The Novels of John Fowles
Note: The following
are synopses of John Fowles' seven novels, taken with permission
from Professor James Aubrey's excellent 1991 book John Fowles:
A Reference Companion. This book contains the most detailed
biography of Fowles to date, along with explanatory notes
about obscure details and references in all of Fowles'
Click on one of the following
or simply scroll down:
The French Lieutenant's Woman
The Ebony Tower
The Collector is the story of the abduction and
imprisonment of Miranda Grey by Frederick Clegg, told first
from his point of view, and then from hers by means of a diary
she has kept, with a return in the last few pages to Clegg's
narration of her illness and death.
Clegg's section begins with his recalling how he used to
watch Miranda entering and leaving her house, across the street
from the town hall in which he worked. He describes keeping
an "observation diary" about her, whom he thinks
of as "a rarity," and his mention of meetings of
the "Bug Section" confirms that he is an amateur
lepidopterist. On the first page, then, Clegg reveals himself
to possess the mind-set of a collector, one whose attitude
leads him to regard Miranda as he would a beautiful butterfly,
as an object from which he may derive pleasurable control,
even if "collecting" her will deprive her of freedom
Clegg goes on to describe events leading up to his abduction
of her, from dreams about Miranda and memories of his stepparents
or coworkers to his winning a "small fortune" in
a football pool. When his family emigrates to Australia and
Clegg finds himself on his own, he begins to fantasize about
how Miranda would like him if only she knew him. He buys a
van and a house in the country with an enclosed room in its
basement that he remodels to make securable and hideable.
When he returns to London, Clegg watches Miranda for 10 days.
Then, as she is walking home alone from a movie, he captures
her, using a rag soaked in chloroform, ties her up in his
van, takes her to his house, and locks her in the basement
When she awakens, Clegg finds Miranda sharper than "normal
people" like himself. She sees through some of his explanations,
and recognizes him as the person whose picture was in the
paper when he won the pool. Because he is somewhat confused
by her unwillingness to be his "guest" and embarrassed
by his inadvertent declaration of love, he agrees to let her
go in one month. He attributes her resentment to the difference
in their social background: "There was always class between
Clegg tries to please Miranda by providing for her immediate
needs. He buys her a Mozart record and thinks, "She liked
it and so me for buying it." he fails to understand human
relations except in terms of things. About her appreciation
for the music, he comments, "It sounded like all the
rest to me but of course she was musical." There is indeed
a vast difference between them, but he fails to recognize
the nature of the difference because of the terms he thinks
in. When he shows her his butterfly collection, Miranda tells
him that he thinks like a scientist rather than an artist,
someone who classifies and names and then forgets about things.
She sees a deadening tendency, too, in his photography, his
use of cant, and his decoration of the house. As a student
of art and a maker of drawings, her values contrast with his:
Clegg can judge her work only in terms of its representationalism,
or photographic realism. In despair at his insensitivity when
he comments that all of her pictures are "nice,"
she says that his name should be Caliban--the subhuman creature
in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Miranda uses several ploys in attempts to escape. She feigns
appendicitis, but Clegg only pretends to leave, and sees her
recover immediately. She tries to slip a message into the
reassuring note that he says he will send to her parents,
but he finds it. When he goes to London, she asks for a number
of articles that will be difficult to find, so that she will
have time to, try to dig her way out with a nail she has found,
but that effort also is futile.
When the first month has elapsed, Miranda dresses up for
what she hopes will be their last dinner. She looks so beautiful
that Clegg has difficulty responding except with cliches and
confusion. When she refuses his present of diamonds and offer
of marriage, he tells her that he will not release her after
all. She tries to escape by kicking a log out of the fire,
but he catches her and chloroforms her again, this time taking
off her outer clothing while she is unconscious and photographing
her in her underwear.
Increasingly desperate, Miranda tries to kill Clegg with
an axe he has left out when he is escorting her to take a
bath upstairs. She injures him, but he is able to prevent
her from escaping. Finally, she tries to seduce him, but he
is unable to respond, and leaves, feeling humiliated. He pretends
that he will allow her to move upstairs, with the stipulation
that she must allow him to take pornographic photographs of
her. She reluctantly cooperates, and he immediately develops
the pictures, preferring the ones with her face cut off.
Having caught a cold from Clegg, Miranda becomes seriously
ill, but Clegg hesitates to bring a doctor to the house. He
does get her some pills, but she becomes delirious, and the
first section ends with Clegg's recollection: "I thought
I was acting for the best and within my rights."
The second section is Miranda's diary, which rehearses the
same events from her point of view, but includes much autobiographical
reflection on her life before her abduction. She begins with
her feelings over the first seven days, before she had paper
to write on. She observes that she never knew before how much
she wanted to live.
Miranda describes her thoughts about Clegg as she tries to
understand him. She describes her view of the house and ponders
the unfairness of the whole situation. She frequently remembers
things said by G. P., who gradually is revealed to be a middle-aged
man who is a painter and mentor whom Miranda admires. She
re-creates a conversation with Clegg over, among other things,
the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. She gets him to promise
to send a contribution, but he only pretends to. She admits
that he's now the only real person in her world.
Miranda describes G. P. as the sort of person she would like
to marry, or at any rate the sort of mind. She lists various
ways he has changed her think- ing, most of which involved
precepts about how to live an authentic, committed life. Then
she characterizes G. P. by telling of a time that he met her
aunt and found her so lacking in discernment and sincerity
that he made Miranda feel compelled to choose between him
and her aunt. Miranda seems to choose his way of seeing, and
he subsequently offers some harsh but honest criticism of
her drawing, which seems to help her to become more self-aware
and discriminating. Her friends Antoinette and Piers fail
to appreciate the art G. P. has produced, and Miranda breaks
with her Aunt Caroline over her failure to appreciate Rembrandt.
Miranda describes her growing attraction to G. P., despite
their age difference and his history of sexual infidelity.
In the final episode about him, however, G. P. confesses to
being in love with her and, as a consequence, wants to break
off their friendship. She is flattered but agrees that doing
so would probably be for the best.
Miranda says that G. P. is "one of the few." Her
aunt--and Clegg--are implicitly among "the many,"
who lack creativity and authenticity. Indeed, Miranda associates
Clegg's shortcomings with "the blindness, deadness, out-of-dateness,
stodginess and, yes, sheer jealous malice of the great bulk
of England," and she begins to lose hope. She gets Clegg
to read Catcher in the Rye, but he doesn't understand
it. Miranda feels more alone and more desperate, and her reflections
become more philosophical. She describes her reasons for thinking
that seducing Clegg might change him, and does not regret
the subsequent failed attempt, but she fears that he now can
hope only to keep her prisoner.
