The Bell

The Bell MOBI ´ Ebook
    IGNOU M.Com Study Material, IGNOU Books, Free Download , this funny, sad, and moving novel is about religion, sex, and the fight between good and evil."/>
  • ebook
  • 320
  • The Bell
  • Iris Murdoch
  • English
  • 08 September 2019
  • 1101495669

About the Author: Iris Murdoch

The Bell MOBI ´ Ebook bell download, The BellThe Bell KindleDame Jean Iris Murdoch Irish born British writer, university lecturer and prolific and highly professional novelist, Iris Murdoch dealt with everyday ethical or moral issues, sometimes in the light of myths As a writer, she was a perfectionist who did not allow editors to change her text Murdoch produced novels in years, the last written while she was suffering from Alzheimer disease She wanted, through her novels, to reach all possible readers, in different ways and by different means by the excitement of her story, its pace and its comedy, through its ideas and its philosophical implications, through the numinous atmosphere of her own original and created world the world she must have glimpsed as she considered and planned her first steps in the art of fiction John Bayley in Elegy for Iris, .


The BellThe Bell MOBI ´ Ebook bell download, The BellThe Bell KindleA lay community of thoroughly mixed up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an order of sequestered nuns A new bell is being installed when suddenly the old bell, a legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered And then things begin to change Meanwhile the wise old Abbess watches and prays and exercises discreet authority And everyone, or almost everyone, hopes to be saved, whatever that may mean Originally published in , this funny, sad, and moving novel is about religion, sex, and the fight between good and evil.

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10 thoughts on “The Bell

  1. BlackOxford says:

    Interrupting RoutineI work as tutor and librarian at Blackfriars Hall Oxford, the smallest and most medieval of the University of Oxford colleges and also a Dominican priory A few years ago Blackfriars acquired a bell to call the friars to prayer The sound of the bell does indeed create a definite atmosphere in the place as also does its timing since it rings, like its larger fellow at Christ Church College, according to solar time about six minutes behind GMT The midday call to the Angelu Interrupting RoutineI work as tutor and librarian at Blackfriars Hall Oxford, the smallest and most medieval of the University of Oxford colleges and also a Dominican priory A few years ago Blackfriars acquired a bell to call the friars to prayer The sound of the bell does indeed create a definite atmosphere in the place as also does its timing since it rings, like its larger fellow at Christ Church College, according to solar time about six minutes behind GMT The midday call to the Angelus therefore is somewhat disconcerting for passers by who nervously check their watches I have come to believe that this slight disruption, this interruption, is precisely the bell s function, intended or not Paradoxically a routine that interrupts routine One way to interpret Murdoch s novel is as just such an interruption in the lives of its characters.A.S Byatt in her introduction calls The Bell Murdoch s first English novel And it certainly creates a distinctive atmosphere, one so dense, thick, and humid in the Summer heat that it feels like green cotton wool simultaneously inhibiting and cushioning movement The characters, mostly middle class professionals, each might have issues but all are nevertheless cradled in the social solidity of a 1950 s bourgeois English culture that hopes against hope that it will remain 1939 forever They live in an existential routine that seems fixed they are stuck largely with themselves.People get on as if on a trajectory with the defined and relatively narrow limits of Oxbridge graduates in a post war world they find alien and confusing Their individual worries, however, don t inhibit their confidence, material or spiritual, in being English They are, of course, completely unaware of this How could it be otherwise But their Englishness is the necessarily unstated subject of the book The narrator would only spoil the narrative if she gave the game away introspection is not to be encouraged,A belief in Original Sin should not lead us to probe the filth of our mindsIrony is after all English group therapy.Opening with a very civilised adultery, leading to an evencivilised reconciliation for which the outgoing lover provides transportation to the railway station, there is no conflict which can t be solved if one just has the patience to wait it out And for heavens sake keep one s mouth shut Intimate communication is far too perilous a venture Much preferable to rely on one s friends to buoy one up without making a fuss, usually with a little GT, or possibly even a bit of evening Compline before bed.The High Church tradition, the antithesis of her Irish Presbyterian background, is something Murdoch became intimately familiar with in Oxford Her College, Somerville, is just past the end of St Giles , a street along which John Henry Newman started his career as an Anglican vicar at one end and wound up a Catholic Cardinal at the other Halfway along, and touching Blackfriars, is Pusey House, named for Newman s colleague in the liturgical revival of Anglicanism the Oxford Movement in fact Pusey House is oftenCatholic than the local Catholic churches since it can both anticipate the introduction of new ritual or revert to ancient practices without consulting the Vatican Pusey House also has the best collection of Vatican documents in Oxford.Some consider High Anglicanism to be a mimicry of Catholicism It s not It is true English Catholicism, or better said, Catholicism in the English mode Many Oxford colleges conduct Evensong and Compline services daily during term, using English Plainsong or Gregorian chant according to preference These are sensually pleasing, one might call them erotic, events They employ all the smells and bells of Catholic ritual but also emit a vaguely camp rebelliousness directed at both Low Church Anglicans as well as the straight laced historically Irish Catholic masses.This Anglo Catholicism provides a great deal of the dark green, cotton wool, comfort of The Bell The enclosed convent of Anglican nuns in Imber is not an antithesis to the repressed erotic desires of the characters who fetch up together across the lake in a half derelict country pile of Imber Court it is a spiritual celebration of the erotic One is reminded of Teresa of Avila and her swooning for Christ, her Spouse I know of at least three similar communities within 15 minutes drive of Oxford And I lived in one of these while I wrote my doctoral dissertation This kind of community is not a place to escape desire but a place in which desire can be explored in a way that is uniquely English through patient ritual, agricultural and industrial as well as religious As the medieval philosophers taught through practice one can act one s way into a moral lifeThe great thing about a dogsays one of the residentsis that it can be trained to love youAnd not just dogs Humans too can be taught to love trough practice but not through conversation, idle or therapeutic So,Meals were taken in silence at Imber In a sense, therefore, sex is as much a religious practice in Anglo Catholicism as it is in the Buddhism of the Kama Sutra It needn t be advertised as such, that would require talk which would compromise the effort fatally But Murdoch makes the equivalence explicit in her description of the psychic state of her main character, a homosexualin some curious way the emotion which fed both his religious feeling and homosexual orientation arose deeply from the same source English resourcefulness is to be found in this dance of sex and religion, which is carried out as much to the rhythm of an English country house as of a Benedictine convent The mustiness of each is additiveThere was a stale smell, like the smell of old bread, the smell of an institutionA concise summary really of the English Baroque Everything is surface, but brightly lighted surface so that nothing is actually hidden,All the electric lights were so bright at Imber The inhabitants are essentially misfits, and are recruited as such,people who can live neither in the world nor out of it They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completelyEach of these defective characters has a place, a duty really, in the overall choreography of an operatic ballet in Imber Court, a definite role that fits snugly into an overall ensemble Dora is the dim beauty, the soprano of the piece She has no comprehension of religion and only the most instrumentally sterile view of sex but she is not malicious,That she had no memory made her generousShe is a central figure, a sort of goddess of creation and of course therefore sex , who tends to get lost in Murdoch s narrative turbulence Paul, Dora s husband, is the operatic baritone, for whom neither sex nor religion is about passion but domesticity He desires Dora as housekeeper and mother for his children and religion is part of an ordered family bliss His lust, such as it is, is paterfamilial and conventional not perverse.The director producer is Mrs Mark married to Mr Mrs Mark , a somewhat beefy person in long skirts, withwell developed calvesShe is a type of English proto hippie perhaps, an evangelical Mrs Danvers, living a life of gentile, procedural poverty on someone else s dime, never without a cause Without her, neither sex nor religion could flourish at Imber She is the liturgical and social hub, the enforcer of strict adherence to the rubrics,It s not like a hotel and we do expect our guests to fit in and I think that s what they like best too,she politely commands She also ensures that conversation never becomes intrusive,That s another little religious rule that we try to follow No gossipWhat takes place outside Imber, remains outside Imber.Mrs Mark is the agent of Michael Meade, the somewhat reluctant leader, whose family estate Imber Court is In subsequent decades Michael would have been identified as the cult leader of the residents, not as sinister as Jim Jones or as commercial as Werner Erhard perhaps but still of some unaccountably charismatic incompetence Michael has been inspired by the Abbess of the Benedictine convent to minister to folk who are neither clerical nor secular but what now might be called seekers He is a homosexual.Catherine is the mezzo soprano and, innovatively, the prima ballerina of the piece who is immediately identified by Dora as a rival Catherine is imminently to become a postulant in the convent or, as her twin brother perceives the situation, to be swallowed alive by the institutional monster of religious passion Toby, Catherine s male sexual counterpart, is the the pious, virginal counter tenor He is the unsure novice, spiritually as well as sexually unformed.The eponymous bell constitutes what Alfred Hitchcock called the McGuffin a motivating force whose function is to set the narrative in motion but that remains invisible Essential therefore, although apparently trivial It is Dora and Toby, at ends of the sexual spiritual spectrum, who release the bell from the primal waters in which it has been hidden Driven by the event of the bell, the characters carom around the confines of Imber Court, impelling each other to acts of spiritual lust and material folly in a marvellously English way And of course interrupting their lives profoundly, not just for them but for all of Murdoch s generation In fact this form of Anglo Catholic lay community was inspired by the so called Distributist Movement of the 1920 s and 30 s This was a Catholic attempt, promoted by the likes of GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, to find a middle way between Capitalism and Communism It s ideal was a sort of medieval economy dominated by small agricultural producers who owned and worked their own land A few of Distributism s ideological remnants still exist in Britain, Canada and Australia

