Some Notes: "French Lieutenant's Woman" By John Fowles.

2863 words - 11 pages

FLW is a Victorian love story is couched within a postmodern, self-conscious meditation on authentic existence, evolution, class struggle, and the nature of authorship. The narrative form is explored through a constant critique of representation with combines an examination of cultural surface with formidable skill in storytelling & the ability to create compelling characters & a vivid sense of social context. With essay-like excursions into Victorian social mores, self-reflexive authorial intrusions, and his Victorian narration with a 20th century sensibility, Fowles simultaneously constructs and deconstructs a Victorian novel, presenting radical cognitive experiments which challenge fundamental principles and assumptions about texts, its interaction with history and reality, ultimately producing an evolved reader. What results is a peerless, cross-genre hybrid of romance, philosophy, historiography, and postmodern metafiction.(With flagrant manipulations of Vic. plot structures, and the pseudo-Vic. style of many passages, FLW is affectionate parody of Vic. narrative conventions. The playful 'ending' in chapter 44 presents a conventional Vic. conclusion, where the protagonists are suitably married, the wicked punished, the lives of the lower class disregarded, and order restored. The incongruous "so ends the story" mocks narrative closure. Fowles toys with the reader, making Charles and Ernestina have "what shall it be - let us say seven children" -drawing attention to the unreliable spontaneity of the writing process. Fowles describes authors in terms of fight promoters: they put the conflicting interests in the ring, describe, fixing. The comment "these are the very steps that Jane Austen made Louisa Musgrove fall down in Persuasion" reveals the manipulative author behind the 'veil', the all-powerful puppeteer who controls the characters in the synesis of fiction.)Fowles dispels the traditional assumption that texts are a slice of reality by asserting the unnarratability of reality, and debunking the text-bound illusion of the Victorian Age, whilst constantly drawing attention to the novel's own artifice.Deliberately self-ref and metafic, FLW incorporates the philosophical currents of 1967, an "age of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes", presenting a worldview that: "neither individuals nor reality as a whole can be adequately conceptualised". The inadequacy of literary and artistic endeavours to express reality is demonstrated by Fowles' characterisation of Sarah. Sarah is mysteriously unrepresentable, existing outside of a narrative-bound identity. She represents an existentialist triumph over systems which attempt to explain her, declaring: "I am not to be understood even by myself", and defying Charles', the people of Lyme, and Dr Grogan's attempts to net her into conventional narratives - that of the "fallen woman", a "chronic melancholiac". Through Sarah, Fowles imparts a strong sense of the unrepresentable.Fowles shows the...

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