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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 3

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 2

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 4

From Priscilla's arrival at the hospital to kissing Rachel

Summary

Bradley speaks directly to the reader at the beginning of the chapter saying that as an artist, he is concerned with the truth, but still can describe things only as he remembers them. Furthermore, he says that often uses irony as a tool to approach the truth.

He notes his displeasure that Arnold and Christian went off together and might become friends. Priscilla returns from the hospital only hours after she was taken there. She remains in a state of hysterics about her ruined life and decaying body, which Bradley views with some disgust. Bradley loves his sister but feels some shame about her state. He tries to console her, but she cannot be calmed.

Arnold comes over and asks Bradley not to be mad at him for talking to Christian. He says he took her away because her arrival seemed badly timed, but at the same time Arnold did find her interesting, especially since Bradley had never really mentioned her. As Arnold talks, Bradley decides that he shall have to see Christian sometime so he might as well do it right then. He leaves Arnold with Priscilla and heads to her house.

Christian has expanded the Notting Hill apartment where she and Bradley lived when they were married. Bradley finds that Christian looks older but has aged well and is still very attractive. Christian tells Bradley that he wrote her the cruelest letter, which Arnold delivered, but she is happy to see him. She did many things in America. She was involved in business and studied Zen Buddhism. She is very happy. Bradley addresses her with rude coldness, bluntly explaining that he only came to tell her that he did not want to talk to her or be her friend. Once he delivers this message, he tries to go. When Bradley opens the door to leave, Francis Marloe is on the other side. Christian yells angrily at Francis, since he had broken into her house the day before and she found him sleeping in a guest bed. She starts hurling his belongings out the window. In the midst of their fight, Arnold arrives, having left Priscilla with Rachel. Arnold and Christian both start to hysterically laugh about Priscilla, as Bradley goes home.

Bradley visits Priscilla's house in Bristol to retrieve her jewels and mink stole. He cannot find them where they should be and as he is looking Priscilla's husband, Roger, comes home. He kindly tells Bradley that she cannot have the jewels or mink because they are joint property. He also says that Priscilla is crazy and he only married her because she lied and said that she was pregnant. Now he has a thirty-year old mistress, Marigold, who is pregnant. They want to have the child and do not want Priscilla to return. Bradley treats Roger contemptuously.

Bradley stops for sherry on the way home, gets drunk, and misses his train. In his drunkenness, he thinks of how terrible life is for people and feels anger at Roger's treatment of Priscilla. When he gets home well after midnight, he finds that Priscilla has been moved to Christian's house because of her panic at him not returning. The next morning he finds Rachel, Arnold, Christian, and Francis all there. Christian is getting Priscilla a doctor. Bradley says nothing about Roger and secretly feels angry that Christian has become so involved in his life. As he leaves, Rachel invites him over for lunch, which Bradley accepts while insisting that Francis not come.

Bradley feels better after eating and relaxing in the Baffins' yard. Rachel asks if Bradley is still in love with Christian, as Arnold believes, but Bradley denies it. They both speculate as to whether Arnold likes Christian. Rachel touches Bradley's hand as they talk and he feels highly aware of her physical touch. They go inside together and by the door, Rachel leans her body against his and kisses him. They then sit on the couch and kiss again. Bradley feels confused, but not upset. As they leave, Bradley gives Rachel the review he wrote about Arnold's new book. Julian is flying a kite and cuts the string when Bradley gets outside so that he follows it all the way to the subway. He feels so happy when he gets home that he lets Francis Marloe, who is waiting at his door, inside.

Analysis

Murdoch develops the motif of marital relations by reflecting on the history of Bradley's marriage to Christian. Bradley suggests that the institution of marriage itself is flawed. He does not believe it possible for the human soul to live in continual proximity with another, as a marriage necessitates. Furthermore, he sees the lengthy marital state as an invitation to loneliness for each partner. Bradley's visit to Bristol reinforces the existence of such loneliness and separation in Priscilla and Roger's marriage. Their marital state was even worse than Bradley knew; for the first time he learns that Roger only married Priscilla because she lied about being pregnant. Without their desired child, their relationship clung together in a state of misery. As a result of their marital discord, Roger had an affair and Priscilla used her cold jewels as her sole consolation. Bradley Pearson is both an author and character in this section. This is the first time he fills both roles since the foreword. His commentary reinforces the complexity of his position as the author of his own tale. He warns that his own personal feelings and memories of the characters involved in the story may affect the way that he presents them. In doing so, he comments upon the nature of storytelling itself. Bradley also uses his authorial commentary to reinforce certain philosophical ideas, primarily the major theme of the relationship between art and truth. Particularly, Bradley's attempt to recognize his dialogue with the reader highlights Murdoch's belief that through the joint realization of a piece of literature, experienced by reader and writer, both parties may glean some aspects of truth.

Although Roger and Marigold are relatively minor characters, their pairing is important because it prefigures that of Bradley and Julian. Bradley feels angry that Roger is dating such a younger woman, but in just a few days he embarks on a similar quest himself, with an even younger woman (Julian). When set in the context of the novel's later events, his initial anger seems ironic. Richard Todd has suggested that Murdoch specifically creates these matching pairs in a textual move that reflects her study of Shakespeare, who used similar techniques. In addition to the mismatched Roger and Marigold and Bradley and Julian, Murdoch also creates similar sibling pairs with Christian and Francis and Bradley and Priscilla.

Murdoch's relates her philosophy during Bradley's drunken contemplations in Bristol. Murdoch believed that life has no deep plot or plan, and that no God predetermines the future. The way that a person chooses to live life is entirely up to that person. This constitutes a freedom that most people try to hide from, because it scares them so much. As he gets drunker, Bradley thinks, "Life is horrible, horrible, horrible, said the philosopher." His thoughts become morbid as he considers Priscilla and Roger's misery. Their misery existed because they both failed to take charge of their lives. Had she taken a more proactive stance, Priscilla's life might not be in its current state.

The sexual desire that Bradley feels upon kissing Rachel is the first moment of erotic love in the novel. When Bradley gets home, he lets Francis Marloe into his house. The friendliness of this act compared to Bradley's previous rejection and rudeness towards Francis indicates the way that even the smallest flicker of desire initiates Bradley Pearson's change, although Bradley still has a long way to go before becoming a fully decent human being.

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