Iris Murdoch has an unparalleled talent for putting her characters into awkward, flabbergasting messes. Each character's hideous bad decisions result in unintended outcomes that tend towards horrific. THE FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER is Murdoch at her character-twisting finest.
Annette, youthful and vibrant, leaves school. She wants to go to the school of life, and despite two near-rapes, a ridiculous midnight (and half-naked) pursuit of a man old enough to be her father, and a silly suicide attempt by antacid, Annette comes out no more worldly. It is an unwritten rule in Murdoch's universe that youth (and the carelessness of it) are resilient - but… Somewhere, somehow, youth is broken. Rosa could be a middle-aged Annette. The school of life has knocked Rosa around, yet a compulsion towards pliant self-effacement (and plenty of ill-advised decisions) has landed Rosa in the middle of a brother sandwich. Her threesome has horrific consequences, not least of which is the very real, not by antacid, suicide of a minor character.
THE FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER is a reminder that we are linked. Although the plot machinations tend towards the melodramatic, and as such are not quite "realistic," they are best viewed as educational scenarios, a safe place to see the repercussions of immoral (bad) decisions. Murdoch is a moral writer, and her goal is not simply to provide entertainment, but to show us what it means to live a good life, possibly (mostly?) by negative example. THE FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER can be read on multiple levels, none of which disappoint.