  2. Adam Dalva says:

    I love Iris Murdoch I ve come to expect certain things from her novels one astonishing, humorous transition here, it comes early, on a train at least 2 abrupt sexually centered plot twists that make me exclaim out loud on the subway a few incredible lines that border on philosophy Most of all, there s the sense in her novels that anything is possible as the excellent A.S Byatt interview puts it, she has the instincts of the 19th century novelist, though she s thoroughly contemporary O I love Iris Murdoch I ve come to expect certain things from her novels one astonishing, humorous transition here, it comes early, on a train at least 2 abrupt sexually centered plot twists that make me exclaim out loud on the subway a few incredible lines that border on philosophy Most of all, there s the sense in her novels that anything is possible as the excellent A.S Byatt interview puts it, she has the instincts of the 19th century novelist, though she s thoroughly contemporary One caution DON T READ THE BACK JACKET or any info if you are interested in this book The first surprise in the book is wonderful if, like me, you don t see it coming.I didn t love THE BELL as much as THE SEA, THE SEA or A SEVERED HEAD, because it feels as if Murdoch is still shaking off some structural ghosts fromconventional fiction This was her 4th novel, and the set up is great, very reminiscent of Black Narcissus A lay community has set up camp in a mansion and founded a spiritual community outside the gates of an old Abbey, which is waiting for a giant bell In her eagerness to people the community, Murdoch s generosity with supporting characters occasionally left me a bit confused lots of boring male names , and the complexity of the set up and the slight wrapping up, mid century feeling of the ending slowed me down The three perspective characters Dora, a flighty aspiring painter with a harsh husband Michael, the leader of the community w a secret past Toby, a teenager of boundless energy carry this book, and Murdoch uses various bells, both metaphorical and actual, to great effect There s a spectacular sequence with birds, and the nuns, sitting invisible on the grounds, add a unique tension to the action.Once this gets going I don t want to spoil anything because it s so good , once it turns Murdochian, I was thrilled There is an incredible revelation from the headlights of a car a device she reuses almost identically in THE SEA, THE SEA and things proceed from there with a relentless sexual logic that I adored And the writing Toby had received, though not yet digested, one of the earliest lessons of adult life that one is never secure At any moment one can be removed from a state of guileless serenity and plunged into the opposite, without any intermediate condition, so high about us do the waters rise of our own and other people s imperfection Memories of the previous evening returned to him vividly, and he had a curious sense of being unfaithful, followed by a feeling of the utter messiness of everything Violence is born of the desire to escape oneself If you re interested in Murdoch, I d start with A SEVERED HEAD so you can build trust in her capacity for insanity I might have put this down after 40 pages if I didn t have faith in her, and I m very glad that I didn t

  3. Jim Fonseca says:

    The main character is Dora, a ditz, but you gotta love her for her good heart She captures a butterfly from the floor of the subway so it doesn t get stepped on but then has no idea what do with it She wears high heels for a walk in muddy woods and then loses her shoes She forgets her bag at the railway station She has to take a long bus ride into town to retrieve it, takes the bus back home, forgetting the bag again in a pub She s an aspiring artist who is lazy and shows no signs of talent The main character is Dora, a ditz, but you gotta love her for her good heart She captures a butterfly from the floor of the subway so it doesn t get stepped on but then has no idea what do with it She wears high heels for a walk in muddy woods and then loses her shoes She forgets her bag at the railway station She has to take a long bus ride into town to retrieve it, takes the bus back home, forgetting the bag again in a pub She s an aspiring artist who is lazy and shows no signs of talent.Dora is married to a cold, cruel man who is an art historian They have an on again, off again relationship As the story opens she s returning to her husband from a casual affair with an old flame she could be happy neither with her husband nor without him It seemed to her that her husband was urging her to grow up, and yet had left her no space to grow up into Her husband, the snot, tells her Of course I don t respect you Have I any reason to I m in love with you, unfortunately, that s all How s that for a sad state of affairs Her husband is researching church records at a lay religious commune affiliated with an adjoining convent of cloistered nuns The religious commune serves as a buffer or an entryway depending on how you look at it between thereligious world of the convent and the material world It s for people who can t find a profession like teaching or nursing endowed with spiritual significance One of the other main characters is a gay man who initially saw no conflict between his Anglican religion and his sexuality they seemed to come from the same source until he decided he wanted to become a priest He was conscious of such a fund of love and goodwill for the young creature young man beside him It could not be that God intended such a spring of love to be quenched utterably The novel has a fairly frank discussion of male homosexuality given that it was published in 1958.The main action in the book revolves around a new bell that is to be installed at the abbey It is to replace one that has been missing for centuries and that supposedly sunk in the lake Dora and a young man find the old bell and raise it as a surprise in a comedic farce All that serves to move the book along but it s really a story of good and evil, morality, and people struggling to do the good thing Two quotes I liked Violence is born of the desire to escape oneself Here s a variation on the theme of rising to your highest level of incompetence One must perform the lower act which one can manage and sustain not the higher act which one bungles The blurbs call it a funny and sad novel and I think that is accurate A good read although not the author s strongest I still prefer Murdoch s The Sea, The Sea My GR friend Bionic Jean has written a muchdetailed and thoughtful review of the book here if you are interested of Buckfast Abbey, Dartmoor from britainexpress.comPhoto of the author from biography.com