Miranda begins to think of what she will do if she ever gets
free, including revive her relationship with G. P. on any
terms as a commitment to life. At this point, Miranda becomes
sick with Clegg's cold, literally as well as metaphorically.
As she becomes increasingly ill, her entries in the journal
become short, declarative sentences and lamentations.
The third section is Clegg's, and picks up where his first
left off. He tells of becoming worried over her symptoms and
over her belief that she is dying. When he takes her temperature,
Clegg realizes how ill Miranda is and decides to go for a
doctor. As he sits in the waiting room, Clegg begins to feel
insecure, and he goes to a drugstore instead, where the pharmacist
refuses to help him. When he returns and finds Miranda worse,
Clegg goes back to town in the middle of the night, to wake
a doctor; this time an inquisitive policeman frightens him
off. Miranda dies, and Clegg plans to commit suicide.
In the final section, less than three pages long, Clegg describes
awakening to a new outlook. He decides that he is not responsible
for Miranda's death, that his mistake was kidnapping someone
too far above him, socially. As the novel ends, Clegg is thinking
about how he will have to do things somewhat differently when
he abducts a more suitable girl that he has seen working in
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The Magus is told from the point of view of Nicholas
Urfe, who is bored with life. Having attended Oxford and taught
for a year at a public school, he decides to take a position
as the English teacher at the Lord Bryon School in Greece,
on the island of Phraxos. Nicholas looks up a former teacher
there, and is warned to "Beware of the waiting-room,"
without explanation. Nicholas is not deterred, but during
the last few weeks before he leaves, he meets Alison Kelly,
an Australian girl who is about to begin training as an airline
stewardess. They are both sophisticated about sex and somewhat
cynical, but each experiences some regret as they go their
During his first six months on Phraxos, Nicholas finds the
school claustrophobic but the island beautiful. He realizes
that he cannot write good poetry and that he is having difficulty
forgetting Alison. In a funk, he visits a brothel in Athens
and contracts a venereal disease. He seriously contemplates
suicide. The first of the novel's three parts ends at this
The mysteries begin as Nicholas goes swimming and someone
leaves a book of poems, evidently meant for him to find. As
he looks in the woods nearby, he finds a gate to a villa with
a nearby sign Salle D'Attente, French for "waiting
room." One of his colleagues at the school explains that
the villa is owned by a rich recluse named Maurice Conchis.
Nicholas decides to look him up and finds, inexplicably, that
he is expected. After some conversation, as Nicholas is leaving,
he finds an old-fashioned glove on the path and surmises that
someone has been watching them.
Invited back for the next weekend, Nicholas is astonished
by Conchis' collection of art and by his claim to be psychic.
After dinner, Conchis tells Nicholas about an episode in his
boyhood when he was fifteen and met a fourteen-year-old girl
named Lily Montgomery, whose image haunted him afterward.
They were both musically inclined and fell in love, but in
1914, she led him to feel that he ought to volunteer for the
army. Conchis explains that he deserted at the battle of Neuve
Chapelle, and offers Nicholas a chance to gamble with
his own life by rolling a die and promising that he will take
a cyanide pill if the die comes up six. It does, but Nicholas
refuses to take the pill; Conchis seems to approve his decision,
and reveals that the die was loaded against the roller--as
was World War I against the soldiers. That night, as Nicholas
is going to sleep, he hears voices singing a war song and
smells a foul stench.
The next day Conchis encourages Nicholas to read a pamphlet
by Robert Foulkes, written as he was waiting to be hanged
in 1677. Nicholas takes it with him on a walk, falls asleep,
and awakes to see a man in 17th-century dress staring at him
from across a ravine. The man disappears before Nicholas can
At dinner that night, Conchis tells of his wartime pretense
to be on leave so that he could return to England to visit
Lily. As Nicholas retires, he hears a harpsichord accompanied
by a recorder, and investigates, to find Conchis and a beautiful
girl dressed in Edwardian clothes, but he declines to interrupt
The next weekend "Lily" joins them after dinner
and speaks in the language of the early 1900s. Their conversation
is interrupted when a horn sounds, a spotlight illuminates
a nymph who runs by, pursued by a satyr, and another woman
seems to shoot the satyr with an arrow. Nicholas is bewildered
but decides that Conchis must be re-creating masques for his
own amusement. Lily refuses to explain, and Conchis talks
in parables. He describes an attempt to found a Society for
Reason after the war, and he tells the story of a rich collector
whose mansion is burned by a resentful servant. Nicholas begins
to fall in love with Lily, who professes to be as mystified
by what Conchis may be up to as Nicholas is. Conchis explains
that she is a schizophrenic whom he indulges by letting her
manipulate men in the controlled environment at Bourani, but
that Nicholas must not believe what she tells him. For the
weekend's culminating experience, Conchis hypnotizes Nicholas,
who experiences the separateness of himself from everything
else. Nicholas leaves eager to return for more adventures.
Alison has invited Nicholas to Athens the next weekend. Nicholas
finds the villa closed up, so he meets her and falsely tells
her that he is suffering from syphilis. They have an enjoyable
weekend climbing in the mountains, at the end of which, back
in Athens, Nicholas confesses his lie and tells her about
Bourani and Lily. Alison is hurt, and gives him an ultimatum:
She will quit her job and join him on Phraxos, or she will
leave him. When Nicholas hesitates, a violent argument ensues,
and she refuses to let him back in their hotel room.
When Nicholas returns to the villa, Conchis drops the pretense
that Lily is a schizophrenic and tells him that she and her
twin sister are actresses named Julie and June, whom Conchis
has hired for a theatrical experiment. The first evening,
Conchis tells Nicholas the story of Henrik Nygaard, a blind
madman who believes that he talks with God. Afterward, Nicholas
goes to a passionate rendezvous with Julie in the woods, where
he is shocked to discover that Julie has sent her twin sister
instead. June explains that they feel like prisoners, always
watched by Conchis' black valet, Joe, repeatedly told to learn
lines and to prepare for improvisations, but never told what
it all means. The next day the twins tell Nicholas their backgrounds
and show him documents to support their statements. After
a day of being shadowed by Joe, even while they are inside
an empty chapel, the twins leave with Conchis on his yacht,
vowing to insist that he begin to be forthright with them
The next Wednesday the yacht returns, and Julie meets Nicholas
at night to assure him that there will be no more pretense
of schizophrenia; however, Nicholas is to join the twins in
the improvisation the next weekend, after which all will be
explained. Julie again avoids sex with Nicholas, pleading
her menstrual period. On his way back to school in the dark,
Nicholas is stopped by a patrol of soldiers in Nazi uniforms,
who proceed to beat up a captured partisan. To Nicholas's
dismay, he receives a letter on Friday that he will not be
welcome, after all, at the villa that weekend.
