with John Bayley
Iris graduated from Somerville College, in Oxford, with B.A.
Murdoch went to Badminton School, in Bristol.
After an early childhood spent in London, Murdoch went to Badminton School, Bristol, and from 1938 to 1942 studied at Somerville College, Oxford.
From 1942 to 1944, Murdoch worked as assistant principal in the British treasury and from 1944 to 1946, with the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Center.
In 1948, she became a tutor at St. Anne's College in Oxford, England; a position she held for the next 20 years. Murdoch published several philosophical studies during the early 1956, including one of Jean Paul Sartre, a philosopher to whom she has been compared. She has also written over 50 novels.
The first novel was Under the Net (1954), about a man who fails in his personal relationships because he sees the world as a hostile place and people are not completely real to him.
Her second novel, The Flight from the Enchanter (1956), is about a rich and powerful man who sees all human relationships as power struggles and uses his power to draw the other characters into his grasp. Murdoch's third novel, The Sandcastle (1957), deals with a man who attempts to free himself from what he considers the death of him; his marriage.
The Bell (1958) has a similar theme, except that a young woman decides not to go back to her mate so that she may find herself. Many of Murdoch's later novels contain themes that are rewritten from her earlier works.
For example, A Severed Head (1961) returns to the theme of Flight from the Enchanter: the extent to which human relationships-in this case, sexual ones-are damaged when they are seen as ways to overpower others.
An Unofficial Rose (1962), like The Sandcastle, features a hero who feels enslaved by his marriage; while The Unicorn (1963), the study of a passive, guilt-ridden woman who poisons all her relationships by holding to one view of herself is repeated in The Bell. The Italian Girl (1964), The Read and the Green (1965), The Time of the Angels (1966), The Nice and the Good (1968), Bruno's Dream (1969), and A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970). Murdoch often writes novels that involve the fantasy of freedom-often sexual-versus conventional responsibility and the difficulty of establishing loving relationships between equals.
Also characteristic of much of her late work are the brooding, dreamlike landscapes and the bizarre turns of plot which have prompted many critics to refer to her as a Gothic novelist. Even in her later years, Murdoch continues to write rather lengthy, complex, and mind grabbing novels.
Aside from her Communist Party membership, Murdoch's Irish heritage is the other sensitive aspect of Murdoch's political life that seems to attract interest.
Murdoch once declared that for her, life’s most important priorities included parents, work, and above all, a good marriage. Since Murdoch is a self-controlled Englishwoman, she behaves with perfect graciousness all the while, and no hint of her real view surfaces in her acts. But she realizes, too, that her feelings and thoughts are unworthy, and likely to be generated by jealousy and an excessively keen desire to hang on to her son. So she sets herself a moral task: she will change her view of D, making it more accurate, less marred by selfishness.
This is how Murdoch cultivates a pattern of behavior that leads her to view D "justly or lovingly". The parable is partly meant to show the importance of the 'inner' life to moral action. Seeing another aright can depend on overcoming jealousy, and discoveries about the world involve inner work.
Quotations: "No one ever agrees about who is entitled to lay claim to Irishness. Iris's Belfast cousins today call themselves British, not Irish. .. but with both parents brought up in Ireland, and an ancestry within Ireland both North and South going back three centuries, Iris has as valid a claim to call herself Irish as most North Americans have to call themselves American."
Iris was an Honorary member American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Academy Arts and Sciences. Member Irish Academy F. C.
Murdoch wrote privately, and did not share her writing with other writers or her husband, literary critic John Bayley. She never read reviews of her work.
In 1956, Murdoch married John Oliver Bayley.