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John Fowles The French Lieutenants Woman SETTING The setting throughout the novel is predominantly Victorian.

Most of the novels action takes place at Lyme Regis, Dorset, England. Lyme Regis was one of many small villages in southwest England scattered along the coast. It consisted largely of small houses surrounded by hills on one side and the sea on the other. The Cobb was built along the shore and it is a promenade where people could enjoy the sea air while taking a walk. A section of the hills, known as the Ware Commons, was a meeting ground for most young couples and where Charles and Sarah meet clandestinely. Lymes community was close-knit and provincial. Unlike the larger metropolitan areas such as London, here people upheld the prevailing social norms. Unconventional behavior is seen as an aberration and often times a sign of mental illness. The repressive norms and the peoples insensitive attitude towards Sarah succeed in driving her to Exeter. In the nineteenth century, Exeter served the same purpose as London does today. Exeter was notorious for providing all sorts of wicked entertainment. Brothels, dance halls and gin palaces thrived there. It served as a haven for "shamed" girls and women, namely unmarried mothers and mistresses who were victims of sexual abuse or social rejects. Due to its scandalous reputation, many upstanding English kept their distance. Social norms were virtually non-existent. Because no one knows her or interferes with her, Sarah feels free, a pleasure that was denied to her while in Lyme. It is in Exeter that Charles and Sarah consummate their relationship, which is the turning point of the novel. For a brief moment the action shifts to London where Charles signs his statement of guilt. It is also here that Charles and Sarah meet, after a two-year separation, at the Rossetti residence. The action tends to move back and forth between the Victorian and the modern age as Fowles tends to make intrusive comments about the past and the present. He has deliberately recreated a Victorian world so that he can criticize those aspects of the Victorian era that would seem alien to a modern reader. It is interesting to note the different social conditions prevalent in these places and their effects on individuals. SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis) At the beginning of the novel, Charles Smithson and Ernestina Freeman are engaged to be married. Charles is an upper-class aristocrat and Ernestina is a wealthy heiress. They meet Sarah Woodruff, an unemployed governess and the scarlet woman of Lyme. Charles is struck by this woman who "had been dumped by her French lover and now wandered the shores in the hope that he would return someday." Sarah is employed as a ladys companion by Mrs. Poulteney of Malborough House. Her stay is miserable due to Mrs. Poulteney and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairley, who keeps spying on Sarah. They attempt to restrict her freedom in the name of making her repent for her sins. Meanwhile, Charles is intrigued by the
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outcast. His interest in her grows to be an obsession. An amateur paleontologist, he meets her on several occasions at Ware Commons. He wants to help her but his interest is routed in the fact that he finds her singularly different from other Victorian woman. As on outcast, Sarah does not follow societal norms yet she insists on Charles help. Dr. Grogan, Charles friend, sympathizes with her situation but believes that Sarah wants Charles constant attention. He diagnoses her condition as a mental illness called melancholia and wants to get her institutionalized. Meanwhile, Sarah has come to depend on Charles who is himself going through a change. He is beginning to question his ages conventions and questioning himself. He urges Sarah to leave Lyme and go to Exeter where she will have more freedom to live an unconventional life. Sarah takes his advice but Charles cannot forget her. At the same time, he feels guilty for even thinking about her. He does not love Ernestina and is marrying her solely for her wealth. He thinks their relationship is nothing more than a facade. Fowles constantly interrupts the narrative by making authorial comments with a twentieth century perspective. The narrative action digresses back and forth from the Victorian Age to the twentieth century in time. Fowles is writing a novel set in the nineteenth-century romantic literary genre but with a twentieth century perspective. Charles finds the prospect of living a life as a dutiful husband and sonin-law unappealing. His uncle disinherits him, so he has no money and title. He wants to have a more meaningful life, unrestricted by traditions. He makes the ultimate decision of his life by breaking his engagement to Ernestina and follows Sarah to Exeter, where they consummate their relationship. When he returns for her, after informing Ernestina of the break-up, he learns that she has left with no forwarding address. His valet Sam betrays him. In despair, Charles reaches Sarah but to no avail. Ernestinas father makes him sign a humiliating statement of guilt for breaking the marriage contract and Charles friend and solicitor prevails upon him to leave England for some time. Charles travels the world but prefers America, which he finds refreshingly modern compared to England. While touring America, he receives word that Sarah has been found. He hurries back to England and finds Sarah living with the Rossettis. She has changed drastically, and Charles finds this difficult to accept. Fowles gives two endings to the novel. In the conventional ending, Charles meets his baby daughter and Sarah and he reunite. They live happily ever after like any other hero and heroine in a romantic novel. The other ending is unconventional and more realistic, an ending more apt for a twentieth century novel. Charles rejects the new Sarah, yet despite feeling bitter and alienated, he has found a new awareness and strength within himself. Because of his involvement with Sarah, Charles has changed from his old conventional self, rejecting the values that sought to confine him.