Nicholas receives two letters the next Thursday, one from
Julie indicating that Conchis has told her that Nicholas was
sick and the other from Alison's roommate telling Nicholas
that Alison has committed suicide. He does not reveal this
to Conchis the next weekend, but demands to know the truth.
Conchis explains that he is experimenting with a new form
of theater, without audience, in which everyone is an actor.
Conchis continues the supposed story of his life with the
narrative of the German occupation, when he served as mayor
of Phraxos. A crucial event, interpreted differently by different
characters in the novel, occurred after the killing of three
Austrian soldiers by guerrillas. Conchis was told that the
lives of eighty villagers about to be executed in reprisal
would be spared if he would club the guerrilla leader to death;
he refused, and took his place with the hostages, but managed
to survive the mass execution.
Conchis then explains that Julie is his mistress and that
they are all about to leave. When Nicholas tries to confront
Julie, she disappears, playfully demonstrating one of their
hiding places in an old bunker. Inside, she denies what Conchis
has said, but as she climbs out of the bunker, she is grabbed
and Nicholas locked in. When he gets out, he finds the villa
shut up and a skull and a doll hanging from a nearby tree.
Nicholas does not know what to think and returns to school.
Several nights later, June appears at the school in distress,
concerned about Julie. She says that they have lied to Nicholas
and falsified documents about who they are. Nicholas explains
that their games have cost the life of Alison. She apologizes,
and explains that Conchis is really a psychiatrist doing research
and that Julie is at his house in the village, to which June
offers to take Nicholas. When he arrives, Nicholas and Julie
make passionate love, after which she tells him that Julie
is not really her name, and walks out. Three men walk in and
restrain Nicholas as they administer an injection that makes
him lose consciousness.
Some days later, Nicholas revives, is dressed in ritual garb,
and is taken to a chamber decorated with symbols, where he
is seated on a throne facing 12 figures in bizarre costumes.
As they unmask, they are introduced as psychiatrists, including
the former Lily as Dr. Vanessa Maxwell, who reads a clinical
diagnosis of Nicholas's psychological problems. She is then
stripped to the waist and tied to a flogging frame, as Nicholas
is handed a cat-o'-nine-tails and invited to judge her--and
the others--by choosing to flay her or not. He declines. Then
Nicholas is tied to the frame, to watch Lily and Joe make
tender love in front of him. Afterward, he is again made unconscious.
Nicholas awakens on the mainland, alone. He returns to the
school and gets himself fired. He goes back to the villa and
searches for clues. Although he finds a typescript of a story
about how a prince learns to become a magician by accepting
that life is full of illusion, Nicholas goes on looking for
expla- nations. The second part of the book ends with his
discovery that Alison is still alive, her supposed suicide
evidently part of the charade.
In the last part, Nicholas continues his research. Nicholas
finds no record of Conchis' supposed credentials in psychology.
He interviews one of his predecessors at the Lord Byron School,
now living as a monk in Italy, but the monk is not interested
in helping Nicholas. He finally succeeds in locating a house
in which a Montgomery lived during World War I and the inhabitant
directs him to one of the Montgomery daughters, a Mrs. Lily
de Seitas. At first, she toys with Nicholas, but when he finds
out that she has twin daughters of her own, she admits that
she is a friend of Conchis--and of Alison. Nicholas is angry,
partly over her refusal to tell him where Alison is, but he
gradually overcomes his resentment and they meet again.
Nicholas begins to appreciate what has happened, and even
declines to discuss it with his immediate predecessor at the
Lord Byron School. Finally, Alison appears when he least expects
her, and they have a confrontation in Regent's Park, where
he at first imagines that they are being watched from Cumberland
Terrace. Nicholas issues her an ultimatum--"them or me."
She rejects the ultimatum, and Nicholas walks away from her.
When she follows him, he slaps her without understanding why.
Then he realizes that they are unobserved and asks forgiveness.
The novel ends at that point, with their future relationship
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French Lieutenant's Woman
The first chapter describes Lyme Regis and its Cobb, a harbor
quay on which three characters are standing: Charles Smithson,
Ernestina Freeman, and Sarah Woodruff. The describing narrator
has a distinctive voice, all-knowing yet intimate, with a
wide-ranging vocabulary and evidently vast knowledge of political
and geographical history. In one sentence the narrator sounds
like a Victorian, as he remarks that the male character recently
"had severely reduced his dundrearies, which the arbiters
of the best English male fashion had declared a shade vulgar--that
is, risible to the foreigner--a year or two previously."
In the next sentence he sounds modern, as he describes how
"the colors of the young lady's clothes would strike
us today as distinctly strident." The narrator's double
vision and double voice make him as important as the characters
in this novel.
Charles is a middle-aged bachelor and amateur paleontologist;
Ernestina is his fiancée, who has brought him to spend
a few days with her aunt. Out of a chivalric concern for Sarah,
Charles advises her to return from the end of the Cobb to
a safer position, but she merely stares at him. As he reflects
on this curious meeting, the narrator begins to comment on
Charles's outlook on life and on the attitudes that were typical
of the age in 1867, with occasional comparisons with 1967.
Ernestina is revealed to be a pretty but conventional young
woman. Sarah is an outcast who is reputed to be pining for
the French lieutenant who has jilted her. Charles is earnest
but intelligent enough to be aware of Ernestina's limitations.
When he is looking for fossils along the wooded Undercliff,
Charles discovers Sarah sleeping, and must apologize when
she awakes and sees him observing her. As he returns to Lyme,
he inquires about her at a nearby farm, whose owner tells
him that the "French Loot'n'nt's Hoer" often walks
that way. Sarah's employer, having separately become aware
of that fact, forbids her to walk there any more. Sarah spends
that night contemplating suicide, and Chapter 12 ends with
two questions: "Who is Sarah? Out of what shadows does
Chapter 13 begins "I do not know," and the narrator
proceeds to discuss the difficulty of writing a story when
characters behave independently rather than do his bidding.
