Last Updated September 5, 2023.
She felt above all, as a sort of categorical imperative, the desire to set Hannah free, to smash up all her eerie magical surroundings, to let the fresh air in at last; even if the result should be some dreadful suffering.
This “categorical imperative” divides the characters in this novel, with some endeavoring to free Hannah and others determined to maintain her imprisonment. A sense is conveyed here of “real” suffering, of the tangible outside world as being better than the fantastical environment constituted by Gaze castle. Fantasy in the novel is portrayed consistently as a negative force, a magnetism that draws characters deeper and deeper into the unreality exuded by Hannah.
It was odd, the life one lived in other people's dreams.
This quote encapsulates how virtually none of the characters in this novel see each other as they truly are, but rather through the lens of fantasy. This is especially true in the case of Hannah, who is a different phenomenon to each individual who perceives her.
This then was love, to look and look until one exists no more, this was the love which was the same as death.
Predominantly, the characters in the novel look inward toward Hannah as a mutual object on whom their combined gaze rests but whom their distinct minds interpret differently. The fetishistic aspect of their love for Hannah comes from their interpretation of her as what best suits their ideal of her. Murdoch’s equating of love with death here also reiterates the idea of such fantasy as a dangerous force that has run wild within the walls of Gaze.
It was like a comedy by Shakespeare. All the ends of the story were being bound up in a good way.
This quote rings as very ironic at the conclusion of the text, where none of the characters, with the possible exception of Marion, are in a position to re-enter society. The comic aspect at the novel’s close is, of course, that what every character had believed to be Hannah in reality was false. Thus, as in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, everyone must ultimately except they have been chasing a false unicorn throughout.
She was her death now, that death which she had so much striven to emulate in life, which she had studied and practiced and loved. She had succeeded, and death and she had converged into a single point. Who knew if that was victory or defeat? His last vision was of the white veil that hid her now. After all, and at last, she had become utterly private.
Death for Hannah is a form of redemption, in that it means escape from the constant observation she has endured. By her convergence to a single point, the implication is given that she has become truly who she is, that all the fantasies of her upheld by other characters have vanished and she is left pure, as characterized by the white veil.