  4. Bionic Jean says:

    There is a story about the bell ringing sometimes in the bottom of the lake, and how if you hear it it portends a death The Bell is an early philosophical novel by Iris Murdoch, the Irish academic and Oxford professor of Philosophy, who also wrote in total 26 novels This is her fourth novel, first published in 1958 The first of her novels to be shot through with ethical considerations, The Bell remains the one novel in her entire output where the moral conundrums are the most explicit UntilThere is a story about the bell ringing sometimes in the bottom of the lake, and how if you hear it it portends a death The Bell is an early philosophical novel by Iris Murdoch, the Irish academic and Oxford professor of Philosophy, who also wrote in total 26 novels This is her fourth novel, first published in 1958 The first of her novels to be shot through with ethical considerations, The Bell remains the one novel in her entire output where the moral conundrums are the most explicit Until now, the characters in Iris Murdoch s novels had been concerned with having a good life rather than living one a subtle difference perhaps, but a profound one Interestingly, Iris Murdoch once said,I don t think philosophy influences my work as a novelistYet The Bell clearly pointed the way towards her later novels, all of which have a philosophical component Some later ones have hints of other realities, myth, and even a touch of Eastern philosophy, despite her Western philosophical credentials The greater part of the action in The Bell takes place within a religious lay community living in a large house calledImber Court , in a rural woodland area of Gloucestershire, in England Next to Imber Court is a closed order of nuns in an Abbey, presided over by their Abbess This very setting emphasises the nature of the book s concerns, hinting that there will be some moral analysis through our view of the individual characters There are three distinct groups the order of Benedictine nuns, who live in accordance with their traditional set of moral codes, a lay community, grasping towards their own ethical system of moral purpose in life, plus a third category, various visitors, all with their own troubled and burgeoning ethical issues and problems All these are carefully woven together into an absorbing story The novel begins enticingly,Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason Instantly the reader is engaged But we must not assume that the novel is going to be about Dora, an unsuccessful middle class art student, and how her life pans out after a possibly unsuitable marriage to an art historian of noble German descent Iris Murdoch does not write straightforward novels of that type Instead, she makes it quite clear that her interest lies with the moral dilemmas we all experience, and how each individual person is subject to different influences, depending on their personalities Hence Dora,obeying that conception of fatality which served her instead of a moral sense left him Iris Murdoch has a knack for making her philosophical approach relatively seamless, so that it is perfectly possible to just read her books as straight novels The reader can think of this simply as additional information about a character, Dora, or view it as a statement about psychological motives, plus of course it is an ethical dilemma too Through Dora, the reader is led towards the main focus of the book Dora has agreed to return to her husband Paul Greenfield, who has temporarily joined the lay community at Imber Court, to work on some 14th century manuscripts During the train ride there, we are privy to Dora s inner turmoil She comes across as immature, with little true self knowledge, even rather limited in imagination, but her very frustrations and blunderings are appealing Dora is perhaps the character least concerned with living a moral life, yet even she is wrestling with her conscience right at the beginning We read a disjointed and absurdly lifelike set of internal arguments, conveyed with typical Murdochian wry humour,Dora hated pointless sacrifices She was tired after her recent emotions and deserved a rest She regarded her state of distress as completely neurotic She decided not to give up her seat.She got up and said to the standing lady, Do sit down here please Such moral deliberations are contained in almost every page They are so true to life, and the author here shows us that despite every care we take to think through the ethics, there is always something in our imperative for goodness that we cannot reduce to rational discussion.On the train to Imber, we are also introduced to the other impressionable young innocent of the story, the gauche Toby Gashe, who is also searching for life s meaning He too is going to stay at the community before he goes to Oxford University He is accompanied by a member of the community, James Tayper Pace The book is redolent with literary motifs and metaphors, which start immediately During the train journey Dora notices a butterfly crawling along the carriage and picks it up to protect it from being crushed Yet when she is met at the other end by her husband, and releases the butterfly to its freedom, she realises that she has left her suitcase on the train What does this portend Clearly the butterfly, originally trapped by its situation represents both freedom and fragility But what else The section approaching Imber Court by car is very reminiscent of the drive to the great house of Manderley, in Daphne du Maurier sRebecca , which the reader also sees through the eyes of an insecure young woman with a low self image Her feelings towards her husband seem so similar In each case he is older,assured and worldly wise Dora notices every little detail with mounting apprehension The drive in each case feels interminable Reaching the house itself, Dora is introduced to all the members of the community the head of the community, Michael Meade, assisted by Mrs Mark Margaret Strafford , Mark Strafford, Catherine Fawley, Peter Topglass and Patchway Dora is perplexed by what she perceives as the overly spartan and religious overtones of the community, and feels increasingly oppressed The huge lake features greatly in the novel, and an episode about her lost shoes is heavy with symbolism During that evening Paul tells Dora the terrible legend of the bell It was said that long ago a nun had taken a lover but refused to confess Because of this, a bishop put a curse on the Abbey, and the bell then plummeted into the lake, where it had remained ever since The atmosphere and claustrophobia is now gently being cranked up.At this point we meet another add on to the community, the twin brother of Catherine He is Nick Fawley, a slightly worse for drink reprobate, who lives slightly apart from the others He is clearly not one of the community, but rather someone for whom they feel responsible.It becomes clear that one of the community knew Nick from many years ago, and that there is a dark secret We are now concentrating on each character in turn, as they struggle to cope with their lives, their fears and nightmares, and their attempts to be true to the values they have decided on The landscape continues be described very vividly, and one scene where Toby is inadvertently viewed naked in the grounds by two other members of the community, takes on a feeling and impression of the garden of Eden.There is underlying sexual repression and feelings of guilt, closely interconnected with the religious inclinations of the order Different members all have their own reasons for escaping from the world outside Michael, the leader, is subject to nightmares He is the one most challenged by his wish to become a priest Despite his unfortunate history, which seems scandalous to the world, but innocent enough to Michael, the idea of priesthood seems increasingly to tempt him with its possibility But then it is quashed afresh, and relegated to being merely a lost dream, by ensuing events in the novel One enigma seems to be Catherine, who to Dora s horror is destined to take her vows and become part of the closed order of Benedictine nuns Although Catherine insists she is joyful at the prospect, Dora cannot believe this And Catherine s progress throughout the story too, is not as clearly demarcated as it appears to be at the beginning.A new bell is commissioned to be installed in the Abbey The book follows the story of the two bells, old and new The old bell view spoiler is discovered by Toby when, curious, he dives to the bottom of the lake He has a crush on Dora, and, confused, he eventually shares the knowledge with her The two of them then decide to lift the bell from the lake and substitute it for the new one as a prank hide spoiler Michael is very much the main character in this part of the book His innermost thoughts are closely examined, whether it is his feeling of responsibility and tenderness towards Toby, his regrets for the past and his loss of possible priesthood, or his worries about the rest of the community, especially Nick Everyone appears to have secrets Two of the community feel they are in love with others, there is a failed marriage, there is a snatched kiss, there is subterfuge Yet we are almost always directed to feel that every individual is attempting to act by their conscience.Unusually, there are three sermons in the novel, each made by a different member of