Major Characters
Sarah Woodruff

The bearer of the books title The French Lieutenants Woman. She is also referred to as "Tragedy" or "The French Lootnnts Tenants Hore." She is the scarlet woman of Lyme, the outcast dismissed by society because of her affair with a French sailor. She is a figure of intrigue due to rumors that circulate around her, most of them false. She is the protagonist of the novel. Her character is that of a mysterious or evil woman commonly found in a Victorian novel. Charles Smithson Male protagonist of the novel. He is a wealthy Victorian gentlemen and heir to a title. He is interested in Darwin and paleontology and considers himself to be intellectually superior to other Victorian men, as he is one of the few who holds scientifically advanced ideas. He is engaged to Ernestina Freeman but is attracted to the mysterious Miss Woodruff. He is unhappy with the way his life is unfolding, yet he is extremely sensitive and intelligent. He is an insecure man constantly analyzing his life. Ernestina Freeman Charles fiance. She is pretty, coy and intelligent, but at times she tends to reveal her youth and naivete. She likes to think of herself as a modern woman but her attitudes are similar to most of the young Victorian women who behaved in a proper manner. She is Aunt Tranters niece and is vacationing in Lyme when the story begins. Aunt Tranter Ernestinas mothers sister. She is a kind woman who is loved by her domestic staff because she treats people with respect. She offers to help Sarah when the rest of the town rejects her. Aunt Tranter is an honest woman and lacks hypocrisy of any sort. Mrs. Poulteney A cruel old woman, she takes great delight in harassing her domestic staff. Her temperament is exactly opposite to that of Mrs. Tranters. She believes herself to be an upholder of Christian virtues yet in reality, she is a hypocrite who reluctantly helps people only out of a show of charity. Sarah in employed by her in the position of a companion. She succeeds in making Sarahs life miserable by constantly reminding her that she is an outcast. Mrs. Fairley Mrs. Poulteneys housekeeper. She pretends to be virtuous but is a confirmed hypocrite like her employer. She acts as Mrs. Poulteneys spy reporting Sarahs movements back to her. She is jealous of Sarah and succeeds in getting Sarah dismissed from her job.

Dr. Grogan An intelligent, friendly man who befriends Charles. The younger man finds him to be a sympathetic listener. Dr. Grogan empathizes with Sarah but finds her behavior too outrageous to be taken seriously. He is refreshingly unconventional in his views for a Victorian although he belongs more to an earlier age that was more liberal in many ways. Sam Farrow Charles Smithsons valet. He is not content with his present status and wants to climb the social ladder. He is ambitious and is determined to secure his future with Mary even if he has to blackmail Charles. Mr. Freeman Ernestinas father. He is a haberdasher who has succeeded in attaining a higher status in society. Although he comes from a lower class, he is able to have his daughter marry into nobility. Lieutenant Varguennes Sarah Woodruffs alleged French lover. He was injured in a shipwreck when he first met Sarah and tried to flirt and seduce her. Later, Sarah found out that he was married. John Fowles The author of the novel. Fowles tends to intrude into the narrative to make his own critical comments about the characters as well as the relationship between art and life. He comes in the guise of a foppish theatrical director or as a bearded stranger.

