Discussions relating to John Fowles' novel The Collector.
Hi, just came accross this forum, I studied English at GCSE over here in the UK and just started A levels. My class is studying this book which I am really enjoying and I just wanted to share an opinion and more importantly here other peoples opinions.
I am no expert on Fowles by any means, nor Existentialism or the study of English literature for that matter but my views differ from many of those in my class so I thought why not post up here!
Most people who I have spoken to say that Clegg is representing someone who cannot and will not find personal understanding, yet Miranda is an example of someone who through much deep thinking does find personal understanding. However, another opinion can be offered in regards to Miranda reaching personal understanding. I would personally disagree that Miranda ever actually reaches personal understanding. Miranda is a very pitiful character; however I do not think that she is an easily likeable character. She is very pretentious and manipulative person who despite the circumstances, still appears to have a rather self righteous and cold persona. Clegg uses various guises to hide his own inhibitions, although he does not realise it. For example when Miranda is on the brink of death, he decides to go make a cup of tea so that he can think things over and make himself feel better. Miranda is supposedly the deep thinking and caring person who wants to campaign against the ‘H-bomb’ and help gain donations to help fight for a cause. However this is simply what Miranda says. We very quickly decided that we could not trust Clegg as a narrator due to his sick ideas and peculiar actions. Yet we seem to conclude that Miranda is a reliable narrator and that we can trust what she says. What basis do we have to believe that she is honest and truthful?
I feel that just as Clegg will go and do some cleaning, or make a cup of tea when a situation becomes too great for him to handle, Miranda has a similar reaction towards various situations. Miranda only talks about things that she should be doing, and blames Clegg for her not being able to take part in such things, as he has her locked up. I disagree with what she says; I think this is simply a tool for herself to make her feel better, as a person. She is thinking of all the contributions that she could be making to society and this is a way of making her feel more comfortable with her lack of contribution as the blame can be pinned upon someone else, Clegg. She is saying that her imprisonment is stopping her from doing good, when she is actually uninterested in such campaigns. In this sense I do not think that she reaches what Camus and Sartre would refer to as personal understanding, as she does not accept or understand these faults in her persona.
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Interesting take, although I think it's way too harsh on Miranda. No doubt she is a bit of a snob in some ways, but I do think Fowles intended her to represent the better parts of society--beauty, intelligence, etc.--versus Clegg and his base instincts, representing the more harsh and brutal aspects of society. It's hard to know how honest Miranda is being about her aspirations and goals, but the bottom line is, Clegg is preventing her from having the opportunity to do anything. Clearly he must be held accountable for that behavior. At the very least, Miranda was about experiencing life, while Clegg obviously couldn't handle real life and simply wanted to collect and kill things.
As to the reliability of the narrators, I think they're both reliable in their own way. The reader is getting the truth as Miranda and Clegg perceive it from their perspectives, which obviously differ greatly. But it's what each of them actually believes...they're not consciously trying to deceive the reader.
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That's an excellent reply by magusbob! Miranda is obviously the heroine of the piece. I would say that both Clegg and Miranda are reliable narrators. They both accurately describe the same set of facts. The disparity between their narratives is not in what that set of facts is, but in what that set means. It lies in the evaluation of an agreed upon set of facts. It is a disparity not of facts, but of values. Interestingly (and it is Fowles' most interesting novel by far) the real normative conflict lies not between Miranda and Clegg, but between GP and Clegg - two diametrically opposing poles. GP is a distant counter-point. And how fascinating when Miranda recalls listening to that supreme work of musical counterpoint the Goldberg Variations. The Collecter is a piece of contrapunctual literature par excellence. You might have found Miranda slightly antipathetic & snobby. I don't agree! Given the fact that she's just out of boarding-school in the early sixities, she's remarkably unsnobby and open-minded. She is just a kid however. And it's a story of the spoiling of her potential, and she has so much potential.
I think the best thing about this wonderful novel is it's power to show us what it really means to be disempowered and straight-jacketed as, albeit in different ways, both Clegg and Miranda are. The limitations of consciousness, the singularity of our lives. In the torah it says that "to save one life is as if you have saved the world". The implication is that each individual is a world unto itself. And, wow, this novel really brings that reality home! Oh and make sure you read The Tempest too!
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In several interviews John Fowles has offered his views on both Clegg and Miranda...opening a dialogue on his views on what he called the 'Few" and the "Many."
“I tried to show that evil was largely, perhaps wholly the result
of a bad education, a mean environment, being orphaned, all factors over which
he [Clegg] had no control. In short, I tried to establish the virtual innocence of
the Many. Miranda…had very little more control than Clegg over what she
“Miranda was not perfect. Far from it—she was arrogant in her
ideas, a prig, a liberal-humanist snob, like so many university students. Yet
if she had not died she might have become something better, the kind of being
humanity so desperately needs.”
And in a more direct answer to those critics who had objected to his ‘moralizing,’ he expanded on his earlier remarks regarding the Few and the Many, thus clearly distancing himself from his 'en vogue' contemporaries—Britain’s ‘angry young men’ novelists:
“I also wanted to attack the contemporary idea that there is something
noble about the inarticulate hero….I don’t admire beats, bums, junkies,psychopaths, and inarticulates I feel sorry for them. I think ‘adjusted’
adolescents are better and more significant than ‘maladjusted’ ones. I’m
against the glamorization of the Many. I think the common man is the curse
of civilization, not its crowning glory. And he needs education, not
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A mentally deranged man tortures a young woman. I honestly don't think there's much more to it. It read like a bizarre tabloid story aimed to sell. Moonalley, I cannot fathom how mental illness can be used to represent anything else than a disease. To say that “I tried to show that evil was largely, perhaps wholly the result of a bad education, a mean environment, being orphaned, all factors over which he [Clegg] had no control.." is very puzzling. Mental illness is not limited to the poorly educated or "lower classes".
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