Charles, he complains, did not return to Lyme as the narrator
had intended but willfully went down to the Dairy to ask about
Sarah. But, the narrator concedes, times have changed, and
the traditional novel is out of fashion, according to some.
Novels may seem more real if the characters do not behave
like marionettes and narrators do not behave like God. So
the narrator, in effect, promises to give his characters the
free will that people would want a deity to grant them. Likewise,
the narrator will candidly admit to the artifice of the narration
and will thereby treat his readers as intelligent, independent
beings who deserve more than the manipulative illusions of
reality provided in a traditional novel.
Subsequent chapters contain representations of domestic life--a
quiet evening with Charles and Ernestina, a morning with Charles
and his valet, a concert at the Assembly Rooms. During this
last, Charles reflects on where his life seems to be leading
and on the fact that, as he puts it, he has become "a
little obsessed with Sarah…or at any rate with the enigma
she presented." He returns to the Undercliff, again finds
Sarah there, and is shocked to be told by her that she is
not pining for her French lieutenant, that he is married.
The next time Charles encounters her in the Undercliff she
offers Charles some fossils she has found and tells him that
she thinks she may be going mad; she asks him to meet her
there once more, when she has more time, so that she can tell
him the truth about her situation and obtain his advice.
Charles decides to seek advice himself and visits Dr. Grogan,
an elderly bachelor and an admirer of Darwin, whose theories
they discuss. When the conversation turns to Sarah, Grogan
expresses the belief that she wants to be a victim. Sarah
seems to bear out his view when she explains to Charles that
she indeed became infatuated with the French lieutenant when
he was recovering from an injury in the house, where Sarah
was governess, and that she followed him when he left to return
to France. She tells Charles that she quickly realized that
he had regarded her only as an amusement, but that she "gave"
herself to him nonetheless, doubly dishonoring herself by
choice as well as by circumstances. She seems to be proud
of her status as outcast, for it differentiates her from a
society she considers unjust. Charles accepts her story--even
finds it fascinating.
When Charles returns to his room at the inn, he finds a telegram
from his bachelor uncle Robert, summoning him home to the
family estate he is in line to inherit. To Charles's surprise,
Robert has decided to marry Bella Tomkins, a young widow,
whose sons--if she has any--would displace Charles as heir.
On Charles's return to Lyme Regis, Ernestina mentions that
Sarah was seen returning from their last meeting in the Undercliff,
where she had been forbidden to walk, and has been dismissed
by Mrs. Poulteney. At his hotel, Charles finds a message from
Sarah, urging him to meet her one more time. Charles has Dr.
Grogan call off the search for Sarah, who, it was thought,
might have killed herself Grogan again warns Charles against
Sarah, this time by offering him a document to read about
a case of bizarre behavior by a young woman in France who
manages to get one of her father's officers unjustly convicted
of attempting to rape her. Charles decides to meet Sarah again,
despite the possibility that she may be deranged and trying
to destroy him.
When he finds her, she confesses that she deliberately allowed
herself to be seen and, hence, dismissed. Charles is unable
to resist kissing her but is bewildered. His feelings turn
to dismay when they are stumbled on by Sam and Mary, his valet
and Ernestina's aunt's servant, who have come to the Undercliff
for their own privacy. Embarrassed, he swears them to secrecy.
Now even more of two minds about his marriage, Charles decides
to go to London to discuss his altered financial prospects
with Ernestina's father, a prosperous merchant there. Mr.
Freeman is more concerned for the happiness of his daughter,
who evidently loves Charles dearly, so the engagement stands;
but Charles is increasingly uncomfortable with, even trapped
by, his situation. He goes to his club and drinks too much.
He visits a brothel with two of his friends, but finds the
entertainment repellant, and leaves. He picks up a Cockney
streetwalker and returns to her flat with her; when she tells
him her name is, coincidentally, Sarah, Charles becomes ill
and, subsequently, returns to his room. The next morning Charles
receives a letter from Grogan, and a note from Sarah with
the name of a hotel in Exeter.
Because the train station nearest to Lyme Regis is in Exeter,
Charles must pass through that town on his way back from London.
Having steamed open the note from Sarah, Sam is confident
that they will spend the night in Exeter, so that Charles
can visit Sarah, but they proceed to Lyme, where Charles and
Ernestina are reunited. The narrator recounts that they go
on to marry, have seven children, and live well into the twentieth
century. In the next chapter, the narrator explains that this
traditional ending is just one possibility, a hypothetical
future for his characters. Charles recognized his freedom
of choice and "actually" did decide to put up at
Exeter for the night, precisely as Sam had expected.
As the story resumes and continues to unfold, Charles visits
Sarah at her hotel. He must see her in her room because she
has supposedly injured her ankle, though she has purchased
the bandage before the "accident" occurred. Charles
is overcome by passion and takes her to bed, only to discover
that she is a virgin, despite what she had told him about
the French lieutenant. She confesses that she has deceived
him, says that she cannot explain why and, furthermore, cannot
marry him. Stunned by the whole experience, Charles visits
a nearby church and meditates on the human condition. He decides
that Sarah has been trying to "unblind" him with
her stratagems, so that he would recognize that he is free
to choose. He writes a letter to Sarah, telling her how much
she means to him, and then returns to Lyme to call off his
Sam does not deliver the letter. Ernestina is distraught
when Charles tells her that he is unworthy to be her husband,
more so when she realizes that the true reason is another
woman. Sam correctly surmises that his master's star will
wane as the marriage is called off, so determined to protect
his prospect of marriage to Mary, he leaves his position as
Charles's valet in hope that Ernestina's aunt and her father
will help him.
When Charles returns to Exeter, he finds Sarah gone to London,
having left no forwarding address. As he follows her, by train,
a bearded figure sits opposite Charles and watches him as
he dozes. The character is the narrator himself, who professes
not to know where Sarah is or what she wants; indeed, he is
wondering what exactly to do with Charles. He compares writing
a novel to fixing a fight in favor of one boxer or another;
to seem less dishonest, he decides to show the "fight"
as if "fixed" both ways, with different "victors,"
or endings. Because the last ending will seem privileged by
its final position, he flips a coin to determine which ending
to give first.
The narrative resumes the description of Charles's search
for Sarah. He checks agencies for governesses, patrols areas
frequented by prostitutes, and advertises--all without success.
He visits the United States and advertises there. Two years
after she disappeared, Charles gets a cable from his solicitor
saying that Sarah has been found. Charles hopes that Sarah
has decided to answer the ad, but the narrator explains that
Mary has seen Sarah enter a house in Chelsea, and that it
is Sam who responded to the ad, now that he is a thriving
employee of Mr. Freeman as well as a happy father and husband,
but still slightly guilt-ridden over his having intercepted
the letter at Lyme.
