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Literature / Under the Net

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Under the Net is a 1954 novel by Iris Murdoch. It was her debut work.

It follows the adventures around London of Jake, a translator and formerly aspiring writer, who gave up his ambitions. He meets various people and devises various plans which sometimes fail but more often are prone to the change of mind of their creator.


  • Alliterative Name: Mister Mars.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: For Jake Donaghue, Anna Quentin, Sadie Quentin and Hugo Belfounder.
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  • Anti-Hero: The main character is exactly that. He is a flawed hero.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: That's what Jake and Finn are together, the protagonist Jake being the little guy.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Jake Donaghue steals an Alsatian dog from the people who as he believes have taken his manuscripts. He then plans to extort his script or payment for its use in exchange for the return of the dog. The plan backfires on many levels.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Explosives sold by Hugo Belfounder. They serve for practical ends twice: first to himself then to the protagonist.
  • Character Filibuster: The socialist propaganda of Lefty.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Judo skills of which the protagonist is proud serve him once. But in a strange way: he does not fight a foe but rather throws a friend with a judo move in a room where he then proceeds to talk to him. He was unable to make the friend to talk to him otherwise.
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  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Tinckham is exactly that.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Mrs Tinckham is a cat lady but excentric rather than crazy.
  • The Ditz:
    • Sadie Quentin.
    • Magdalen Casement mmight also qualify
  • Extreme Doormat: Finn is that in the epoisode where he and Jake steal the dog.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Played with for the spiritual singer Anna Quentin and her ostensibly shallow younger sister actress Sadie Quentin.
  • Gentle Giant: Hugo Belfounder who is huge both in stature and width but never applies his physical strength to people.
  • Gratuitous French: Averted as Jake is a French translator and he also travels to France.
  • Gratuitous German: Jake once uses the word Weltanschauung in his narration.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Jake Donaghue directly says that Anna Quentin is that.
  • Hidden Depths: For several characters. Jake regularly shortchanges them and is surprised to find out that this trope applies to them.
    • Jean-Pierre Breteuil in particular. Jake has translated several of his novels and is convinced that he is a hack. It suits him as the translations of his lurid works sell. In the end Jean-Pierre publishes a serious novel, even hailed as a masterpiece. Jake would never thikn that the French author had it in him.
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  • Horrible Judge of Character: The main idea of the novel is that Jake is exactly that. He is regularly wrong about people. Moreover Murdoch perhaps supposes that it is impossible to judge people correctly.
  • Idiot Ball: The kidnapping of the dog which still succeeds.
  • In Medias Res: It all starts when a protagonist and his friend Finn are evicted from the house where the lived. Better still they lived their for free as the landlady demanded no rent from them.
  • Living MacGuffin: Mister Mars.
  • Love Triangle: It is a square (which is still classified as this trop). Two guys and two girls. All of themm love the wrong one.
  • MacGuffin: The scriptwork of Jake Donaghue.
  • Meaningful Name: Lefty Todd who is a leader of the leftist party.
  • Mistaken from Behind: During the celebration of the July, 14 in Paris Jake notices Anna in the crowd. First he cannot approach her as the crowd is too dense between them. Then he can but prefers to follow her, as he is curious where he goes. Then she walks into the park and makes he way through it. At some moment Jake finally calls her but when a woman turns to him it is already not Anna but a complete stranger.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Jake Donaghue is a writer and a translator.
  • The Napoleon: Jake Donaghue mentions more thanonce that he is short. Sometimes he recognises that he needs to compensate for that.
  • Older Than They Look: Mr Mars is 14 and thus very old and he soin won't be exploitable.
  • One-Book Author: Jake Donaghue publised only one book, The Silencer.
  • Pet the Dog: Numerous occasions of this for Jake and Mister Mars the Alsatian.
  • Playing Possum: That's how Mister Mars saves Jake. They need to quit the film studio blocked by the police force after a huge fight broke out within its area. Mister Mars plays possum and Jake is let out of the studio to speedily bring him to the doctor.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Finn. Who turns out to leave for his native Ireland.
    • Also the narrator really meets Anna only once. The second time he sees her in the crowd fails to approach her and then loses her, this time forever.
  • Smoking Is Cool: For Mrs Tinckham .
  • Stylistic Suck: That's what Jake thinks about Jean-Pierre's novels he is hired to translate.
    • Subverted with the latest novel of the Frenchmman.
  • Tap on the Head: Hugo Belfounder is hit by the brick thrown at his head. He is brought to the hospital but escapes thefirst night with the help of Jake.
  • Those Two Guys: Played with for Dave and Finn who are however wildly different.
  • Vacation Episode: The trip to Paris undertaken by Jake Dohaghue.

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