68 pages 2 hours read

John Fowles

The French Lieutenant's Woman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1969

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Important Quotes

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“These are the very steps that Jane Austen made Louisa Musgrove fall down in Persuasion.”

(Chapter 2, Page 8)

This passage sets up the power dynamic between the narrator/author and characters. Louisa is “made” (8) to fall by Austen, removing any agency from Louisa herself. Just as Louisa is controlled by Austen, Ernestina will be controlled by the narrator. The presence of the narrator’s controlling influence becomes more pronounced later in the novel but subtle hints such as this foreshadow the development of this dynamic.

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“She secretly pleased Mrs. Poulteney from the start, by seeming so cast-down, so annihilated by circumstance.”

(Chapter 6, Page 37)

Mrs. Poulteney does not want to help Sarah for Sarah’s benefit. Her charity is self-serving, a means of ensuring that she goes to heaven. Sarah performs the role of the charitable case as part of her tragic persona. If Sarah were only suffering inwardly, she would not appeal to Mrs. Poulteney’s narcissism.

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“His statement to himself should have been, ‘I possess this now, therefore I am happy’, instead of what it so Victorianly was: ‘I cannot possess this for ever, and therefore am sad.’”

(Chapter 10, Page 69)

When outlining the contrast between Charles’s Victorian views and the modern views the narrator holds, the narrator presents a modern value judgement. He criticizes Charles by suggesting that he “should” conceive of the world in a more modern manner. The subjectivity of the narrator foreshadows the eventual introduction of the narrator as a physical character in the story. The adverb “Victorianly” humorously marks Charles as someone who cannot break free from his socially conditioned views.

Related Titles

By John Fowles