When Charles arrives at Sarah's house, he finds her surprised
to see him and not apologetic about having left him in ignorance
of her whereabouts. She gradually is revealed to be living
in the house of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and several other artists
and models of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Charles is shocked,
partly by the rather notoriously unconventional company she
is keeping and partly by her lack of repentance for having
deceived him and left him in uncertainty. He accuses her of
implanting a dagger in his breast and then twisting it. She
decides not to let Charles leave without revealing that she
has had a child by him, named Lalage. Chapter 60 ends with
the three of them evidently on the threshold of some kind
of future together.
Chapter 61 begins with the bearded narrator in front of Sarah's
house with a watch, which he sets back fifteen minutes and
drives off. The narrative resumes with the same piece of dialogue
from Chapter 60, about twisting the knife. In this version
of the conversation, Charles sees that she cannot marry without
betraying herself, and that he cannot accept her on more independent
terms. He leaves without realizing that the child he notices
on the way out is his. The narrator ends the novel by noting
that Charles has at least begun to have some faith in himself,
despite his not feeling that he understands Sarah, and that
the reader should not imagine that the last ending is any
less plausible than the one before it.
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Ebony Tower (a novella)
David Williams, an English art critic and color-field painter,
arrives in northern France to interview an older painter named
William Breasley, who is living in self-imposed exile from
England and Paris. Away from his wife, David finds himself
affected by the atmosphere at Breasley's manor, which is deep
in one of the old woods of Brittany, filled with priceless
paintings, and inhabited not only by the great painter but
also by two young art students, Diana and Anne.
The girls befriend David, and warn him that he can expect
to be baited by their host. At dinner, as Breasley becomes
increasingly drunk, he attacks the art establishment and,
sometimes, Williams himself. Finally, the girls put Breasley
to bed, and Diana explains that Breasley's reference to an
"ebony tower" was his attempt to denigrate contemporary
artists who work with abstraction because they are afraid
to be clear; then she encourages David to dismiss what Breasley
has said by telling David that an ebony tower is where you
dump things you are too old to appreciate.
The next day Breasley is back to his usual cantankerous self.
They all go on a picnic in the woods, where Diana and Anne
go swimming in the nude as Breasley explains to David that
he passed a kind of test the night before. After lunch--an
enactment of Manet's Le Dejeuner sur I'herbe--Breasley
goes to sleep and the women tell David about their lives.
The three of them go swimming, and then the four of them return
to the house, where David conducts one more interview, about
Breasley's politics and his sources.
That night's dinner is friendlier. Afterward, Diana puts
Breasley to bed early, and Anne explains that Breasley wants
Diana to marry him. The two women take David upstairs to look
at Diana's artwork, which he is impressed by. After Anne leaves,
Diana tells David more about herself. They then decide to
take a walk in the garden, where David kisses Diana and she
responds with passion. He hangs back, and she senses that
sexual intercourse would be a mistake. "She had broken
away; and he had let her, fatal indecision." He then
tries to persuade her to come to bed with him, but she goes
to her room and locks the door. He believes that he has both
come alive and been prevented from living, that he has both
lost his principles and feared to act against them.
The next day Diana absents herself from the house until David
has left. He spends the drive back to Paris thinking about
her with regret, feeling that he has been in a dream. At the
airport, he meets his wife, who is flying in from England
for a holiday. When she asks him how things went, he answers,
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The novel begins in 1942 as 15-year-old Danny Martin is helping
with "The Harvest," title of the first chapter.
He is terrified by a low-flying German bomber and repelled
by the more localized violence against rabbits that have become
trapped in the center of a field as the circles of the reaper
grow nearer. The chapter ends with his retreat into a beech
wood, "innocent, already in exile..."
The second chapter, "Games," takes place in the
early 1970s, in Hollywood, when Daniel Martin is now a middle-aged,
successful screenwriter who is divorced from Nell, with a
daughter named Caro. He is dissatisfied with script-writing
as well as with his life, and is thinking of trying to write
a novel. He receives encouragement from his girlfriend, a
young English actress named Jenny, who proposes that he name
his fictionalized self Simon Wolfe. The chapter ends as Dan
receives a telephone call from England.
The third chapter, "The Woman in the Reeds," takes
place in a third time period, when Dan was attending Oxford
University in his early twenties. Dan is on a picnic with
Jane, sister of his girlfriend Nell, when they discover a
body in one of the canals. Andrew, a baronet's son, helps
them recover from the shock while they wait for the police
to arrive. Dan uses the word "games" to describe
their superficial lives at Oxford.
"An Unbiased View" is written by Jenny as a contribution
toward Dan's novel. The chapter describes the world of filmmaking
as well as how they met, and how she found him attractive
because she could not read him easily. "The Door"
picks up with a telephone call from Jane, who tells Dan that
her terminally ill husband, Anthony, wants to see Dan before
he dies. Dan is stunned, and the next chapter, "Aftermath,"
helps to account for his reaction. After they had returned
from their Oxford outing, Jane proposed that they go to bed
together, just once, as a gratuitous, Rabelaisian act. "Passage"
switches the scene back to the United States, where Dan is
flying from Los Angeles to New York, en route to England,
and thinking about what it means to be English.
"The Umbrella" returns to Dan's boyhood in the
1930s, as Dan describes how the son of a vicar grew into an
atheist. Allusions to Citizen Kane help to emphasize
Dan's father's lack of demonstrative love for his son. The
next chapter, "Gratuitous Act," describes Dan and
Jane's sexual intercourse in Dan's room at Oxford, where they
are almost discovered by Barney Dillon, who lives in the room
above. "Returns" takes place on the airplane from
New York to London, where Dan coincidentally encounters the
older Barney, who is now a media critic for a London newspaper.
Dan's daughter, Caroline, is his secretary.
"Tarquinia" provides another reminiscence of the
Oxford days, on a vacation when Dan, Nell, Jane, and Anthony
visited Italy and "played Pagan" in the sea near
the Etruscan ruins. In "Petard," while Dan stays
over in London with Caro, she tells him that she is having
an affair with the still-married Barney. On the subway to
Padding- ton Station, in "Forward Backward," Dan
thinks back to a trip he took to Devon with Caro to show her
where he grew up and ended up buying a farm he found for sale,
named Thorricombe. In "Breaking Silence," while
riding the train from London to Oxford, Dan thinks back further
to the early years of his marriage to Nell--his successes
as a playwright that gained him entrée to the film
world, his infidelity with an actress, Nell's acquisitiveness
and growing discontent with their marriage, her accusation
that Dan must be having an affair with his assistant, and
her demand for a divorce.
