The Unicorn Quotes
by Iris Murdoch

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Unicorn Study Guide

Subscribe Now


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...

(The entire section is 495 words.)