the community James s at the beginning of chapter 9 and Michael s at the beginning of chapter 16 are both religious Each uses the metaphor of the bell to express their own personal views on life, and each has a different interpretation The third is Nick s at the beginning of chapter 21 which is non religious There are quite a few moral speeches in the novel, but none is quite so overt as these sermons moral lectures designed to edify the listener.James s view is that the study of personality is dangerous to goodness Even if he cannot see how things will work out, a good person trusts and has faith in God We should look to God s divine law to tell us what is commanded and what is forbidden He warns that all the rest is mere vanity, self deceit and flattery, expostulating,How false it is to tell our young people to seek experienceAccording to James, the marks of innocence are candour, truthfulness and simplicity, which will ring out just like the new bell which is to arrive at Imber He believes that innocence, retained in time, becomes knowledge and wisdom To illustrate his sermon, James speaks of Catherine, who will soon become a nun in a closed order, joining the religious community of the Abbey at Imber Court James s ideal is that a good man is a Saint Michael s sermon, delivered a week after James s, starts with the same words, although Michael s idea of a good life is very different,The chief requirement of the good life is that one should have some conception of one s capacities One must know oneself sufficiently to know what is the next thing One must study carefully how best to use such strength as one has, The good man, in Michael s view, is one who has great self knowledge, so that he can avoid temptation and direct his spiritual energy towards doing God s will God requires us to know ourselves and our imperfections, so that we can perfect ourselves Although what differentiates us makes each of us imperfect, Michael argues that we need such moral imperfection so that we can overcome it Everyone has a different experience of reality and of God We obtain moral perfection through our strength, arising both from self knowledge and our varying experiences of reality, giving us the strength to live as spiritual beings, to act correctly and to perfect ourselves Like James, he uses the bell to illustrate his moral conception,The bell is subject to the force of gravity The swing that takes it down must also take it up So we too must learn to understand the mechanism of our spiritual energy, and find out where, for us, are the hiding places of our strengthNick s sermon is individual, designed for and given to one person, and not forming part of a service It is not added but forms an essential part of the plot It is interesting to speculate whether Nick views this as only valid for this specific situation, or whether it could constitute a general moral code Perhaps Nick would have liked to give the sermon to the rest of the community, but since they would not want to hear it, he delivers it as a private speech It certainly offers a different ethical approach.Nick s assertion is that a good man is one who cares At first he sarcastically uses religious rhetoric, asserting that human beings are not innocent, as animals are, but sinners Because of God s word, and confession, we can be saved, but had we been without sin, we would have been deprived of such pleasure view spoiler Nick then makes it clear that he has been observing Toby s meetings with both Michael and Dora He says that Toby has changed since his arrival and is no longer the innocent he was when he arrived drawing attention to Toby s attempt at a false miracle with the bell,I ve seen your love life in the woods, tempting our virtuous leader to sodomy and our delightful penitent to adultery What an achievement So young and so extremely versatileand complains that Toby has treated him like a piece of furniture Nick makes Toby realise that he has hurt Michael, and makes him consider his personal integrity with both Michael and Dora Nick believes a good man is someone who takes his responsibilities seriously, and has a duty to look after himself and others, recognising the good and bad both in others and in himself Nick forces Toby to confess everything to James, saying that if he doesn t, then Nick himself will tell him hide spoiler This is a supremely moral stance A man is not morally perfect but makes mistakes A good man is one who, caring of both others and himself, recognises sin in others and in himself, and confesses From Nick s point of view, he is forcing the other to admit his sins and confess them This view can be seen ascomplex than the previous ones because it includes both the ego and the alter ego As the novel proceeds, Dora view spoiler decides she will go to London to visit Noel Spens, with whom she was having a fun casual affair at the beginning, in order to show Paul that she is an independent woman After dancing together, she then decides that this is not what she wants, and after having spent the entire novel at odds with the religious communities, seems to have a religious experience when admiring some familiar paintings in the National Gallery Back at Imber, she and Toby put their plan into action Using a tractor, they haul the bell out of the lake, bringing it to the surface and dragging it into a nearby barn intending to substitute it for the new bell during the ceremony, hoping to trick the community into believing that a miracle has happened hide spoiler Nothing happens as planned One bell takes centre stage, revealing to all an episode of which two of the characters are thoroughly ashamed There is an unwelcome arrival by someone intent on pointing up what he sees as the quaint nonsense of such a community in modern times There are enjoyably farcical elements, to which the reader may have confused reactions Events then escalate dramatically, as view spoiler the bell falls into the lake, because Nick has sawn through part of the causeway Possibly this is an attempt to stop his sister entering the abbey hide spoiler There is an element of poignancy and pathos within the absurdity There is guilt, embarrassment, confession and deep shame There is both a catastrophic accident, and a near tragedy view spoiler as Catherine attempts to drown herself hide spoiler , followed by a real tragedy view spoiler when her brother Nick shoots himself hide spoiler The book has a low key ending where all the ends are tied up view spoiler The two main characters Dora and Michael are the only two remaining at Imber, since the community has broken apart The Staffords have taken Catherine to a psychiatic clinic in London Although the two get on well, Michael then leaves, making Dora the last person at Imber Dora decides not to return to Paul, but instead to go and stay with her friend Sally hide spoiler Thus the reader is left with Dora s experience and feelings in confusion, much as the novel had started, The novel is steeped in morality, and also full of consistent literary motifs, with a recurring theme of opposites pulling in different directions Dora s fear pulls her in opposite directions to flee from Paul or to return to him Michael eventually realises that his religious calling and sexual passions spring from the same source There are two bells in the novel, one old and one new, and both named Gabriel Imber Abbey is a strictly enclosed order of nuns and there is also a lay community of Imber Court In the words of the Abbess, this is for those who,can live neither in the world nor out of it those unhappy souls whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completely Thus the religious community at Imber is one, and yet also two.All tragedies have tension, and this pattern of twinning, of opposities sometimes allotropic where a single element exists in different possibly conflicting forms provides the tension for the novel s plot It is the novel s reality, enabling its moral and sometimes religious conflict Each character is revealed with a fragmentation of their human identity in search of meaning and purpose.This is both a philosophical and a psychological novel In it the reader can see that, despite its religious setting, the preoccupation of the good person, rather than God, is the paramount concept in Iris Murdoch s thoughts Throughout, the theories are diverted from the expected rhetoric about God, in order to concentrate on the search for the good Iris Murdoch consistently gives importance to the religious dimension, both in her literary and philosophical works, but goodness reigns supreme in the development of her philosophy Characteristically she once referred to living in an age which she called theuntheological time The ultimate question postulated by Iris Murdoch in this novel, isWhat does it mean to be goodOr as each member of the communities at Imber Court is prone to ask themselves,What is the chief requirement of the good life The search for an answer to this question formed the basis for all the author s philosophical and literary works an attempt to define the moral life This novel just touches the surface of the question, but is a remarkable exploration of the subject, through an enjoyably accessible genre A bell is made to speak out What would be the value of a bell which was never rung A great bell is not to be silenced All that it is is plain and open, and if it is moved it must ring

