Reflection in Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net In her novel Under the Net, Iris Murdoch examines the nature of reality through the thoughts and relationships of the novel’s main character, Jake Donaghue. A recurring theme in the novel is the idea of reflection, in both senses of the word: Jake is continually thinking about ideas, and he is also forever trying to see himself as he really is. Many of the instances of reflection in the novel occur near rivers or are connected in some way to currents.
As we shall see, Iris Murdoch uses reflections in Under the Net to represent the mirror opposites of reality and appearance. The Novel As Reflection In examining Murdoch’s use of reflections in Under the Net, it is perhaps useful to …show more content…
We should note that it is her reflection and not Sadie that Jake sees: “[T]he curious fantasy came to me that if I were to look under the drier at the real face and not at the reflection I should see there some terrible old witch” (p53).
The relationship between appearance and reality is a central theme in the novel, and Jake’s search for the truth includes the desire to learn if one can ever truly know another person. Jake’s fear of intimacy is due in part to his concern for the truth; he states that although he once briefly thought of marrying Anna, he has “never wanted a communion of the souls” because it is “already hard enough to tell the truth to oneself” (p31). Jake nevertheless again comes to care deeply for Anna, and in a frantic search of Paris, he finally finds her at the city’s fireworks celebration: The river was black now under the night sky and glassy, a black mirror in which every lamp raised a pole of light and the conflagration in the sky above dropped an occasional piece of gold. The line of people on the other bank was clearly reflected in it. Anna’s image was quite still beneath her. I wondered if in the river…my own reflection was as vividly shown. (191) Anna does not see Jake’s reflection, however, and he leaves Paris without having talked to her. In a comic distortion of reality, Jake believes that Hugo loves Anna, while in fact Hugo loves Sadie, Anna loves Hugo, and Sadie loves Jake; their relationships .
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