The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bradley Pearson

Bradley Pearson, a writer and the narrator of the novel. Bradley, who is middle-aged and solitary, has retired from his job as an inspector of taxes to devote himself to his writing, at which he works painstakingly. His life radically changes when he suddenly realizes that he passionately loves Julian Baffin, whom he idealizes. This love transforms his sterile existence, finally allowing him to write his great book, which he completes while unjustly imprisoned for the murder of Arnold Baffin.

Julian Baffin

Julian Baffin, the twenty-year-old daughter of Bradley’s friends Arnold and Rachel Baffin. Julian has asked Bradley to give her informal tutorials on great books, because she wants to be a writer. It is during her Hamlet tutorial that Bradley realizes that he loves her; later, she tells him that she has admired him since she was a child. She idealizes and romanticizes Bradley, but ultimately their relationship seems to have had little impact on her.

Arnold Baffin

Arnold Baffin, a prolific writer. Bradley encouraged his early efforts and helped to find him a publisher for his first novel; they have been friends ever since. Bradley is often drawn into Arnold and Rachel’s domestic quarrels. Arnold is outraged when he learns of Bradley’s love for Julian Baffin. Bradley is convicted for Arnold’s murder; suggestions of professional jealousy help convince the jury of his motive.

Rachel Baffin

Rachel Baffin, Arnold’s wife. A...

(The entire section is 637 words.)