  5. Candi says:

    There were many people who can live neither in the world nor out of it They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completely and present day society, with its hurried pace and its mechanical and technical structure, offers no home to these unhappy souls Work, as it now is can rarely offer satisfaction to the half contemplativeIn The Bell, we find such a groThere were many people who can live neither in the world nor out of it They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completely and present day society, with its hurried pace and its mechanical and technical structure, offers no home to these unhappy souls Work, as it now is can rarely offer satisfaction to the half contemplativeIn The Bell, we find such a group of individuals seeking a sort of spiritual retreat at Imber Court, a lay community attached to an enclosed order of nuns at Imber Abbey or, as the Abbess puts ita buffer state between the Abbey and the world, a reflection, a benevolent and useful parasite, an intermediary form of lifeMurdoch does a superb job of developing her main characters of the novel The reader becomes quite intimate with Dora, the inexperienced, unhappy wife who has come to Imber to try to make amends with her husband while he continues manuscript research at Imber Michael, the leader of the community who struggles with his sexuality and his religion and Toby, a carefree, innocent young man on the verge of adulthood Also present at Imber are an assortment of secondary characters, including Paul, the bullying husband to Dora James, Toby s mentor and a sanctimonious member of the community Catherine, a somewhat taciturn young woman planning to take her vows to enter the adjoining convent Nick, brother to Catherine and a very unstable man with a history of a past relationship with Michael and the Abbess, a very forward thinking and compassionate nun The pace of the novel is slow yet luxurious the writing is so eloquent and descriptive, I just wanted to sit somewhere quietly away from the chaos of my world and immerse myself in Murdoch s prose Descriptions of Imber Court, the abbey, the lake and the surrounding grounds were lovelyShe leaned on the balustrade between the pillars, looking down across the terrace to the lake The sun had gone, but the western sky to her right was still full of a murky orange glow, glittering with a few feathers of pale cloud, against which a line of trees appeared black and jaggedly clear She could also see the silhouette of a tower, which must belong to the Abbey The lake too was glowing very slightly, darkened nearby to blackness, yet retaining here and there upon its surface a skin of almost phosphorescent lightThere is also a mystery about a centuries old bell rud to be sunk at the bottom of the lake The story surrounding this bell adds a level of intrigue and a sense of doom that I found very alluring This story seems to affect some members of the community in very curious ways These characters become quite caught up in the mystery and some have even perhaps developed a fateful link to this medieval bell The symbolism of a swinging bell also seems to represent the struggle with certain moral and religious issues with which some members of this lay community are confrontedThe bell is subject to the force of gravity The swing that takes it down must also take it up So we too must learn to understand the mechanism of our spiritual energy, and find out where, for us, are the hiding places of our strengthWho will come through their moral and religious crises on the up swing, so to speak Can Dora rise above her feelings of inferiority to Paul and stand on her own two feet as his equal Can Michael ask for forgiveness and find peace with his God Will Toby rid himself of his confusion and rise above what he sees as a threat to his innocence When Catherine saysThere are things one doesn t choose I don t mean they re forced on one But one doesn t choose them These are often the best thingsWhat does this say about her calling to a life of devotion and seclusion Can Nick function in a world without contact with his own sister and can he rid himself of a bitterness that has sunk him to a life of depravation Before I wrap this up, I have to say that I just adored the Abbess in this novel Despite her limited appearance in The Bell, she seemed to have such profound insight and I would have loved to hear from her a bitShe imparts to Michael these brilliant words of wisdom,Remember that all our failures are ultimately failures in love Imperfect love must not be condemned and rejected, but made perfect The way is always forward, never backRich and thought provoking, I truly enjoyed this, my first Iris Murdoch novel it most certainly will not be my last

  6. Laysee says:

    This above all to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any manShakespeare, HamletThe setting for The Bell is Imber Court, a palladian country mansion that is home to an Anglican Benedictine commune in Gloucestershire, just outside the walls of an Anglican convent The Imber commune consists of a group of lay, religious people who seek a retreat from the world to live, for a spell at least, an ascetic and pious life Life here isThis above all to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any manShakespeare, HamletThe setting for The Bell is Imber Court, a palladian country mansion that is home to an Anglican Benedictine commune in Gloucestershire, just outside the walls of an Anglican convent The Imber commune consists of a group of lay, religious people who seek a retreat from the world to live, for a spell at least, an ascetic and pious life Life here is intended to be simple prayer and tending a vegetable garden But it is not to be.Imber Court belongs to Michael Meade, the de factor leader, who along with a handful of devoted Anglicans, provide administrative and operational support for the commune Michael in his 30s , the key character in this story, was a former school teacher with a sketchy past in which his desire to be an ordained priest was foiled when he was dismissed for allegedly seducing his 14 year old student, Nick Fawley Years later when the novel begins , Michael is put in a quandary to accept into Imber Court this same young man, now in his twenties, who is given to alcohol and suicidal ideation Michael struggles excessively with his homosexuality and feels drawn again to Nick To complicate things, into this commune comes Toby Gashe, a 18 year old, carefree, youth who is seeking a religious retreat at Imber as preparation for Oxford The story that unfolds is a tragic one that has devastating consequences for all involved Other characters provide the adrenaline that drives the plot in this masterfully narrated story The character that grew on me is Dora Greenfield, a 21 year old errant wife who, in her unhappy marriage, has run away, but is now compelled to return to her authoritarian husband, the art historian Dr Paul Greenfield who is working on 14th century manuscripts that belonged to the Anglican convent Paul is an intensely jealous man who watches his wife like a hawk In a few pages, Murdoch painted for us a sympathetic profile of a flighty woman, not given to reflection, yet keenly aware of her husband s contempt for her, and endearing in her scatter brained but spontaneous responses to things that happen to her It was a pleasure to see how Dora finds her own confidence and independence There is Catherine Fawley, Nick s twin sister, an angelic young woman who will soon take vows to become a nun Beneath that fairy like exterior churns deep psychological issues that took the reader by surprise But what about the bell, that carries the title of this novel The Imber commune is looking forward to having a new bell installed and christened in the Abbey Tower Legend has it that the old bell is accursed It is said to be lying at the bottom of the lake And woe betide the village whenever it rings again from the murky depths Murdoch wrote a prose style that is richly evocative She created the stuffy and cloistered air at Imber court, the charm of the forests with its profusion of bird song, and the serenity and lure of the lake So, the reader fleeing Imber Court with Dora or Toby senses the freedom that the natural world offers up as a foil to an artificially spiritual enclave.Thematically, this is a very difficult novel to read The Bell is about love and freedom it is also about homosexuality and spirituality This book was published in 1958 It is hard to fathom how incredibly painful it must be, sixty years ago, to be gay and deeply religious, not that it is necessarily easier now Michael is fettered by his spirituality, so he is unable to love as he is inclined to, and this is what makes this story extremely sad In his own words,Spiritual power was indeed like electricity in that it was thoroughly dangerous It could perform miracles of good it could also bring about destruction A recurring theme is truth,the truth telling voice that must not be silencedThe tragedy in this story is the inability of several of its characters to be true to themselves and to be truthful The consequences are severe view spoiler Michael does not come clean about his love for Nick Nick pays the price for Michael s reticence Catherine, too, loves and suffers in silence, which precipitated her mental breakdown Thankfully, Toby who has been brought up to be truthful unburdens his confusion after his encounter with Michael, and is able to move ahead to university life relatively unscathed The other person who learns the hard way is Dora She wears her heart on her sleeve, and is considered wanton and foolish, but she bumbles her way to a better future hide spoiler The Bell is a satire on the religious life We see in the Imber commune merely the form of organized religion it has no substance The ending, therefore, comes as no surprise There is perhapsa higher and a better way to living a good life I will close with the words of the Abbess to Michael, which brings me comfort at the end of this disturbing novelwe can only learn to love by loving Remember that all our failures are ultimately failures in love Imperfect love must not be condemned and rejected, but made perfect The way is always forward, never back

