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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 5

Part One of Bradley Pearson's Story, 4

Part Two of Bradley Pearson's Story, 1

From Julian's boots to the end of Part One

Summary

Bradley arrives back at his house around noon. Christian is there and has sent Priscilla to her house. Christian tells Bradley that Arnold is very upset about the spiteful review that Bradley wrote. She denies that she and Arnold are having an affair, suggesting instead that Bradley wants to have an affair with Rachel. Christian and Arnold have been spending time together because they are going into business together.

Arnold arrives during their discussion. Arnold laughs when he hears that Bradley thinks they are having an affair. Arnold explains that marriage is a stronger bond than Bradley realizes and that it endures many things and can even endure Bradley's desire for Rachel. Christian then asks if Bradley has ever seen a psychiatrist. Bradley gets angry and tells Christian that he would be happy if he never saw her again in his life. He insists that she leave and that he feels only hatred for her. She simply laughs and saunters away.

Once alone with Arnold, Arnold confesses that Bradley's review deeply hurt his feelings. Arnold is aware that his books have problems, because authors know their failings better than critics, but Bradley's review reflected Bradley's unfairness and jealousy. Arnold understands Bradley's jealousy of Arnold's success, but is still hurt by the review.

Rachel and Bradley meet the next morning at a public place in London. Rachel explains that she has been forced to make up the story about Bradley's desire because Julian told Arnold that Bradley had been at their house; Arnold wanted to know why Rachel had said nothing about his visit. Rachel returns Bradley's socks, which Julian had worn home. Rachel states that both she and Arnold know that Bradley is not a true challenge to their marriage. As usual, she finds that the real issue lies between Bradley and Arnold, not she and Bradley. Bradley recommends that they maintain a close friendship, without having a clandestine sexual liaison that would upset Arnold. As they leave, Rachel seems sad but pronounces that whatever happens she still has real fire in her and will not settle into complacency or craziness like Priscilla.

The next morning, Bradley decides to leave promptly for the country, after checking on Priscilla at Christian's house. As he is packing, Hartbourne calls and tells Bradley that he missed the party. Bradley apologizes. Soon after, Julian, wearing her purple boots, arrives. She reminds him that they have a Hamlet tutorial. Bradley decides not to leave and invites Julian in. During the tutorial, Julian asks Bradley simple questions about the play, but Bradley offers psychological interpretations of the characters' motives. He suggests that Hamlet could not kill Claudius because Claudius resembled his father; furthermore, he argues that Hamlet's cruelty toward Ophelia represents his anger towards his mother. For Bradley, Hamlet is Shakespeare's best play because it about the issue of identity and finding the language to define one's identity. As they talk, Bradley's room grows warm. After asking permission, Julian takes off her purple boots and asks if her feet smell. They do slightly, but Bradley finds it charming. Bradley also takes off his jacket, tie, and unbuttons the top buttons on his shirt. Eventually, Bradley suggests that Julian should go and she agrees. She asks if he is going to leave London and he says no. Before he leaves, Bradley gives her another present, a gilt snuffbox, to take the place of the water buffalo girl. After her departure, Bradley can smell her sweat and feels that something powerful just has happened to him.

Analysis

This section presents the issue that will take up the rest of the novel: Bradley's love for Julian. At the end of the tutorial, Bradley feels that a powerful emotion has come over him. He does not name this emotion but it seems clear that it is love for Julian. Even without detailing sexual thoughts in Bradley's mind, Murdoch indicates the sexual nature of the tutorial through her use of language. As their discussion of Hamlet heats up, both of their bodies do as well. Julian slips off her purple boots, revealing her naked feet. Bradley sheds his jacket, his tie, and unbuttons the top of his shirt. By the end of their session, both are sweating. Although the two have not touched each other, their disrobing and heat mirror a sexual act. Bradley's suggestion that Julian "should go" implies that he is so overwhelmed by her presence that she needs to leave. Bradley's comment that he can smell her "her sweat, her feet, her breasts" is also innuendo.

The way Bradley recounts his meeting with Julian contrasts his description of his meeting with her mother, Rachel. Bradley describes seeing Rachel's "satiny shoulder strap, not clean," "flopped down over the vaccination mark on her plump pallid upper arm." Needless to say, this image of Rachel's arm does not tantalize in the same manner as does that of Julian's naked feet, since Bradley feels disgusted by the older woman's body. Bradley's disinterested feelings towards Rachel also are evident in his matter-of-fact manner when he describes his lack of interest in having an affair. Rachel's sad reaction is slightly poignant, but Murdoch does not suggest that Rachel will soon become a victim. In fact, the fierceness that Rachel describes in this scene foreshadows her final actions in the novel. She warns Bradley that she has a burning fire in her and that she will not become like Priscilla. She describes what is in her as more than just a "will to survive." She calls it "fire, fire. What tortures. What kills." Rachel's description of herself will become accurate when she kills Arnold at the end of the novel.

References to Hamlet recur throughout The Black Prince, although the bulk of discussion about the play's content takes place during this session. Bradley Pearson's opinions on the meaning of Hamlet are not Iris Murdoch's. In fact, Murdoch appears parodying an interpretation of Shakespeare by emphasizing Freudian psychology. Francis Marloe attempts a similar Freudian reading of The Black Prince in his postscript, an effort that appears equally silly. Bradley's commentary about Hamlet's quest for identity and for the language of identity do seem to relevant to The Black Prince, especially since Hamlet, often called the "black prince," is one of the book's namesakes. However the plots of the two books do not closely follow. Hamlet's identity crisis could apply to Bradley Pearson, but it could also apply to Julian and even to Francis Marloe.

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