In "Rencontre," Dan meets Jane for dinner, and
in "Crimes and Punishments," he recalls how a play
of his with obvious parallels in their lives had led to anger
all around and a letter from Anthony that wrote him out of
their lives. Now, in "Catastasis," Dan goes to the
hospital to meet Anthony and finds that Jane long ago told
her husband of her gratuitous act, with Dan. Anthony explains
that they have had a somewhat bloodless relationship in their
marriage, due in part to his religiosity, and he wants Dan
to be a friend to Jane when he is gone. After he leaves, in
"Jane," Dan takes Jane to dinner, where she explains
why she is thinking of joining the Communist Party. When they
return to Jane's house, in "Beyond the Door," they
learn that Anthony committed suicide shortly after Dan left.
In "Webs," NelI arrives with Andrew, whom she has
married, and their daughter Rosamund. Dan and Caro drive back
to London, where Dan watches an old man on the street and
thinks about how separated people are from one another.I
Jenny writes "A Second Contribution," which describes
her view of Dan's Jewish friends Mildred and Abe and of Dan,
whose discussions have enabled her to see that he is in love
with loss, and that his seeming untypicality is really what
is most typical of the English: their ability to hide their
true selves from others. "Interlude" provides a
narrator's view of Dan, who does expect to lose women, and
illustrates Dan's life with a "fable" about twin
sisters, Miriam and Marjory, whom Dan allows to move in with
him; they are unsophisticated (except as sexual partners),
but Dan genuinely likes them. At the end of the chapter, they
have moved away, and Dan is haunted by their loss.
In "Hollow Men," Dan meets Barney for lunch, and
they discuss his life, including Caro. At breakfast the next
day, in "Solid Daughter," Caro tells Dan that Jane
thinks him to be two persons, and Caro suggests that he does
not want her to know him either. The topic leads Dan to write
"The Sacred Combe," about why Robin Hood is the
perfect myth for England because the English love to retreat
behind masks, to melt into the trees. Dan notes that his own
impulse to write a novel may be evidence of this wish to escape
from social responsibility into a self-chosen exile, into
a private world of self-indulgence.
In "Rituals," Dan meets with David Malevich, his
producer, about their next film project, and David suggests
that Dan visit possible shooting locations in Egypt. Dan attends
the inquest into the suicide and then takes Rosamund, Jane's
oldest daughter, to dinner. Dan spends the weekend at "Compton,"
the title of the next chapter and country estate of Nell and
Andrew, where he ponders the existence of the upper class
and discusses the state of England with a cynical ultraconservative
named Miles Fenwick.
"Tsankawi" is another reminiscence, of a visit
to an archeological site in New Mexico. Dan identifies strongly
with the place, and is offended that Jenny wants to make gifts
out of potsherds she finds there.
In "Westward," back in England, Dan invites Jane
and her teenage son Paul to visit Thorncombe. Paul is somewhat
obsessed with medieval agriculture, so he agrees to come along
if he can visit some sites of historical interest. Dan recalls
how he acquired his gardener and housekeeper, Ben and Phoebe,
and then, in "Phillida," how he fell in love as
a boy with Nancy Reed, who then lived on the farm Dan has
bought, until their parents put an end to the romance. After
they have arrived, in "Thorncombe," Dan tells Jane
about his wish to try writing a novel, and she tells him about
Marxist views of the novel and of culture. On impulse, Dan
invites Jane to accompany him to Egypt. That night, "In
the Orchard of the Blessed," Dan ponders the devaluation
of happy endings in contemporary culture but decides that
his novel will have one nonetheless. In "Rain,"
Jane reluctantly agrees to go along to Egypt, and Dan has
two strained transatlantic telephone conversations with Jenny.
In "A Third Contribution," Jenny describes a supposedly
fictional but extremely detailed sexual liaison with her costar,
Steve. When they talk by telephone again, in "The Shadows
of Women," she apologizes for having sent it.
Jane and Dan arrive in Cairo in "Pyramids and Prisons,"
where Dan discusses the film project with an Egyptian agent
and Jane visits the pyramids. They attend a dinner party at
which the jokes told by an Egyptian playwright reveal much
about Egyptian culture, including, in Dan's view, much it
has in common with Jewish culture. In "Barbarians,"
they start a tour up the Nile at Karnak and reflect on the
ancient Egyptian obsession with size, which reminds them of
ancient Rome and the modern United States. An old German archaeologist
named Otto Kirnberger befriends them and offers suggestions
about purchasing artifacts. In "Nile," they encounter
other tourists, including an American couple, the Hoopers,
who disagree about Vietnam but are enthusiastic about visiting
Palmyra, Syria. In "The River Between," Kirnberger
tells about himself and offers insights into cultural and
biological differences. When they arrive at Aswan and "Kitchener's
Island, they find a paradise surrounded by technology run
amok. Jane imagines living in a house there and accepts some
beads from a little girl. Dan increasingly wants to reveal
the growing affection he is feeling toward Jane, but instead,
he proposes a side excursion to Palmyra on their trip back
to England. Back at the hotel in Aswan, "In the Silence
of Other Voices," Dan experiences a mental crisis of
anxiety that he must choose himself, and of confidence that
he alone can create a world in film or fiction, let alone
in life, but he sits down and composes a scene that he believes
will work. The chapter title "Flights" refers to
the return by air to Cairo and to Jane's demurral when Dan
declares that he does not want to leave Jane, that there was
something right about their day in Oxford, that they should
try living together.
In "North," Dan feels depressed. After they arrive
in Beirut, he sits in a bar and feels that he must be condemned
to pursue emotional situations that contain the structure
of their own destruction, for which his thwarted relationship
with Nancy Reed was the seed crystal. The drive to Palmyra
in the fog takes them to "The End of the World,"
a desolate landscape Dan compares to the possibilities Jane
has destroyed over the courses of their lives. He persuades
her that she should stop conforming to an ideal of nobility
and sacrifice, acting as if Anthony is still watching her,
and instead join him in movement toward a sympathetic, loving
relationship. For the first time on the trip they sleep together.
The next day, in "The Bitch," still wary of love
but proceeding on instinct like the mother dog of the chapter
title, Jane buries her wedding ring in the sand.
