Character Analysis: Bradley Pearson in 'The Black Prince' by Iris Murdoch
Dame Iris Murdoch DBE was an Irish-born British author and philosopher, best known for her novels about good, evil and sexual relationships. Dame Murdoch published more than 26 novels. Her novel The Sea, the Sea won a Booker Prize in 1978. She published her last novel, The Green Knight, in 1994. This was the year she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Iris Murdoch wrote 'The Black Prince' in 1973. This was her fifteenth novel and alludes mainly to Hamlet, the character created by William Shakespeare.
The Black Prince is generally considered the best of Murdoch'Âs novels. It won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1973. Murdoch admired the great nineteenth-century English and Russian novels written by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, James, Dickens, and Eliot. Overall, she had the ability to merge philosophy and fiction and this is apparent in the main character Bradley Pearson in the novel. Murdoch relates the novel though Bradley Pearson. He is a retired 58 year old Inspector of Taxes and has a dream of going to the country to write his book. But the result is not simple as Bradley is beset by complications at every stage of his life. His character is ambiguous as he bickers with his friendÂ Arnold Baffin about the art of writing a book. Simultaneously he is enticed by Arnold's wife to sleep with her in an affair that is almost clinical. He also tutors the 20 year old daughter of Rachel and Arnold, Julian. His ex-wife Christian and her brother France along with his depressed sister turn up at his door.
The reader wonders how Bradley will react, but Dame Murdoch paints him as a self-absorbed, pompous and unsympathetic man. He does not care for the suffering of others. Bradley is struck by the arrow of Eros, the god of love. This changes his entire perception of life. Bradley changes to a man who is tender, as his love for Julian Baffin takes seed in his heart. He becomes almost infatuated with her. Despite this infatuation he decided to keep his love to himself, but love overpowers as he realizes that Julian also loves him. They meet and bare their souls to each other outside the Royal Opera house. This launches a whirlwind romance. Bradley and Julian love each other with passion and as their love blossoms.
'?The Black Prince' becomes one of the most romantic works of literature. The lovers crave for each other and each encounter leaves them breathless for more. Bradley subtitles his memoir Celebration of Love. Murdoch uses the love of Bradley with a girl old enough to be his daughter to emphasize her point that sex itself is the great connective force to God and something that can be the most relaxing thing in life. The youthful Julian reciprocates the love of Bradley. Once she dresses up as Hamlet and so arouses Bradley that he makes ferocious love to her. Julian is the driving force and initiator for all that takes place.
The entire book is a romantic fantasy retold through the pen of Bradley. The character of Bradley Pearson has the same initials as the Black prince, B.P. Hamlet is the Black Prince and he faced tragedy, so does Bradley. Murdoch has created a character that is deeply emotional and philosophical. Dame Murdoch spent the last 5 years of her life with AlzheimerÂs disease and died in 1999. Her husband was at her bedside.