What are your first impressions of the Imber Community in Iris Murdoch's "The Bell"?

Essay by ladymacbeth May 2005

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The Imber community is first introduced in the novel through Dora's eyes, in chapter two. As soon as she arrives she is already looking away, feeling that she will be judged, and so the very first impression that is given of the Imber community is, from her perspective, of a condemning religious nature and as no other notion is portrayed, this is the first impression that the reader receives also.

Before even entering the community indication of discord between members of the community is already evidential. When talking of Nick, Paul is markedly derisive and derogatory, this dissonance between him and Nick first apparent when he makes the comment "someone obligingly shut them" when talking about the gates, and it becomes obvious that this someone is Nick, in the later sardonic comment, "I wish Brother Nicholas could be persuaded to make the place look less like a slum". Although nothing is known of Nick at this moment in the novel; he may be a Brother, the derisive tone in Paul's voice is confirmed when he says, "well, well" when Nick appears, 'a thick-set man with long straggling dark hair".

This discord between two members of the community is an early connotation that the community is not running smoothly.

Physically, Imber seems devoid of decoration and warmth, with the hall being very spacious, and Dora being prohibited from decorating her room. When first arriving at the Imber Community, the image of 'sheets of newspaper...rearing and cavorting across the road' after blowing out of Imber suggests the idea of pollution. The community seems in disarray, symbolised by the litter of the newspapers. This is referenced on page fifty-three, where there are 'a great many newspapers strewn on the floor' of Nicks residence. This, along with Paul's comment of, "I wish Brother Nicholas...



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