Iris Murdoch pp 87-107 | Cite as

Reading Past Truth: Under the Net and The Black Prince

  • Bran J. Nicol


‘The key to the artist’s mind’, says Bradley Pearson, the writer-hero of The Black Prince, is what he is afraid of (BP 82).1 Asking this question is one of Murdoch’s own strategies in her criticism, and among a number of contenders for Bradley’s own greatest fear is the fear of contingency she detects in Sartre. But another is surely identified by Rachel towards the end of The Black Prince when she tells Bradley that all along he has been ‘somehow in the dark, not understanding anything, under all sorts of misapprehensions’ (BP 361). On several occasions he attempts to determine the ‘truth’ behind an episode with a zeal that seems disproportionate to its importance. At the beginning of the novel he is so frustrated by his inability to penetrate the ‘mystery’ behind Rachel and Arnold’s violent marital row, so curious, ‘that I almost turned back to snoop around the house and find out what had happened’ (BP 53). This is soon followed by another mystery, when he implores Rachel to recount in exact detail the events after her clumsy efforts to seduce him, insisting: ‘Please try. Truth does matter. What exactly happened yesterday after Arnold arrived back and we were — Please describe the events in detail. I want a description beginning “I ran down the stairs”’ (BP 177).


Ideological Position Detective Story True Love Artistic Truth Continual Casting 
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  1. 3.
    Murdoch’s contemporary Philip Larkin once described his meeting with her: ‘she is very nice, but given to asking questions: “Where do you live? How many rooms? What kind of carpet? What kind of pictures? What do you eat? How do you cook?” etc. A real novelist’s interest…’ (Letter to Barbara Pym, 26 June 1971, Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 1940–1985, ed. Anthony Thwaite [London: Faber 1992], 439).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bran J. Nicol 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bran J. Nicol
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PortsmouthUK

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