UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The enchanter figure in the novels of Iris Murdoch Woo, Elizabeth Annette


The novels of Iris Murdoch examined in this thesis fall into two categories, defined by herself as "open" and "closed." The "open" novels are "The Sandcastle," "The Nice and the Good," "An Unofficial Rose," "The Red and the Green," "The Bell and Under the Net". The "closed" novels are "The Italian Girl," "The Unicorn," "The Time of the Angels," "The Flight from the Enchanter", "A Severed Head," "Bruno's Dream" and "A Fairly Honourable Defeat". The terms "open" and "closed" are defined, as well as other terms important in the study of Iris Murdoch's novels, such as "journalistic" and "crystalline" novels, "ordinary language man," "totalitarian man," "enchantment," "fantasy," "form," "contingency," "myth," "love," "normal reality," and "symbolic reality." In each novel there is an enchanter who is a figure of power and an object of fantasy to other characters. This figure is described in terms of references to myths, fairy tales, fables, folklore, or philosophical concepts. The enchanter figure Is of two kinds, "ordinary," or "exotic," and is seen by the reader as existing on two levels of reality in the novels, the "normal" and the "symbolic." On the normal level, the enchanter figure is seen as a person in a set of circumstances. On the symbolic level, he or she is seen as an allegorical figure. The techniques Iris Murdoch employs in presenting this figure on both levels of reality are the chief concern of this thesis, although the enchanter figure's Importance in terms of the main themes of the novels are also discussed. These themes are primarily concerned with love as the highest good and as a process through which fantasy is overcome and a perception of reality is achieved. Through the enchanter figure, Iris Murdoch's ethical views, her literary skill, and the wide range of her sources of knowledge are revealed.

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