  7. Susan says:

    This is the first novel by Iris Murdoch that I have read It was the author s fourth novel, published in 1958 The story begins with young wife, Dora Greenfield, who, having left her husband, Paul, is now returning to reunite with him Paul Greenfield is staying at Imber Court, while studying fourteenth century manuscripts at Imber Abbey, a Benedictine Convent The lay community at Imber Court is headed by Michael Meade The group of people staying at Imber include a young student, Toby Gash, Ja This is the first novel by Iris Murdoch that I have read It was the author s fourth novel, published in 1958 The story begins with young wife, Dora Greenfield, who, having left her husband, Paul, is now returning to reunite with him Paul Greenfield is staying at Imber Court, while studying fourteenth century manuscripts at Imber Abbey, a Benedictine Convent The lay community at Imber Court is headed by Michael Meade The group of people staying at Imber include a young student, Toby Gash, James Tayper Pace, who had been a youth group leader in East London, Catherine Fawley, who is planning to become a nun and her twin brother, Nick, who has a drinking problem and a history with Michael, the rather bossy, Mrs Mark, and others The Abbey is about to receive a new bell, which is to replace the missing one from the bell tower There is a story that the original bell flew from the tower into the lake, and it is this event which forms the central strand of the novels story However, the novel feeds off the relationships between the characters of the lay community that buffer state between the Abbey and the world, for those can t live either in or out of the world As Dora and Paul play out their marital troubles in front of an audience, it soon becomes clear to Dora that their past is all too well known to the other members of the community, and, meanwhile, other relationships form and grow Michael, troubled by the brooding presence of Nick, drinking in the lodge by the lake, is attracted to young Toby Then Dora and Toby become involved in a drama of their own, concerning the bell.At first, I found this novel difficult to get into I found some of the characters quite infuriating and nearly gave up However, the writing was good enough to pull me in and, gradually, I fell into the pace of the novel This has the feel of a sultry, English summer when time seems to last forever and nothing ever changes I have stayed in communities such as these, when I was younger in my schooldays and thought it was very well written and realistic, complete with all the repressed passions, undercurrents, resentments and petty quarrels that erupt among any group of people living together I am glad I stayed with the book and eventually enjoyed it very much

