Dark and Brilliant
Iris Murdoch's "The Philosopher's Pupil" literally takes us into the depths of a heated public bath while on a metaphysical level it explores some depths of human cruelty. In the principal characters of John Robert and George (the philosopher and the pupil) we meet two of the most patently unlikeable men in the Murdoch canon. Typically, Murdoch develops a level of empathy for each of these self-absorbed characters. It is by pulling us out of the not-so-good-or-bad mainstream of her personality types that Murdoch displays another side of her literary brilliance. These men do not merely have "issues" or flaws; they are grade A sociopaths who wittingly or unwittingly mirror each other. The book's minor flaws include a plethora of minor characters and a ubiquitous and irritatiting first person narrator who intrudes when we need intrusion the least.