"We are as real people, unfinished and full of blankness and jumble; only in our own illusioning fantasy are we complete." (Iris Murdoch). Discuss.
Famous author Iris Murdoch wrote "We are as real people, unfinished and full of blankness and jumble; only in our own illusioning fantasy are we complete." This essay will analyse Murdoch's quote, which is essentially about identity, and explain how it relates to autobiography. Murdoch's notion of the autobiographical self will be explored, through a discussion of the theories of other authors, and also questioned and contrasted through the other notions of Self. The essay will also explore Murdoch's ideas on illusioning fantasy which she believed provides people with a sense of completeness. These ideas will be questioned and challenged by opposing arguments.
What does the quote mean?.
Through this quote, Iris Murdoch made a rather dismal statement on the nature of mankind. She was saying that human beings are, as real people, "unfinished", or like an unfinished stone, imperfect. In stating that people are "full of blankness and jumble", Murdoch alluded to Buddhist philosophy: the self does not exist and the mind is just an accidental jumble of experiences and events. Hence, the first part of the quote: "We are as real people unfinished and full of blankness and jumble" cynically emphasises the insignificance and meaningless of our lives relative to the rest of the cosmos. This is perhaps best summarized by the words of Arthur, a Buddhist character in her book, A Word Child, who theorises "I don't think we all exist that much I mean one's mind is just an accidental jumble of stuff. There's nothing behind ordinary life. There isn't anything complete. Life isn't a play. It isn't even a pantomime" (Oates, 1978: 7).
The second section of the quote "only in our own illusioning fantasy are we complete" expands on Murdoch's conception of the self as a mere construct, or as Oates (1978: 2) explains as "blinding, crippling, paralyzing, ludicrous.