The novel relates the humorous adventures of Jake Donahue, a male protagonist who many critics believe is closely based on the author herself. Jake is described by Cheryl K. Bove in Understanding Iris Murdoch as a "failed artist and picaresque hero," a sentiment that Murdoch attributed to herself at the time she wrote this book. Although Murdoch was later embarrassed by Under the Net because she felt the writing was immature, other critics have hailed it as one of her best works. It is rated ninety-fifth on Random House's top 100 novels of the twentieth century, and it marked the beginning of a long and distinguished career for Murdoch, who went on to write twenty-five additional works of fiction, as well as several books on moral philosophy, one of her favorite topics. Under the Net can be read simply as a fascinating story of a crazy artist who loves serendipity or on a deeper level as an existential, absurd reflection on life.