55 pages 1 hour read

John Fowles

The Collector

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Symbols & Motifs


The motif of lepidoptery illustrates Frederick’s possessive attitude toward beauty. The similarity between his lepidoptery and his imprisonment of Miranda is implied through metaphor and stated explicitly.

Butterflies symbolize the ephemeral nature of beauty and the constant transformation of life. They also have mythological symbolism: In ancient Greek mythology, butterflies represented the soul: Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul, was often depicted with butterfly wings. Thus, Frederick’s collecting is a violent attempt to preserve something that cannot really be pinned down.

Frederick values Miranda in the same way he values a rare butterfly: as a collector’s prized object. To him, her hair looks “very pale, silky, like Burnet cocoons” (5)—a simile that establishes that Frederick thinks of Miranda as another specimen to collect. The reference to a cocoon also connotes that Frederick believes he can force Miranda to evolve, making her another one of his imagos, or mature butterflies. When Frederick successfully kidnaps Miranda, he feels like he’s caught a butterfly he’d pursued for years: “It was like catching the Mazarine Blue again or a Queen of Spain Fritillary […] something you dream about more than you ever expect to see come true” (25).

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