Iris Murdoch has cast Pearson’s narrative into a complex blend of two voices, that of the erstwhile emotionless, self-righteous, sarcastic puritan, smugly insulated from human contact, and that of the infinitely wiser end product, who stands stripped of all hope and delusion, in full recognition of his shortcomings. While Murdoch signals to the attentive reader the times when Pearson should and should not be believed, her technique renders difficult a sharp focus on Pearson. It also conceals her own point of view and attitude toward him. Though his many self-deluding arguments hint at authorial expose, his often witty and profound monologues, chronicling the follies of the post-World War II upper-class London and passing judgment on it, also establish a sympathetic association between character and author. Murdoch’s affinity with Pearson increases as she leads him along the tortuous path from ignorance to knowledge, in the process exposing the fragility of his carefully nurtured cultural universe and from there focusing on the general vulnerability of anyone arrogant enough to believe that disaster can be kept at bay.
The book hints at mythic dimensions through the peripheral and mysterious figure of P. Loxias, seemingly a criminal who befriended Pearson in prison and in time became his confidant, mentor, manuscript editor, and publisher. A reference to Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, in which Cassandra addresses Apollo as Loxias, suggests that Murdoch...
(The entire section is 539 words.)