Throughout The Black Prince characters see other literary characters as representative of their own situations. Julian compares her realization of love to that of Emma in Jane Austen's Emma. Emma, who is twenty- one, spends much of the book looking for love before suddenly realizing that she has long been in love with Mr. Knightley, a close family friend who is sixteen years her senior. While Julian's love appears to be sincere, we may doubt its truth. Even Julian's tendency to compare their relationship to one in a novel suggests dreaminess on her part, while simultaneously suggesting her romantic belief that she and Bradley will marry and live happily ever after, as did Emma and Knightley. More obviously, Julian demonstrates her limited grasp on reality by not understanding that her parents would object to the relationship. Furthermore, she feels astonished by their anger and dismay. Julian has convinced herself that she is thoroughly enraptured by a pure love for Bradley, but her failure to appreciate the complex circumstances of their relationship suggests once again her naïve nature.
Rachel and Arnold's articulations their opinions Julian's behavior underscore the lack of reliability in the narrative, since we must question whether Bradley's account actually honest. Their explanations are important because they are partially true. Because they are true, they demonstrate the way that Bradley may be acting inappropriately. Additionally, by condemning his behavior, Arnold and Rachel help to guide the reader towards a similar condemnation. Bradley's seduction of Julian is crucial in his relationship with Arnold. The tension between Arnold and Bradley, as well as the tension between their artistic perspectives, is the main conflict in the novel. By taking Julian from Arnold, Bradley is demonstrating his ability to gain power over Arnold, of whom, despite his assertions that he is not, he is slightly jealous. Furthermore, his refusal to return Arnold's letter about Christian also shows the way that Bradley is preparing himself for a full battle with Arnold. The interaction between Arnold, Bradley, and Rachel is almost comic because although they all angry with one another, they maintain a polite veneer of friendship. As Arnold stands on the street telling Bradley that he is taking Julian to Venice, Arnold mentions that Rachel sends Bradley her regards. While their language towards one another remains friendly, their hostile attitudes towards one another have heightened the tension between Arnold and Bradley.