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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 4

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 3

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 5

From Bradley's drink with Francis to Bradley's purchase of the purple boots.

Summary

After Bradley invites Francis Marloe inside, the two stay up late drinking and talking freely. The next morning, Bradley finds a letter from Rachel on his doormat. Rachel writes that she is glad that they kissed and wants to love Bradley and develop a special relationship with him. She asks him to call her and come and visit as soon as he can. She also returns Bradley's review and asks him not to publish it, as it would hurt Arnold very much.

Bradley's work friend, Hartbourne, invites Bradley to a party on Monday. Bradley agrees to go. Priscilla returns to Bradley's because she feels uncomfortable at Christian's. She continues to moan about the state of her life and becomes even more upset when she sees that Bradley gave away the water buffalo girl, since the statue once belonged to her. Bradley calls Rachel and asks her to bring the statue back. Francis Marloe arrives and Bradley begs him to nurse Priscilla.

Rachel and Julian come over with the water-buffalo girl. After Julian gives Priscilla the statue, Priscilla feels angry and tosses it on the floor, so that its legs break. Julian leaves, but first holds a private conversation with Bradley. She thanks him for the touching letter that he sent her and tells him that she now considers him her guru and philosopher. She wants to know if he will tutor her on Hamlet, which she has an exam on. He hesitantly agrees. When Bradley goes back inside, Rachel says that Christian just called. She tells him that Arnold and Christian's possible affair makes her feel free and open, which is good because she can explore her love for him. When Rachel leans over to kiss Bradley, they both slip and tumble together onto the ground. Francis walks in and sees them on the floor, but says nothing before leaving. Rachel happily and flirtatiously teases Bradley before leaving. Sexual urges overcome Bradley.

The next morning, Bradley quotes his review of Arnold's book in full and decides to send it to him. Bradley's actions are motivated by his jealousy of Arnold's attentions to Christian. Francis now is staying at Bradley's to nurse Priscilla. Later that night, Priscilla and Bradley discuss the store that their parents kept and of which they both frequently dream. Francis interprets their dreams by saying that the shop represents their mother's womb. After Priscilla falls asleep, Francis and Bradley discuss pain in life and in love. Francis suggests that Bradley is a repressed homosexual who is in love with Arnold, but Bradley denies it. Francis admits that he himself is gay and he starts to cry.

The next morning, Bradley visits Rachel at her house and she is alone. Rachel wants to make love to him. She takes off his clothes and lies down with him, and eventually he takes off his clothes as well. As they lay together, he finds himself sexually uninspired and tells Rachel that he is having a moment of impotence. She is very nice about it and they continue to lie together. Suddenly, Arnold's voice calls from downstairs. Rachel stands up, dresses, and rushes downstairs. After Rachel leads Arnold into the back garden, Bradley dashes secretly out of the front door. As he gets to the subway station though, he sees Julian Baffin and she sees him. She is barefoot and wearing a short dress, having meant to be at a pop festival. Bradley considers how to keep Julian silent, so he decides to buy her an expensive pair of purple boots that she points out. Initially, she does not think that she can buy them, as she is not wearing stockings. Bradley's underpants, socks, and tie, which he had hastily shoved in his pockets, suddenly fall to the ground and she borrows his socks. When Julian puts on the boots in the store, Bradley sees that they look very good and feels a surge of desire for her. He realizes that it is the desire that he lacked just a few hours before when lying in bed with her mother. As they leave, Julian begs him to teach her about Hamlet the following Tuesday at his house and he agrees.

Analysis

Bradley's initial descriptions of Julian are influenced by the fact that he is telling the story. Julian appears to be aggressively interested in Bradley, a state of affairs that may not actually exist. Julian's aggressive interest can be seen when she comes with her mother to return the water buffalo girl; when she corners him outside to talk about Hamlet; when she calls him her guru and teacher; and when she invites herself over to his house for the Hamlet tutorial. These actions all are very subtle, but they confirm Bradley's own belief that Julian's love for him was sincere and self-motivated, not merely an unsubstantiated response to an old man's lustful claim.

Bradley's erotic desires start to emerge in this section, both in relation to Rachel and Julian. Bradley does not think frequently about sex, but the language that he uses to describe the women shows his sexual interest. Rachel is old and flabby, with "dulled hair"; Julian is young, fresh, and bare foot. The vitality and color in the words that Bradley uses to depict Julian indicate that he is far more interested in her than he is in her mother. The actual sex scene between Rachel and Bradley is somewhat comic, as Rachel immediately sheds all her clothes and tries to press against Bradley who is still dressed. Even Bradley thinks of how foolish the two must look. Eventually, he takes off his clothes, but does so dutifully. When he later sees Julian trying on the purple boots, this emotion changes dramatically. The youth and perfection of her body inspire a surge of lust. Furthermore, although Bradley says that he bought Julian the boots to quiet her, it seems equally likely that he bought her the boots because he already has developed a crush on her. The idea of buying someone purple boots to keep them quiet after all, does not really make sense. His justification here should be questioned.

Bradley's ambiguous feelings towards Arnold become clear in this section when he decides to send Arnold a scathing review of his new book. Bradley wants to send the review because he feels slightly jealous of Arnold and Christian's closeness. His admission of jealousy is unusual since he usually maintains that he is never jealous of Arnold. The actual reprinting of the review helps to articulate the specific artistic differences between the two men. Bradley criticizes Arnold's book because it was quickly produced and lacks artistry. Murdoch's presentation of this critique is ironic because it is one that frequently was leveled at her. She, like Arnold Baffin, occasionally managed to draft one novel per year, and her work was also condemned for artistic immaturity. Even though this critique could be self-referencing, Murdoch does not seem to be saying that it is entirely wrong. The printing of the review does play an important role in showing Bradley's jealousy and artistic snobbery.

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