68 pages 2 hours read

John Fowles

The French Lieutenant's Woman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1969

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Chapters 37-48

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 37 Summary

Since her family have recently entered the moneyed upper middle class, Ernestina is beholden to the Victorian social expectations of women. Her father, Mr. Freeman, privately hates the aristocracy, but he takes care to publicly perform the role of a Victorian gentleman. In reality, he is only committed to making money. Compared to most bosses of the era, he treats his employees relatively well. Now, he listens to Charles explaining that his uncle has disinherited him. Though Freeman is surprised, he continues to support the marriage between his daughter and Charles, as Ernestina’s happiness is his “principal consideration” (286). The men discuss the option of Charles coming to work for his future father-in-law in an executive role. Charles is horrified by the prospect of actually working because “gentlemen cannot go into trade” (290). He does not say this aloud, and both men end the conversation in a satisfied manner. Next, Charles meets with Mrs. Freeman. Charles has not spent much time dealing with newly rich people; he expected his marriage to Ernestina to be cancelled by her parents when they heard that he may not inherit his uncle’s lands and title. Though he knows that he should feel grateful to Freeman, he cannot help but feel “obscurely debased” (291) that they still accept him.

Related Titles

By John Fowles