In the last chapter, "Future Past," Dan meets Jenny
in a London pub to discuss why he is ending their relationship.
They walk on Hampstead Heath and part. Dan goes into the Kenwood
Museum and looks at the Rembrandt self-portrait there, which
seems like a sentinel. Dan will not turn back but will continue
to choose and to learn to feel and to write his novel. Indeed,
the last sentence of Dan's novel, which exists only as an
idea in Daniel Martin, John Fowles as Dan's "ill-concealed
ghost" has adopted as the first sentence of this novel:
"Whole sight; or the rest is desolation."
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Part I begins with an attempt by Miles Green to regain consciousness,
as a pair of eyes above him gradually takes the form of his
wife, Claire--or so she tells him, for Miles seems to be suffering
from amnesia. His wife leaves, and the female attendant explains
that he has been under sedation, but when Miles asks how long
he has been in the hospital, she answers, "Just a few
pages." Her name is Dr. A. Delfie, and she introduces
her West Indian assistant as Nurse Cory. They explain that
he must learn to relax, and as part of his treatment, they
begin to massage his penis. Miles is shocked as they encourage
him to fondle their bodies, more so as Dr. Delfie mounts his
erection. She tells Miles to try to provide a climax from
as deep as possible, in the interest of his baby, to keep
going "to the very last syllable." After he finishes,
Nurse Cory brings him a small sheaf of papers, cradled in
her arms, which she refers to as "a lovely little story."
He begins to wonder if his lost identity is that of "a
mere novelist or something" when a crash interrupts and
ends this first part of the book.
The cause of the crash becomes apparent in Part II. A woman
appears who looks like a twin of Dr. Delphie but has spikes
of hair and black eye-makeup, is dressed in boots and a black
leather jacket, and holds an electric guitar. She slashes
at the guitar strings and the nurses disappear. Then she turns
to Miles and accuses him of antifeminist, bourgeois elitism,
among other literary crimes, in what he has just written.
He defends himself by saying that it could have been worse,
that he at least did not represent her running through the
olive groves in a transparent nightie-- though she would look
terrific that way. She begins to run scales on her guitar
and it changes to a lyre, as she changes into a traditional
muse, dressed in a white tunic. She warns him that she will
not, however, be a brainless female body at his perverted
beck and call, and she gives him 10 sentences to provide a
formal apology. As he does so he begins to play with her.
She is not very interested--is still a bit queasy from her
flight from Greece--and tells him that it is not easy to be
the muse of love poetry, Erato, and find that you have been
stuck with fiction as well.
Erato tells Miles to listen to a story for a change, and
tells him about her sexual awakening in ancient Greece, when
a satyr discovered her rubbing herself with olive oil. She
tells Miles that he must not repeat her story, that she's
told it to only one other person, a French poet who blabbed.
As she tells her erotic story, Miles undresses her and mounts
her. Erato continues to talk and tells Miles that her point
is, that he should not be a modern satyr, who invents women
who are implausible wish-fulfilIments of his diseased mind.
In fact, she reminds him, any witness to what they are doing
would think it ridiculous, so he should get off her. Erato
then lectures him on how she has no freedom to be herself
as long as she depends on him to create her as a character,
even to kill her off. At that point, Erato gradually changes
into an independent-minded, serious woman who speaks intelligently,
even intellectually about the sympathy she feels for Miles
as a male, a victim of "the overwhelming stress the prevailing
capitalist hegemony puts on sexuality." They discuss
fictional possibilities for her, which quickly degenerate
into soft-core romance scenarios with crude symbolism and
exotic trappings. Miles turns and accuses her of exceeding
the bounds of artistic decency, and starts lecturing her on
how out of fashion her ideas about novels are. He tells her
that she should not expect to be able to think and to be a
universal girlfriend at the same time. After having delivered
several intellectual parting shots and turning to leave, Miles
cannot find a door in the wall. Erato tells him that he cannot
walk out of his own brain. Miles now accuses her of dictating
to him, and whines that he, as author, feels as "written"
as she does as a character. She shows him that there is a
door, after all, but when he opens it, he sees only a reflection
of himself and the room behind him. When he turns around,
Erato knocks him out with an uppercut to the jaw.
Part III begins with Miles on the floor and Erato retransformed
into Dr. Delphie. An elderly staff nurse enters and accuses
Delphie of letting the ward turn to ruin, if not to a striptease
show, and departs. Delphie turns to Miles and kicks him in
the ribs. When he sits up, she tells him that it was a dirty
trick by him to make the elderly nurse look like her sister,
Clio, the muse of history. Delphie reminds him that she is
an archetype and that he has been lucky that she appears to
him; indeed, she says that she is never going to do so again,
and disappears. Her now disembodied voice explains that literature
is a manifestation of mental illness, that he has merely been
acting out a primal scene trauma. She advises him to become
a ditchdigger. He attempts to make her jealous by telling
her that he preferred the black nurse. She tells him that
he has never been any good as a writer or lover. Suddenly,
a clock on the wall cuckoos, Dr. Delphie reappears, they make
up and make love, not noticing that the walls of the room
have become transparent and that people are watching them.
As Part IV begins, they wake up and begin to discuss how
it was--both the sex and their previous dialogues. Miles and
Erato discuss how they found each other, were perfect for
each other in their desire for endlessly revisable textuality.
Miles unwisely remarks that he especially liked her as Nurse
Cory, and Erato replies that she has singled him out for her
affection because he's such an incompetent writer that she
can be sure he will never succeed in telling about her. He
retorts that he has lots of readers, and that she does not
know what it is like to be a writer. She confesses that she
did once write an epic satire revealing how immature men are,
called The Odyssey. He confesses that he wants Nurse
Cory. Erato admits that she is not perfect, indeed gets a
lot of facts wrong, but her business is to inspire people.
Miles complains that they do too much talking.
As they lie together, Miles reflects that he should not complain
about his situation, but that Erato does not appreciate his
importance and is becoming "just one more brainwashed,
average twentieth-century female." As he begins to imagine
a compliant, sexy Japanese woman, he finds that Erato has
turned him into a satyr. He threatens to write everything
down, but she just smiles. When he tries to jump on her, Erato
disappears, and he knocks himself out on the wall above the
bed. He returns to the form of Miles Green, and Nurse Cory
covers him up. The book ends with the cry of "Cuckoo"
from the clock above the oblivious patient.
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The story begins with a narrator's description of five characters
on horseback in the West Country in April. The party is composed
of a Mr. Brown and his nephew, a deaf-mute servant named Dick,
a woman called Louise, and a bodyguard named Sergeant Farthing.