  8. Algernon (Darth Anyan) says:

    Opening linesDora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him She decided six month later to return to him for the same reason The absent Paul, haunting her with letters and telephone bells and imagined footsteps on the stairs had begun to be the greater torment Dora suffered from guilt, and with guilt came fear She decided at last that the persecution of his presence was to be preferred to the persecution of his absencesWell, colour me intrigued by this passage and thrill Opening linesDora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him She decided six month later to return to him for the same reason The absent Paul, haunting her with letters and telephone bells and imagined footsteps on the stairs had begun to be the greater torment Dora suffered from guilt, and with guilt came fear She decided at last that the persecution of his presence was to be preferred to the persecution of his absencesWell, colour me intrigued by this passage and thrilled to follow up on the tribulations of this young woman as she embarks on a journey of self discovery and of possible liberation from the expectations of conformity to social rules, as set up by her husband and by the lay religious community he lives with currently Dora is an easy character to root for, an instinctive rebel against oppresive morals and an energetic, impulsive, candid exponent of youthful exuberanceDora, who had so lately discovered in herself a talent for happiness, was thedismayed to find that she could be happy neither with her husband nor without him As she goes back to her husband by train, she easily gets distracted by a passing butterfly, enough to make her forget where she is and what she is supposed to do This early scene is a great set up of mood, an early raising of the barricades between Dora and the lay community where she is headed I knew in advance which side I will root for, but I will confess that I was still pleasantly surprised by the subtlety and the thoroughness of the investigation by Iris Murdoch, of the conflict between living in the world of the senses and the retreat, the isolation promoted by the members of the commune as a path to spiritual enlightenment.As the Abbess of the neighboring enclosed order of nuns that encouraged and supported the establishment of the lay religious community explainsThere were many people who can live neither in the world nor out of it They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completely and present day society, with its hurried pace and its mechanical and technical structure, offers no home to these unhappy souls Work, as it is now, can rarely offer satisfaction to the half contemplative Dora s husband Paul is a visitor and not a full member of this community, studying ancient manuscripts at the monastery He is so full of himself, so conscious of his own intellectual worth that he has little sympathy to spare for the inner turmoil of his wife, dismissing all her feelings as pitiful and misguided All he wants is an obedient admirer, a pretty doll to show off to his friends, and he isangry about the social scandal of her departure than of her apparent promiscuous adventures Paul hopes the rest of the members of the commune will help him bring Dora to order But, like all men discover sooner or later, women s logic is a lotconvoluted and arbitrary that the reputed straight line train of thought of the maleThe past was never real for Dora The notion that Paul might keep her past alive to torment her with, now occured to her for the first time This introduction to the struggle for domination in the couple dynamics would have been enough for me to enjoy the novel, but Murdoch has a lotcooked up in this novel I like to imagine her as one of the greatest explorers of the twentieth century Instead of re discovering America, she goes in deep, like a spelunker with a powerful flashlight, investigating the twisted tunnels and the dark caverns of the soul Here is Dora, the sinner, ready to love and to enjoy life, held down by a jealous, possesive husband Here is Michael, a lay preacher, torn apart between his thirst for divine absolution and his earthy attraction to young boys Here is James Tayler Pace the stern, ascetic, fundamentalist group leader who urges us to discard everything but the teachings of the Holy Book if we want to be saved Here is the angsty, malicious young man Nick Fawley, who hovers alone at the borders of the commune, both wanting in and despising the conventionality of the others Here is his beautiful and reserved sister Catherine, who is getting ready to renounce the world and join the convent And finally, here is the young and innocent Toby, attracted to the lay community by the promise of a spiritual life, enthusiastic like Dora by the fields, the forest, the lake, the mystery of the nuns hiding behind the tall wall of their monastery.We get to spend quality time inside each of these people s minds, unravelling their self justifications, their self deceptions and their occasional honest efforts to become better persons In the age old dialectic between the sacred and the prophane, we might conclude that real life is a muddle, bringing the idealistic dreamers back with their feet on the ground, exposing the lies and the sometimes malicious atitudes of the allegedly pure of heart, yet a wonder to behold to those who are still ready for and accepting of new experiences I understand from the biographic notes on the author that she greatly admires Shakespeare, and I can easily see why as I think back to all the comedy walking hand in hand with tragedy around the fields of Imber Abbey A comparison between A Midsummer Night Dream and The Bell may seem forced, especially since the plots have little in common, but my fancy refuses to listen to my voice of reason I laughed out loud as Dora and Toby, the two exponents of irrepressible joy in life, set out to rock the peace of the place with a little subversive action view spoiler by substituding the new bell for the Abbey with a famous old one they find at the bottom of the lake hide spoiler And I was dismayed as the hijinks of the commune members drive view spoiler the young Nick to suicide and his sister Catherine to an insane asylum hide spoiler Prophecy and Foreshadowing is not exclusive to fantasy literature, and can be a powerful tool in the hands of a master storyteller As Paul narrates to Dora the legend of the old monastery bell, we can think ahead and fit the metaphor around the current occupants of the grounds, feeling drawn either to the stern discipline of the religious or to the subversive attraction of the sinnerssometime in the fourteenth century, that was before the dissolution, the story runs that one of the nuns had a lover Not that that was so very unusual I daresay at that time, but this order had evidently had a high standard It was not known who the nun was The young man was seen climbing the wall once or twice and ended up by falling and breaking his neck The wall, which still exists incidentally, is very high.The Abbess called on the guilty nun to confess, but no one came forward Then the Bishop was called in The Bishop, who was an especially holy and spiritual man, also demanded that the guilty one should confess When there was still no response he put a curse on the Abbey, and as the chronicler puts it, the great bell flew like a bird out of the tower and fell into the lake Good heavens said Dora That wasn t the end, said Paul The guilty nun was so overwhelmed by this demonstration that she forthwith run out of the Abbey gates and drowned herself in the lakeTwo paths to salvation The lay community has two leaders, Michael and James, who argue in their Sunday sermons for the correct path to a true spiritual life Michael the fundamentalist is in favour of abandoning reason and free will for a return to innocence , for reaping the benefits of faith only through the absolute truth of the Bible, ready to condemn all tresspasing of the LawAnd what are the marks of innocence Candour a beautiful word truthfulness, simplicity, a quite involuntary bearing of witness The image that occurs to me here is a topical one, the image of a bell A bell is made to speak out What would be the value of a bell which was never rung It rings out clearly, it bears witness, it cannot speak without seeming like a call, a summons A great bell is not to be silenced Consider too its simplicity There is no hidden mechanism All that it is is plain and open and if it is moved it must ring Michael, whose struggles to reconcile the condemnation of his homosexual nature in the holy texts with the inner need for spiritual meaning, argues in favour of the questioning mind and of learning from experience, as only the struggle to overcome our limitations is able to make us worthy of redemptionEach one of us apprehends a certain kind and degree of reality and from this springs our power to live as spiritual beings and by using and enjoying what we already know we can hope to learnSelf knowledge will lead us to avoid occasions of temptation rather than to rely on naked strength to overcome themRebarbative I confess I had little sympathy for the inner torment of Michael, as he seemed to me a clear example of not practising what he preaches view spoiler Whatever could it be like to be an almost priestlike figure and yet go round kissing boys hide spoiler I don t hold much for irresistible impulses, especially from persons in a position of power over young minds Once again, though, I take a bow for Iris Murdoch who deftly made the situationambiguous and less clear cut than my own preconceived ideas led me to judge.As for the rebarbative pitch, I liked the way the notion is used to define young Toby, still in school and anxious to seemsophisticated and mature by using words newly learned from a dictionary, applying them with or without connection to the situation he finds himself inToby had received, though not yet digested, one of the earliest lessons of adult life that one is never secure At any moment one can be removed from a state of guileless serenity and plunged into its opposite, without any intermediate condition, so high about us do the waters rise of our own and other people s imperfection Toby had passed, it seemed to him in an instant, from a joy that had seemed impregnable into an agitation which he scarcely understood This rite of passage is inevitable in life, but any kid who can still laugh and pick himself up, then jump right into the soup after a doozy of a shock I believe will be better from the experienceIt certainly constituted an adventure, though a somewhat rebarbative oneVox ego sum Amoris Gabriel vocor The bell from the title is both real and a metaphor and it has a twin in the best tradition of Shakespearean comedy To the religious like James Gabriel s voice is a call to repent and live free of sin To Dora, the ringing of the bell is the symbol of her emancipationIt was as if, for her, this was to be a magical act of shattering significance, a sort of rite of power and liberation To me as current reader of the novel incidentally Gabriel is my middle name , it is a reminder that most of our actions are driven by love Not a new discovery by any means, as I can probably shoehorn every book I read into a hero on a quest for love story either self absorbtion, love of war, religious fervor, passionate love, intellectual love curiosity , love of mischief, and so on until I get a thousand different faces of vox amoris Back to the Sacred and the Prophane The end of the novel is a magnificent muddle, airing the dirty laundry of the commune out in the open, mixing the laughter with the tears, and offering no clear answer, favouring neither seclusion from society nor full embrace of materialism and moral relativism Dora takes again center stage as her initial middle of the road stance, with or without Paul, is not a viable position in a long term relationship She is not cut out for the monastic lifestyleShe was amazed to find, when she stepped out onto the platform at Paddington, that it was not yet midday She stood for a while and let the crowds course round her, delighting in the rush and jostling, the din of voices and trains, the smells of oil and steam and dirt, the grimy hurly burly and kind, healing anonymity of Londonand she is too intelligent to renounce her own ideals in order to placate an obtuse husbandshe felt that she would never manage to live with Paul until she could treat with him, in some sense, as an equal So she s literally learning to swim by herself, throwing timidity and insecurity overboard, living and enjoying life on her own terms, and not by some antiquated tribal rulebook As Michael elegantly concludesHe felt, in the case of Dora too, that there was little point in forcing her willy nilly into a machine of sin and repentance which was alien to her nature Perhaps Dora would repent after her own fashion perhaps she would be saved after her own fashion Much as I enjoyed Dora as a poster child of feminism in the modern age, I feel a final wordrespectful of the people who truly need a life of contemplation and seclusion from a world gone mad is in order We may disagree with their lifestyle, but that doesn t mean we must ridicule all they believe in, or that we cannot find wisdom in their kindness So here s what the Abbess have to say to us sinnersOften we do not achieve for others the good that we intend but we achieve something, something that goes on from our effort Good is an overflow Where we generously and sincerely intend it, we are engaged in a work of creation which may be mysterious even to ourselves and because it is mysterious we may be afraid of it But this should not make us draw back God can always show us, if we will, a higher and better way and we can only learn to love by loving Remember that all our failures are ultimately failures in love Imperfect love must not be condemned and rejected, but made perfect The way is always forward, never back

