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The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Part Three of Bradley Pearson's Story, 1

Part Two of Bradley Pearson's Story, 3

Part Three of Bradley Pearson's Story, 2

From the beginning of Part Three to Julian's departure

Summary

Julian has bought new clothes for herself, as well as food for their voyage. They rent a car in order to drive to the seaside cottage, Patara. Bradley feels happy as he drives, but can only think about when their bliss will end and whether they will make love. Julian romantically suggests that they will get married and that Priscilla will come live with them. Bradley criticizes Julian's naïve perspective. In response to his skepticism, Julian says that she will throw herself out of the car in order to prove her love, which she proceeds to do. Bradley stops the car and finds her on the side of the road, slightly scraped and bruised. He comforts her among the wildflowers, before they get up and finish their trip. Upon arriving at the cottage, Julian decides that she wants to visit the ocean, but falls asleep in her clothes instead. As Bradley watches her sleep, he wonders again if their relationship will last and if they will make love.

The next morning, they eat a small picnic by the sea. Julian runs around gathering pretty pieces of driftwood and finds a sheep skull that has been washed clean by the ocean. Later, they eat lunch inside, visit a local church, and Julian goes swimming. Bradley feels happy during the whole day, but keeps wondering about sex with Julian. Later that night Julian and Bradley sleep together, but because of his age and high expectations, Bradley is not able to sexually perform. The next morning, the same thing happens.

The next day, Bradley receives a telegram from Francis Marloe asking him to call. Upon calling Francis, Bradley learns that Priscilla has killed herself with sleeping pills. Francis had found Bradley's address on a letter from the rental agent in Bradley's desk. Bradley does not want to ruin his bliss with Julian by going home. He instructs Francis to call Roger and arrange for the funeral and says that he will come home soon. As Bradley drives back to the cottage, he decides to not tell Julian of Priscilla's death; he also fixates upon his desire to have sex.

When he gets home, he finds Julian dressed up like Hamlet. She is holding the sheep's skull, trying to reenact Hamlet's eulogy of Yorick. Julian excitedly describes how she constructed her outfit for Bradley, but he does not seem to hear, as he overcome by sexual urges. He leads her to bed and starts tearing her clothes off. In his roughness, Bradley breaks the sheep's skull and makes Julian cry. Several hours later, they have sex again. When they finally get up from bed, Julian seems withdrawn and thoughtful. She comments that the nature of their love has changed and she feels very different from the day before. Bradley insists that it is only a deeper type of love. She soon falls asleep again, in her clothing, while lying in his arms.

Sometime after midnight, Arnold arrives and wakes them both. He has retrieved their address from Francis. He insists that Julian return home with him. He tells her about Priscilla's suicide and also corrects Julian's impression that Bradley is forty-six by explaining that he is fifty-eight. Julian seems shocked and unsure of what do to. Bradley tries to offer explanations for why he said nothing about Priscilla, but Julian scarcely hears him. Finally, she decides not to leave with her father, but promises to return to his house the next day. Arnold passes Julian a letter from Rachel. After Arnold leaves, Julian tells Bradley that she wants to be alone and goes into the other bedroom.

The next morning, Bradley finds that Julian is gone. He runs around the house yelling her name and drives through town, but he can find her nowhere.

Analysis

The name of the cottage, Patara, references a location that Saint Paul visited during his journey to preach the message of Christ. Murdoch's decision to reference this classical location evokes the relationship of religion to Bradley Pearson's own quest. Religion, like love and art, provides a sense of the eternal. By placing Bradley in a location with religious significance, Murdoch indicates her belief that the universal mystical feeling that inspired Saint Paul may also be able to inspire him. Unlike Saint Paul's more pure thoughts, however, Bradley Pearson's ability to create a universal truth will be inspired by his relationship to Eros.

The motif of Hamlet appears again in this chapter with Julian's portrayal of the prince. By dressing like Hamlet, Julian again appears androgynous. The relationship of her masculine appearance to Bradley's heightened sexual desire argues for Bradley's repressed homosexuality. Androgyny is a motif that recurs in the novel. There is no strong proof, however, that Murdoch wanted to indicate that Bradley was a homosexual. She seems more interested in toying with the idea of him not having a firmly fixed identity and with suggesting the possibilities of androgyny in general.

Bradley and Julian's secret romantic flight evokes similar mythical romantic trysts, but their age difference and Bradley's lustful thoughts ruin the purity of their union. Julian embodies youthful impetuous love. Her willingness to throw herself from a car to prove her love signifies the strength of her romantic fervor. Her desire to marry Bradley and live happily ever after with him appears equally naïve, since it is a longing formed after just one day. Julian's style of sincere, foolish love is similar to that of Shakespeare's Juliet, her close namesake, a character who acts in equally impetuous ways. Still, while Julian may resemble Juliet, Bradley Pearson makes a very poor Romeo. Bradley exhibits none of the zealous love that Julian maintains and that he felt a few chapters ago. His thoughts are almost entirely fixated upon the possibility of sex. By showing Bradley's perpetually sexual thoughts, Murdoch demonstrates that to a large extent, lust rather than love motivates him. Bradley's desires reveal him to be a lustful older man who takes advantage of the naivete of a younger woman, much like Humbert Humbert in Nabokov's Lolita.

The violent sex scene between Julian and Bradley shatters Julian's illusions about the nature of their love. Many critics compare Bradley's rough seduction of Julian to rape, since he fails to heed her requests to slow down, and she weeps bitterly afterward. When their sexual encounter has ended, Julian appears changed and confused. She no longer idealizes their love and married life together. The reality of sex with an overly forceful older man has sharpened her perception of the nature of their relationship. Her realization becomes more clear when her father arrives and explains Bradley's true age and his concealment of Pricilla's death. Arnold's suggestion that lust led Bradley to keep Priscilla's suicide a secret is correct. The way in which Priscilla's death hastens Bradley's sexual urges suggests that he is a cold, lustful figure. Bradley's behavior in this section seems to differ from his earlier experience of "pure love".

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