The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

Summary of the work - Sykalo Eugen 2023

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

"The French Lieutenant's Woman" by John Fowles is a literary masterpiece that takes place in Victorian England, where the story unfolds through the perspectives of the characters involved in a love triangle. The novel is a classic example of postmodernist literature and showcases Fowles' unique narrative style, coupled with his attention to detail, which makes for an unforgettable read.

The novel is divided into three parts, each of which highlights a different aspect of the story. In the first part, we are introduced to Charles Smithson, a wealthy gentleman engaged to Ernestina Freeman. Charles is drawn to Sarah Woodruff, the enigmatic and mysterious “French Lieutenant's Woman," who is ostracized by the community due to her alleged affair with a French officer. Sarah's character is shrouded in mystery, and her past is a source of fascination for Charles. The first part of the novel sets the stage for the rest of the story, introducing the main characters and their relationships, as well as the historical and social context of the time period.

In the second part, we witness the development of Charles and Sarah's relationship as they embark on a clandestine affair. Fowles' narrative style is unique in that he often breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader directly, interrupting the flow of the story to provide commentary on Victorian society and literature. This technique adds depth to the story and makes the reader question the reliability of the narrator. The second part of the novel is where the romantic tension between Charles and Sarah reaches its peak, and the reader is left wondering what will happen to their illicit relationship.

The third part of the novel is where the plot thickens. Charles must choose between his love for Sarah and his duty to society. He is torn between his desire to be with Sarah and the pressure to conform to Victorian social norms. The climax of the novel is a dramatic and unexpected twist that leaves the reader reeling. Fowles' skillful use of foreshadowing and symbolism throughout the novel adds to the overall impact of the plot twist. The third part of the novel is where the major conflict between the characters is resolved, and the reader is left to contemplate the consequences of their actions.

One of the key themes of the novel is the conflict between the individual and society. Fowles uses the character of Sarah to represent the individual, who is ostracized by society due to her non-conformity. Charles, on the other hand, represents society, torn between his duty to conform and his desire to be with Sarah. The novel explores the tension between these two opposing forces and the impact it has on the characters involved. Additionally, the novel delves into the themes of love, duty, and societal norms, which are as relevant today as they were when the book was first published.

Overall, "The French Lieutenant's Woman" is a must-read for anyone looking for a thought-provoking and engaging novel. Fowles' unique narrative style, coupled with his attention to detail, makes for an unforgettable read. The novel's themes and plot twists will keep you engaged from start to finish, and the characters will stay with you long after you've finished reading.