Places: The Collector

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1963

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: c. 1960

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedFosters

Fosters. Collector, TheSecluded cottage in southern England’s East Sussex region built in 1621. After winning a fortune in a football pool, Clegg buys the house because of its isolation and particularly because it has a large cellar complex. Its location, two miles from the nearest village and three quarters of a mile from the nearest neighbor, provides a perfect locale for Clegg to follow his dream, to “collect” Miranda as he has collected butterflies. After he kidnaps Miranda, he confines her in his cellar. During her two months of imprisonment, Clegg lives upstairs while Miranda lives underground in her whitewashed cellar room with no fresh air. Her claustrophobic cellar existence symbolizes Clegg’s darker nature and the unconscious desires that he cannot integrate into his personality.

The cottage’s cellars are described realistically, the outer room equipped as a kitchen and the inner cellar as a bed-sitting room. Miranda refers to her stone-and-concrete chamber as the “crypt” and longs for sunlight and fresh air and freedom, which lie outside her locked door. The cottage is surrounded by fields of alfalfa (lucerne), gardens, hedges, and woods. Clegg himself is impervious to the natural beauties of his home but Miranda’s artistic nature leads her to admire the main house’s upstairs rooms, with “crossbeams and nooks and delicious angles,” which she gets to visit only occasionally. Miranda struggles against her imprisonment. Though unsuccessful in all her escape attempts, she has some success in transcending the cellar as she mentally matures.

*London

*London. Great Britain’s capital and great city, in which Miranda grows, personally and artistically. Before being kidnapped, she attends the Slade School of Art, lives with her aunt in Hampstead, and comes to know George Paston (G.P.), an artist who functions in the novel as a foil for Clegg. In contrast, London serves as a reminder to Clegg that he does not fit in socially; he is obsessed by class differences. His pleasures in London are limited to stalking Miranda and buying “books of stark women” in Soho.

G. P.’s Studio

G. P.’s Studio. George Paston’s art studio in northern London’s Hampstead district. As a symbolic contrast to Miranda’s cellar room, G. P.’s studio represents freedom. In her cellar room, Miranda daydreams about G. P. and his studio, recollecting what she has learned there of art and music and relationships and herself. The studio is modest, but everything in it expresses G. P.’s true nature, thereby contrasting with Clegg’s cottage, whose inherent charm is compromised by the way he has decorated it with what he thinks represents respectability.

Ladymont

Ladymont. Miranda’s London boarding school before she wins a scholarship to the Slade School of Art. Throughout the novel, Miranda matures beyond the “suffocating atmosphere” of Ladymont, where middle class social propriety rules over individualism. Miranda begins to think for herself instead of blindly accepting the values of her background.

Town Hall Annexe

Town Hall Annexe. Clegg’s government office workplace in an unnamed town before he wins the football pool that allows him to quit his job and move to Sussex. A misfit even in the government office, Clegg only finds respite from the boring and repetitious work of clerking by staring out the window at Miranda’s family home across the street.

*Lewes

*Lewes (LEW-ihs). Sussex town in which Clegg shops after moving into Fosters. He avoids the nearby village in order to preserve his privacy, but his neurosis about how people regard him causes him discomfort even in Lewes.

BibliographyConradi, Peter. John Fowles, 1982.Huffaker, Robert. John Fowles, 1980.Laughlin, Rosemary M. “Faces of Power in the Novels of John Fowles.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 13, no. 3 (1972): 71-88. Focuses on issues of power in Fowles’s fiction, particularly how power operates to violate, annihilate, or perhaps help another person achieve a more complete humanity. Asserts that Fowles’s depiction of power in The Collector is simplistic in light of his later novels.Madachy, James L. The Aesthetic Theory of John Fowles, 1975.Olshen, Barry N. John Fowles. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1978. Discusses the narrative structure of The Collector and focuses on issues of social class and opportunity. Maintains, however, that the most significant distinction is between life-and freedom-loving individuals and those who can only attempt to possess and destroy.Rackham, Jeff. “John Fowles: The Existential Labyrinth.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 13, no. 3 (1972): 89-103. Asserts that class conflict is of minor significance in The Collector, and that the novel is a metaphorical exploration of existentialism. The novel is a “minor allegory of existence,” in which people who believe that they have an insight into life are in reality at the mercy of their own smugness.Wolfe, Peter. John Fowles, Magus and Moralist. Cranbury, N.J.: Bucknell University Press, 1976. Excellent introduction to Fowles’s philosophical and aesthetic ideas. Discusses The Collector specifically in light of his attitudes about “collecting,” the dichotomy between The Many and The Few, and the social and cultural milieu that produces a Frederick Clegg.Woodcock, Bruce. Male Mythologies: John Fowles and Masculinity. Brighton, England: The Harvester Press, 1984. Suggests that Clegg is “the prototype of masculinity,” both perpetrator and victim of male power, and also the representative for the novelist himself, who can collect his characters and subject them to his own male fantasies.
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