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Re: [CRG] Good Apprentice Some closing thoughts.

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  • Thedmo
    I m reading all of the posts related to the book in order now, having finished earlier this week. Murdoch was a philosopher, and this novel, and many of her
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 1, 2005
      I'm reading all of the posts related to the book in order now, having finished earlier this week.
      Murdoch was a philosopher, and this novel, and many of her others (although I've only read three ) are philosophical novels. They are also psychological novels, of course, but the predominant theme (she always has more than one) seems revolve around the question of how and why to be "good" in a godless society, or, without God. She does not preach, but puts characters in nearly untenable, but compelling (for those of us who read the book), situations.

      There is no one narrator. Point of view, while consistently in close third person, shifts with each break in the narrative. Voice is consistent with each change. Information is revealed only within the limits set by each character's knowledge.

      I did not find the conversations banal in the least. They were perhaps indulgent, but they set the stage, much as the big information/character dumps in the early chapters. Stuart's (and Edward's) consultations with Thomas actually present us with the heart of the book's purpose, and are skimmed at the reader's peril. It is, after all, an intellectual novel. We get the players, we get the arguments, we get the other givens, early on, and then Murdoch follows through with a wildly entertaining plot. There were points in this book where I laughed out loud at the audacity of the set ups, but she delivered right down the line. Cheers!

      This is not a book to rush through. There are wonderful layers of symbolism, Hellenic, Jungian, Biblical; there are psychological battles, philosophical dilemmas. I liked the questions raised about Edward's culpability for Mark's death. Of course, LSD is nothing like heroin, and jumping out a window is the apple to an overdose's orange. I believe he bears a good deal of responsibility for the death, but it's hardly murder. Still, I doubt Edward himself would agree.

      I like that Murdoch titles the first third of the novel "The Prodigal Son," but offers two fathers, two families, and multiple possibilities. The dreamlike stay at Seegard seems to reflect a pre-Christian, or Christ-free world perceived by Edward as Elvin, but symbolized by the ancient druid (or earlier) monuments in the dromos. When the Christ-figure of the novel, Stuart, arrives at Seegard, he is called dead by Jesse; and the resolutions begin to play out. "Life After Death" brings us to the healings the book has worked so hard to bring about, and I think it's a measure of Murdoch's success that these do not, for me, at any rate, come across as artificial or unsatisfactory. In the final scene, both sons, and their father, are all welcomed home.

      David Christie <dgsc@...> wrote:
      Iris Murdoch has given an interesting structure to this novel: it
      begins at a fairly ordinary level, descending to the incredibly banal
      conversation at the dinner party and this level continues throughout to
      a rather sordid affair between Harry and Midge, Meredith's role in all
      this, and Stuart's � so far boring self�absorption. At about the time
      of the seance, Edward's life soars into another realm, that of fantasy
      or magic realism, with the mythic atmosphere of Seegard, wrapped as it
      is in mist and woodland, with its Druid altar / dancing girl / the
      three weird women/ the strange sounds / primal fear / etc etc. At about
      half�way through (where I am) this magic world is starting to bump down
      into reality. The trick, I think, is that the narrator is unreliable �
      he/she does not give us a reliable vision of Seegard and its
      inhabitants, nor of the seance etc. Not that lies are told, but rather
      that we are encouraged to see what Edward imagined he was seeing,
      rather than the reality.

      Frank mentioned his boredom with the dinner party. The "consultation",
      where Stuart has his talk with Thomas, is almost unreadable
      intellectual crap and I find it odd that a writer of Murdoch's
      undoubted skill produced it � I suspect that there must be a reason
      which escapes me.

      The January book is _The Good Apprentice_ by Iris Murdoch.
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