CONFLICT
Protagonists The novel has two protagonists, Sarah Woodruff and Charles Smithson. Both of them are character types commonly found in a nineteenth century romantic novel. These lovers are doomed from the beginning. Sarah is an outcast, rejected by Victorian society. Charles is an aristocratic Victorian gentleman already engaged to be married to someone else. Charles must challenge the conventions he lives by and eschew them. He does this through the help of Sarah who has already moved beyond societys definition of who she is. By Victorian standards their union would have been seen as scandalous. Through their characters Fowles is attempting to understand how peoples lives were dictated by what the Victorian Age thought was true about the essential nature of men and women and how they relate to one another. Antagonist The novels antagonist is the Victorian society, which spurns women like Sarah who do not conform to normal gender roles. If not for societys strict definitions of what women should be and how they should act, Sarah would not be an outcast.
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Climax Charles breaks his engagement with Ernestina when he realizes that he loves Sarah but when he goes to Exeter to meet her, he does not find her. Finally, in despair he leaves England to try and forget her. After two years of being separated, he learns of her whereabouts. During their separation both had undergone a change. Charles has shrugged off his conventional layers and Sarah is representative of a New Woman of the Age. Outcome They finally meet after a two-year separation period at the Rossettis. Sarah has changed drastically and Charles cannot adapt himself to this new version. To complicate matters further, Fowles gives two different endings to the novel. One follows the conventional rule of a happy ending, and the other attempts to be a more unconventional but realistic ending. In the conventional ending, Charles meets his baby daughter and the couple reunite with their love is strengthened by all that they have gone through. In the unconventional ending, Charles rejects Sarah and feels disgusted with himself for allowing himself to fall for a woman like her. He leaves without meeting his child. Though he is bitter and alienated, he does realize a strength within him that was dormant. Since deciding to break off his engagement and shrug off his ages burdensome conventions to follow his heart, he can now take on the world by himself. Unlike traditional gothic novels, Fowles objective is not to unite his protagonists, Sarah and Charles, but to show that every human being must face hurdles in life in order to be able to grow.

THEMES
Major Theme In this novel, Fowles is interested in the literary genre of the nineteenthcentury romantic or gothic novel and succeeds in reproducing typical Victorian characters, situations and dialogue. But Fowles perception of the genre is touched with typical twentieth-century irony. His thematic concerns range from the relationship between life and art and the artist and his creation to the isolation that results from an individual struggling for selfhood. Fowles is interested in societys effects on its members and the concerns that arise from it. Much of the novel is geared towards analyzing particular roles that various members of society had to play due to societal pressure to conform to a particular behavior. His characters often act and react to how they are supposed to be behaving rather than to any individual agency. Fowles is also interested in twentieth century novel conventions and the Victorian romantic novel conditions and their treatment of realism. The Victorians were trying to write in a realistic manner whereas their modern counterparts were attempting to clearly define the meaning of realism through their writings. Minor Theme

Fowles aim is to bring to light those aspects of Victorian society that would appear most foreign to contemporary readers. Victorian attitudes towards women, economics, science and philosophy are tackled as minor themes within the main plot. Both women and the working-class are two groups that are revealed as being oppressed both economically and socially in a society that inhibits mobility for anyone who is not middle or upper-class and male. These are the social issues that Fowles explores within the guise of a traditional romance.

MOOD
The general mood throughout the novel is somber and turbulent. From the initial chapter, the mood is set. A strong easterly wind is blowing and a storm is coming in. It is in such a setting that Charles and Sarah meet. The atmosphere suits Sarahs enigmatic personality. Throughout the novel, she is presented as a dark, mysterious and intriguing figure. The reader are unconsciously aware that the lovers, Charles and Sarah, are doomed from the beginning. In several sections, the mood changes to one of irony and realistic recording of details. Fowles tends to comment on several unknown aspects of the Victorian era (e.g. prostitution) in an ironically realistic manner.

Technique
The technique that Fowles has employed, of his intrusion into the story, is one typical of postmodern texts. The concept is that the author is essentially 'dead', in that the author is no longer all-knowing like in traditional literary styles. Instead, the boundaries between the reader and the author are broken down, and in a way we are taken into the author's thoughts (namely in French Lieutenant's Woman) as he writes the story... The three endings are also a technique of postmodernist writing, that the barriers or structure of traditional writing are broken down..No longer is the story a chronological sequence of the beginning, middle and the end, with a climax somewhere in between - In The French Lieutenant's Woman, the three endings are presented as an open-ended closing for the story, that gives the reader more ability to interpret they story as they wish Essentially, the author is no longer the 'creator' of the story, he is merely a vehicle to assist the reader in drawing their own conclusions or finding their own theories about the process of the book...