Iris Murdoch Under the Net: Blog Post by Carmen Luis


Iris Murdoch’s first novel, Under the Net, is deemed to be one of her least successful literary works due to its male-centric narrative, amorphous plot and dialogue which is at times somewhat imprecise. Despite these critical responses to her novel, Murdoch raises quite a few key issues concerning writing, philosophy and politics throughout the novel. Murdoch’s novel shares various philosophical ideas brought forth by one of the most infamous philosophers of the twentieth century’s, Ludwig Wittgenstein. He suggested the notion language is a social construct in which people do not distance themselves from the norm. Regularity of the use of such concepts and agreement in their application is part of language, not a logically necessary precondition of it, consequently one cannot separate themselves from the language they have been accustomed to.


Under the Net suggests that we are “trapped in a net of language” in which one’s emotions and experiences are unable to be fully expressed due to the limitations of language, however individuals still aim to express themselves through speech and writing in an attempt to free themselves from this structured system. This notion is underlined through the statement “The whole language is a machine for making falsehoods,” as a result may not fully convey the reality as it has been corrupted by their own perspective, thus making this ‘truth’ subjective rather than objective. Murdoch highlights this struggle through Jake and Hugo’s relationship. Jake ends up leaving Hugo once he realises that he could have possibly jeopardised their friendship as he taints Hugo’s experiences by writing about them and ultimately publishing a novel based on these personal experiences. Murdoch concludes her novel by proposing the idea that “One must just blunder on. Truth lies on blundering on.” This attitude towards life is necessary in order to avoid falsifying emotions and ideas in writing.




14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by zoha on January 23, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    great blog! It is interesting the way you have talked about language and how it is a social construct. The quotation ‘he whole language is a machine for making falsehoods,’ is almost as if it is echoing a post-colonial narrative and also Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ where Seth’s reality was distorted because it was in another’s voice. The way Jake taints Hugo’s experiences made me think about this and how each individuals experience and narrative is their own and only their voice can find the language that will free them from under the net.


  2. Posted by Georgia on January 23, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    This is a really interesting post, I like that you incorporated the philosophical theories into it as that’s very much Murdoch’s style. The title ‘Under the Net’ seems very fitting now when we look at the language of the novel. I think to some extent, we the reader are trapped under the net too by our ego-centric narrator and his limitations not only in language but in his perspective on events in the novel too.


  3. Posted by Hannah Mitchell on January 23, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    I liked your point about being trapped in the net of language. I think it is common to struggle with portraying true emotions/feelings due to not having the right words – often seen in arguments. I think Murdoch shows this common and strong notion through an array of relationships in the characters.


  4. Your response is very interesting, particularly your focussing upon the philosophy, I must admit I was less engaged with those extracts. You’re interpretation of the title is also of interest, linking it to language, and how it can set us free. It definitely appears to fit in with what we know of Murdochs views on literature.


  5. Posted by Lily Money on January 24, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    This is a very interesting blog. I think your point on how the language is socially constructed is an interesting point of Murdoch. I agree with your point about the title, it does seem very fitting the philosophy of language she corporates within her novel. When I first read Under the Net I did not like her references to philosophers. However, after learning about the reason for her doing this, I have more of an appreciation for this novel.


  6. Great post Carmen. I really like your link between the title and being trapped in language. I agree with some of the others and that when you are aware of Murdoch’s personal life you are able to read her novels in a different way. The criticism she received for using a male narrator I think can be answered with your link – although it wasn’t what readers wanted or expected, she was trapped sexually and therefore her language was constrained.


  7. Posted by Ella Bukbardis on January 24, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Taking a philosophical perspective on the novel is very important, as it was philosophy was something that Murdoch valued very much in her work. Breaking down the novel’s name was an interesting aspect, as the book is definitely centred around the characters confrontations with each other.


  8. Posted by Rachel Chandar on January 24, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    Interesting post Carmen! I personally often overlooked the philosophical ideas and references in the novel, but I found that your explanation of language as a social construct and the incorporation of Wittgenstein’s ideas to be very helpful in understanding the text more clearly. As with the reference to the meaning of Under the Net suggesting we are ‘trapped in a net of language’, I feel that this does really incorporate how language can also conceal the truth, rather than expose meaning through language.


  9. Posted by Sara on January 24, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Really interesting post Carmen. The idea of language as a mere social construct does indeed reflect the idea of the lack of individualism and the way in which this traps the individual within that system. This lack of individualism creates a sense of collectivism for the need to be included and become a part of a community. This need to be included is viewed as being a human need.


  10. Posted by Fern Dalton on January 24, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    Great post Carmen, I like how you have spoken briefly about Murdoch’s personal life and how this has shaped her writing in the novel. Linking it also to the idea of trapped language brings about a change of what women are writing about. Could we perhaps look at this book as being a success for a women writer as she has managed to write it from a male perspective whilst still bringing about women’s topics? Although not necessarily in a ‘conventional’ way, nevertheless it is still present in the novel.


  11. Posted by Ruzina on January 24, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    I really liked your post Carmen. ‘Under the Net’ can only be best described as a novel underlined with philosophy. Your quote that “the whole language is a machine for making falsehoods” is interesting as language isn’t able to convey the truth.
    Murdoch does not connect to womanhood in a conventional way, instead, she relies on a male’s perspective.


  12. Interesting blog! I enjoyed your analysis of the title in relation to the constrictions that language puts upon Jake and Hugo’s friendship in the novel. I enjoyed how you related Wittgenstein to the text to explain the limitations of language in the text.


  13. Posted by Bronagh on January 25, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Great post Carmen! I really enjoyed how you explored the text though Wittgenstein’s theory. It is so true, sometimes it is difficult to express the emotions we are feeling, which can be difficult. An understanding of this theory has made me want read a piece of literature by someone who is unable to communicate via spoken language, in order to see how they express themselves and perceive the world.


  14. Great post, Carmen. The idea of avoiding falsifying emotions and feelings in writing was really interesting to draw on and is a really important aspect of Murdoch’s authentic style as a writer. The importance of philosophy in this novel, and in all of Murdoch’s novels, is evident and your post really captures that. Great job.


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