Explore the relationship between Toby and Dora in Iris Murdoch's 'The Bell'

Essay by bubblewrap000University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2003

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In Chapter 21 of 'The Bell', the relationship between Toby and Dora is described as a 'sweet tenuous ambiguous bond' and this is seen, to a point, to be true. These two new members of the Imber community have seemingly very little in common at the beginning of the novel but find temporary solace in each other in the later stages of 'The Bell'. Neither of the characters reveals their troubles, but simply enjoy each other's company as a distraction from their troubles, unaware of the many similarities between them. Although the friendship is fragile and brief, for the time it exists, it plays a central part in the novel, as Toby and Dora are the ones who discover the bell, and this is the main basis of their friendship. The relationship between them is especially important as they are both 'eyes of the novel', giving the reader further insight into the community and central characters of the novel.

Toby and Dora's relationship is initially a rather unlikely one as there are many differences between them, mostly due to the difference in age and romantic experience. Murdoch first introduces Toby as a very coy adolescent, whereas Dora is very much aware of her sexuality, talking of how he 'began to blush' when Dora caught his eye on the train to Pendelcote. At this stage of the novel Dora is entirely in control, and Toby looks up to her with a formal respect for his elders, referring to her as 'Mrs Greenfield'. Toby's youth and innocence has not yet been marred, and he is incredibly enthusiastic in the car on the way to Imber, 'scrambling hastily' to open the gates and get inside. Conversely Dora is full of reluctance as Murdoch talks of how she 'looked...