  9. Manuel Antão says:

    If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Rebarbativeness The Bell by Iris Murdoch Original Review, 2002 Toby had received, though not yet digested, one of the earliest lessons of adult life that one is never secure At any moment one can be removed from a state of guileless serenity and plunged into its opposite, without any intermediate condition, so high about us do the waters rise of our own and other people s imperfection In The Bell by Iris MurdochI first encount If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Rebarbativeness The Bell by Iris Murdoch Original Review, 2002 Toby had received, though not yet digested, one of the earliest lessons of adult life that one is never secure At any moment one can be removed from a state of guileless serenity and plunged into its opposite, without any intermediate condition, so high about us do the waters rise of our own and other people s imperfection In The Bell by Iris MurdochI first encountered the word rebarbative in The Bell

  10. Laura says:

    I liked this book immensely, but other readers may find it dated It was published in 1958 and tackles through the character of Michael Meade the Church s dictum on homosexuality We are quickly introduced to the main theme when our hero Michael confesses to the Abbess of Imber Convent, his past involvement with Nick Fawley The Abbess advises there is never anything wrong with love.Her answer, however, elides Michael s main concern which is what about physical love, and opens the book to I liked this book immensely, but other readers may find it dated It was published in 1958 and tackles through the character of Michael Meade the Church s dictum on homosexuality We are quickly introduced to the main theme when our hero Michael confesses to the Abbess of Imber Convent, his past involvement with Nick Fawley The Abbess advises there is never anything wrong with love.Her answer, however, elides Michael s main concern which is what about physical love, and opens the book to an exploration of this conundrum how to express love when a particular practice is condemned by your religious beliefs The novel takes us back to Michael s relationship with Nick Michael is the teacher and Nick a student of 15 in a boys boarding school nothing unseemly happens but Nick feels compelled to confess and tells all to the principal Michael is dismissed.Some 15 years later, Michael is now in charge of his own lay religious project at Imber Court, which is in fact his ancestral home an old manor house somewhere in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside There are the remains of a Medieval nunnery within the grounds Imber Abbey, which has been restored and houses an order of Benedictine nuns The purpose of the lay community is proposed to Michael by the Abbess who feels there is a need for an intermediary group to liase between the convent and the rest of the world At the point where our story begins this semi religious group has been in existence for a year, run by Michael with help from a small group of his friends and acquaintances.For me the success of this book spins on the character of Michael if anyone asked me this question about religion and homosexuality I would have dismissed it as of zero interest but because of Michael I was interested I liked his refinement, and his sensitivity He is portrayed as a good person wanting to lead a useful and dedicated life, but he is confounded by his essential nature and cannot reconcile it with the other half of his persona, which is his belief in God.The character who is used, to contrast and help define Michael is James Tayper Pace an essentially straightforward religious person who works in a philanthropic way to provide schools and education for boys in need in London He is taking a break at Imber Court In contrast to Michael, however, his religious views are plodding and lacking subtlety He is of the good and honourable kind but boring in that he has not had to deal with intellectual or indeed religious complexities Murdoch naturally, doesn t say he s boring her character development has far too much finesse.The other question she tackles in relation to sex and religion is the one of Innocence and we have two characters who specifically embody this tradition of entering the World Dora who is married to the awful Paul Greenfield, and Toby filling in his summer, at Imber Court, before going up to Oxford.I loved all the passages and chapters, which dealt primarily with Toby here s an example Toby undressed quickly and went to sun himself on the sloping stones before going in The sun warmed his flesh deeply. First he tried lying flat on his face with his feet down the slope But the human body is not so constructed that when in that position the neck and chin rest comfortably upon the ground Our awkward frames deny us the relaxed pose of the recumbent dog Convinced of this truth, Toby turned over and reclined on one elbow In thisinviting position he was accosted by Murphy who came and laid his head against his shoulder In a kind of physical rapture Toby sat up and took the furry beast in his arms and cuddled him as he had sometimes seen Nick do The sensation of the hot soft living fur against his skin was strange and exciting He sat there motionless for a while, holding the dog and looking into the lake It was deep there by the landing stage and suddenly his eyes made out a large fish basking motionless where the sun penetrated the greenish water From its narrow length and its fierce jaws he knew it to be a pike Then his eyes began to close and only the hot sparkling of the lake pierced through the fringe of his eye lids He felt so happy he could almost die of it, invited by the sleep of youth when physical well being and joy and absence of care lull the mind into a sweet coma which is theinviting since its awakening is charmed no less, and the spirit faints briefly, almost sated with delight.It s a long passage to quote but it gives you a good idea of the superb excellence of Murdoch s writing Basically the whole book is encapsulated in that section above As I wrote it, I was struck by Nick s loneliness Yes Nick, not Toby because the dog belongs to Nick I felt a profound stab of compassion for Nick, there, swift and sad.Nick Fawley turns up at Imber Court, run down, alcoholic, needing lodging, ostensibly drawn there by the presence of his sister Catherine but really seeking re aquaintance with Michael Michael allows him to stay at the gatekeeper s lodge, a safe distance from the main house, and this is where Toby is also ensconced.Essentially Michael ignores Nick, preferring to retain his isolation, status and yes purity of character and as we later find out, with disastrous consequences.Toby is the youthful version of Nick full of the joys of youth and innocence But that pike in the lake may as well be a shark it s a symbol for all that will shatter Toby s innocence what lies waiting for him in the wide world There is a plot weaving it s way through this novel, but really it is a very thinly disguised frame on which the real interest is hung which is Micheal s rejection of his love for Nick in order to pursue what he sees as the higher good his love for God He learns the significance of the old Abbess words God can always show us, if we will, a higher and a better way and we can only learn to love by loving Remember that all our failures are ultimately failures in love Imperfect love must not be condemned and rejected, but made perfect The way is always forward, never back. Some might feel this is a compromise they would consider physical love an essential component of love in this type of adult relationship But there again we are not in Michael s shoes with his need to fulfill a higher calling.There are a couple of other stories running parallel with the main one of Michael and Nick There is Nick s twin sister Catherine who is determined to enter the nunnery She is esteemed and honoured by all the characters at Imber Court as the perfect example of goodness and innocence, meanwhile her decision to enter the convent is her way of dealing with unrequited love And the other story of interest is between Dora and Paul essentially Dora s struggle to leave a marriage which is damaging to her sense of self Dora is presented as another type of innocent of the heart I think, and her story is about how she is gradually able to develop a sense of what is important to her.So, overall an excellent book I read it a very long time ago, possibly when I was 18, and didn t have a clue what was going on probably I would have been looking for the love scenes.One final thing, the title The Bell , this is the action part of the book which eventually ties all the characters together into a final scene and decides the fate of the lay community The bell in question is an old medieval bell which has been lost in Imber lake Toby finds it, while swimming, and with Dora s help he raises it from the lake bed Proof, of the bell s ancient heritage is confirmed by Dora, whose husband Paul, an art historian, is working on some of the Abbey documents and knows its history On the side is carved Vox ego sum Amoris Gabriel vocorI am the voice of Love I am called Gabriel An author always chooses her characters names with care Michael is the leader of God s heavenly warriors Because the ancient bell is named Gabriel we remember the role of Archangel Michael Murdoch s Michael Meade is drawn to the Crusade type pursuits of the Church and fails to see the individual suffering at his feet