bradley was. She concludes by offering some contrary opinions on the creation of art, saying that it cannot come from passion, as Bradley believes.

Editor's Postscript

P. Loxias reports that since the novel was written, Bradley Pearson died of a fast growing cancer. Right before his death, Pearson asked Loxias if Octavian, the younger lover in Der Rosenkavalier, ever left the older Princess and found a young love of his own. After Loxias confirmed that Octavian did, Pearson tumbled into a slumber from which he never awoke.

Loxias additionally comments upon the nature of the postscripts written by the other characters. In particular, he calls attention to the way that Francis, Rachel, Julian, and Christian all try to promote and glamorize themselves. Furthermore, they all suggest that Bradley was partially in love with them. Loxias suggests that much written in the postscripts is not actually true.

Loxias wanted to publish Bradley Pearson's story because he wanted to give Bradley to opportunity to defend himself. Through Bradley's creation of a piece of literature, Bradley, with Loxias's assistance, is presenting the world with a form of truth, through art. Loxias rebuffs Julian Baffin's assertion that desire cannot motivate art, by saying that it obviously did for Bradley Pearson. In the end, Loxias offers this book as a form of truth in the world, which is something that all people seek and for which purpose art serves.

Analysis

These fictional postscripts, like the forewords, comment upon the content of the novel. Particularly, the postscripts by the four characters—Francis, Christian, Julian, and Rachel—counter Bradley Pearson's story by reinforcing the unlikely aspects of his tale. Specifically, Rachel and Christian interpret events very differently than Bradley. Although their versions may be equally false, as their constant denials seem to be, their different accounts force us to question the concept of truth in Pearson's story. These postscripts remind us that there is no verified truth in the novel; everything told by Bradley is subjective fiction. These postscripts also attempt to counter our own tendency to give overzealous interpretations. Francis acts like one such reader when he offers an overblown Freudian analysis. While some of his interpretation may be correct, his insistence that much in Pearson's story symbolizes his parents or sexual imagery is ridiculous. By presenting Francis's interpretation in a comic light, Murdoch removes the reader's ability to genuinely offer a similar argument. The postscripts help to guide an appropriate interpretation of Murdoch's novel.

Bradley Pearson's postscript finishes his story by describing his trial and his life in prison. At the same time, it demonstrates the way in which he has genuinely changed. Bradley's tone shifts from that of a cold figure who plots a seduction of Julian to that of a gentler soul. Furthermore, his first truly selfless act is finally documented in this section: he fails to accuse Rachel of the crime of which he is convicted. Although there is ample evidence against Bradley, his paltry attempt to defend himself indicates his unwillingness to upset his beloved Julian by accusing her mother. Such generous behavior is not consistent with Bradley's earlier actions and personality. P. Loxias's account that Bradley died peacefully after hearing how Der Rosenkavalier ends also shows that his love for Julian has made him a gentler soul. The idea that the younger lover, Octavian, finds a new love means that Julian will find one also. Her ability to find future love gives Bradley the comfort he needs to die. Bradley's hope that Julian will live a happy, loving life indicates a full change from the jealous, lustful figure he is at the beginning of the novel.

The postscripts allow Iris Murdoch to directly comment on her philosophy of art, truth, and love. Iris Murdoch believes that truth can be touched on by religion or love and expressed in art. Now that Bradley has realized the same thing, he feels entirely at peace. His transformation in prison should be compared to a similar one in Camus's The Stranger. In both books, the characters accept the need to take action over their own lives and therefore become calmer, even though they are physically confined in prison until their deaths. Although not an existentialist like Camus, Murdoch seems to share the belief that most people, by refusing to understand their own power in plotting their lives, choose to live in virtual prisons. By writing his book and acting less selflessly, Bradley has freed himself. Even though he now lives in a true prison, he feels better than he did before, and is able to ultimately die in peace.

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