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Further Reading

Fiction by Munro English
Withof Girls and Women, I97I

Between I953 and I995 Dame Iris Murdoch published 26 novels and many essays about the theory and practice of fiction. She also established a serious reputation as a philosopher with a particular interest in the relation between ethics and metaphysics as it bears on the difficult human search for what Plato, her philosophic mentor, called the Good. Although a certain moral philosophy suffuses her novels, her fiction does not stage debates about ideas but paints portraits of obsessed persons in situations that are finely detailed and rich in ironies. The principal characters interest us by virtue of their stories, which often trace a tragicomic pilgrimage from illusion and vanity toward a clearer recognition of the truth, hence of what promotes life. Sometimes, however, she leads a character beyond this goal toward becoming "good for nothing," toward an "unselfing" that symbolizes in her work contact with divinity. Plato's myth of the cave is the image governing the former of these stories; the myth of Apollo flaying Marsyas is associated with the latter.