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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Part Two of Bradley Pearson's Story, 2

Part Two of Bradley Pearson's Story, 1

Part Two of Bradley Pearson's Story, 3

From dinner with Julian until after the Opera

Summary

The next morning, Bradley wakes in a torment. He realizes that he can no longer stand being silently pleased with his love. He feels that he must see Julian as much as possible, but cannot contrive a way to manage it. He resolves to control himself for three days until Wednesday, when they will go see the opera. Bradley does not leave his house and refuses to answer his door, even though Arnold and Christian come to visit. He answers the phone only briefly to see if it is Julian; if it is not he hangs up on the caller. Eventually, Francis Marloe stops by and Bradley, who has been drinking whisky, lets him in. When Francis asks him what is wrong, Bradley confesses his love for Julian. Francis is surprised, but supportive. Bradley later laments breaking his silence to Francis. Francis additionally mentions Priscilla may start getting electroshock treatments for her depression, if it is all right with Bradley. Bradley says that it is.

The next morning, Bradley receives a note from Arnold saying that he is fully in love with Christian and that Christian is also in love with him. Arnold asks Bradley to intervene with Rachel on his behalf. He loves Rachel too, but believes that their marriage has grown old and lifeless. Bradley reads the letter, puts it on his desk, and thinks no more about it.

When Wednesday comes, Julian and Bradley go to Covent Garden to see Der Rosenkavalier. She is wearing a red dress with blue flowers. Once seated in the auditorium, Julian starts describing the opera for Bradley. It concerns an older princess, perhaps in her thirties, who has a male lover of about seventeen. Bradley interrupts Julian and begs her to tell him no more. When the opera begins, Bradley finds himself overwhelmed by the sound of the voices and the colors of the setting. After several minutes, he decides that he is going to be sick. He pushes his way out of the row and heads outside. He vomits on the side of a building. Julian appears. When she asks him what is wrong, he tells her that he is totally in love with her. Julian nods and says that she thought that this might be the case. Bradley criticizes himself for his love and his stupidity. He suggests that such love would be impossible and says that he is going to leave. Julian makes Bradley stay, and eventually convinces him to sit with her in a pub so that they can discuss. Julian asks Bradley how old he is and Bradley says forty-six, although he is truly fifty-eight. Julian is very thoughtful and says that she has long loved Bradley and always longed for his attention. She admits that she falsely claimed to have a new boyfriend in order to tease Bradley. She furthermore leans over and insists on kissing him. Bradley keeps insisting that Julian is confused about her love, but when they part, he is secretly pleased. Julian vows to visit him in the morning.

Analysis

Murdoch's uses the opera Der Rosenkavalier as a mirror of The Black Prince; both describe a love affair between a couple of different ages. However, in the opera, the female character, the Princess von Werdenbery, is the older of the characters. The opera also addresses issues of androgyny similar to those in The Black Prince since the male lover, Octavian, initially dresses up as a woman. Bradley does not realize what the opera is about until it begins. His request that Julian stop describing the plot comes from its closeness to his own emotions and also his anxiety at Julian calling the thirty- something year old Princess a "much older woman," since he is twenty years older than that. Although Bradley will not make it through the entire opera, the outcome of Der Rosenkavalier also helps to predict the plot of The Black Prince: Octavian eventually leaves the Princess, as Julian leaves Bradley.

Murdoch uses her language carefully in describing Bradley's perception of the opera house. Particularly noticeable is her use of the color red, which symbolically references passion and sexual desire. As Bradley sits in the opera house, the color red overwhelms him. Julian's dress, the opera lamps, the curtains, and the bed on which the Princess and Octavian lie all are red. Surrounded by the color red and the sweet singing of women's voices, Bradley feels overcome by nausea, primarily because the sensation of unrealized lust and desire have fully overtaken his body.

The location where Bradley finally vomits is also significant. He is surrounded by fruits and vegetables: a box of peaches; a bag of carrots; a basket of cherries; and crates of strawberries. These fruits all carry sexual connotations and indicate the original location of sexual sin, the Garden of Eden. The actual act of vomiting references the ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre since Sartre wrote an entire novel entitled Nausea dealing with the physical sensation and its relation to man's philosophical experience of the world. Sartre believed when man realizes that he cannot control the world and that the world does not exist just for him, his freedom to control his own life may make him feel nauseous. Although Murdoch did not consider herself a Sartrean existentialist, she had studied and written extensively about Sartre's philosophy. Furthermore, Bradley Pearson's need to vomit comes at a time when a sensation outside himself, Eros, overtakes his body completely; Bradley realizes that he cannot control it. His need to vomit is similar to Sartre's presentation of men who long to vomit upon realizing that their inability to control the world around them.

The description of Julian's response to Bradley's declaration of love must is affect by the fact that Bradley is the author of the narrative. Julian appears to be willing to pursue a relationship with Bradley and is even aggressively interested in doing so. While Bradley insists that he leave her, it is Julian who begs that he stay to talk. It is also Julian who leans forward and kisses Bradley, not the other way around. Finally in a very flirtatious move, Julian reveals that she previously created the name of a so-called boyfriend just to make Bradley jealous. Bradley portrays Julian as a willing and even eager partner to their love affair, but we should question the accuracy of his description.

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