Their journey began in London and has taken them into Devon,
where the nephew is to meet his beloved for an elopement---or
so they tell the staff at the Black Hart, an inn near Exmoor.
When the narration becomes dialogue, relationships seem different.
The uncle Is subordinate to the nephew, who is referred to
as Lacy, not Brown. The woman seems unperturbed when Dick
unbuttons his breeches and stands near her with an exposed
erection. She does plead for an explanation, however, when
the nephew--whom she refers to as "my lord" and
who calls her Fanny--chastises her for having worn a bouquet
of violets beneath her nose as they traveled that day.
After 50 pages of this narration, whose dialogue is from
the 18th century but whose narrator is from the late 20th,
a facsimile page with no immediately evident connection appears,
part of the "Historical Chronicle" from The
Gentleman's Magazine, for April 1736, when the fictional
story has been taking place. The next page is fictional but
purports to be an item from The Western Gazette reporting
the discovery of a corpse in the woods near Exmoor, hanging
from a tree, with a bouquet of violets growing from its mouth.
The next 10 pages are in a different, dramatic mode, an interrogation
of the Black Hart's innkeeper, Thomas Puddicombe, with the
questions and answers marked by Qs and A's, and the whole
transcript signed by one Henry Ayscough. After two more interviews
and two more excerpts from The Gentleman's Magazine,
Ayscough's role becomes clearer with a letter to his employer,
addressed as "Your Grace," who is evidently the
father of the young lord in the party of travelers. Ayscough
is confident that the so-called nephew is indeed "his
Lordship," this unidentified duke's younger son, but
Ayscough cannot imagine what he was doing in this part of
the country or why he brought the extra companions, besides
his now-deceased servant.
The next section is narrated, in which Ayscough intimidates
the actor Francis Lacy into admitting that he was indeed hired
by a man he knew was only pretending to be "Mr. Bartholemew,"
and agreed to pretend to be his "uncle," Mr. Brown,
to help him reach the vicinity of his fiancée undetected.
Lacy recounts several of their conversations in which Lord
------- revealed an interest in Stonehenge, mathematics, and
philosophy. Lacy further reports that Farthing told him that
he had once seen the woman in their party entering a London
house of prostitution owned by a Mrs. Claiborne, that Dick
and "Louise" were having a clandestine sexual relationship
as they traveled, and that his lordship had stolen out with
Dick and her during the night that they lodged in Amesbury,
near Stonehenge--all of which information leads Lacy to suspect
that more has been going on than he can now explain to Ayscough.
He does point out that he and Farthing separated from the
rest of the party on the morning after the night at the Black
Hart, so he is unable to account for the disappearances of
his lordship and the woman.
The next interview, with Hannah Claiborne, establishes that
"Louise" is "Fanny," one of her prize
prostitutes, who came to her as Rebecca Hocknell, of a Quaker
family in Bristol; her ability to feign religiosity and chastity
made her an especially sought-after prostitute, known as "the
Quaker maid." Lord -------- had paid Claiborne for Fanny's
services for one week, for a party in Oxford he told her,
but for a trip abroad he told a friend. His real purpose remains
Ayscough next interviews Jones, the real name of Farthing,
whom his agents have located, and learns that Jones decided
to follow the three others after they had parted on the road,
He tells Ayscough of having seen them meet a woman dressed
in silver trousers near a cave in the woods by Exmoor. Sometime
after they all entered the cave, he reports, Dick came running
out looking terrified and disappeared into the woods; then
Rebecca emerged, naked; his lordship never came out. Jones
recounts that he assisted Rebecca in reaching Bideford, from
which port he shipped to Wales and she to Bristol, but not
before she told him that she had seen witches inside the cave,
had been raped by Satan, and had witnessed what appeared to
be a mock marriage between his lordship and the younger witch.
Several letters follow, from Ayscough's agents who are searching
for Rebecca, who is found in Manchester, married to a blacksmith
named John Lee, member of a faction that has broken off from
the Quakers. When Ayscough interviews her, Rebecca explains
that she has repented her past life and is now a devoted servant
of God--as well as a mother-to-be. She tells Ayscough that
she lied to Jones about what happened in the cave, first to
keep him at a distance, physically, and second because he
would not be able to understand what really had happened.
First she explains that when they visited Stonehenge at night,
she saw a bright, "floating lantern" and observed
two men watching them. She then explains that she was told
to engage in sexual intercourse with Dick while his lordship
watched, and that she accepted Dick's subsequent advances
out of pity for him. About the cave, Rebecca explains that
inside she saw a large maggot-shaped machine floating in the
air, with a door and lights inside. She was taken inside it
by a gray-haired woman who had previously been three women
of three ages who merged into one. She was shown moving pictures
of a green world with large buildings that serve as communal
housing, which Rebecca now refers to as "June Eternal."
The two men she saw at Stonehenge she recognizes were God
the Father and God the Son, and the three women were a female
trinity of Christ's daughter, widow, and "Holy Mother
Wisdom." Ayscough then interviews one of the leaders
of the religious sect and learns that Rebecca's views are
largely her own, which she has not revealed to the others,
even though they do believe in a female aspect of the Trinity.
When he calls Rebecca back, she stands by her bizarre story,
claiming that she awoke to find the cave empty and his lordship
gone, having left with the spiritual "deities" and
left his fallen half--that is, Dick--behind. Before the interview
ends, she has apparently seen a vision of his lordship in
the room and the narrator has explained that she and Ayscough
have radically different ways of seeing the world--hers artistic,
female, and right-brain hemispheric, and his scientific, male,
Ayscough does not believe her, and he writes in his last
letter to the duke that probably his son killed himself in
the cave, having felt more and more vile about not being able
to accept the world as it is and himself as impotent. The
Stonehenge incident, he concludes, must have been staged.
Dick, in despair over his master's suicide, probably imitated
his master. The narration concludes in Manchester, where Rebecca
has just given birth to a baby girl, whom she names Ann.
Fowles concludes the book in his own voice, with an essay
explaining that Ann Lee became the founder of the Shakers.
Even though Fowles is, he declares, an atheist, he admires
religious dissenters and sees the year 1736 as a convenient
marker between the English Revolution of 1688 and the French
Revolution of 1789. He observes, too, that sometimes novelists
must use far-fetched tropes to convey truths, and that Rebecca
represents an emotional enlightenment, a "painful breaking
of the seed of the self from the hard soil of an irrational
and tradition-bound society."