The French Lieutenant's Woman Analysis

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“I do not know” (Fowles, 1970, 41). It is with such curious words that the narrator begins chapter 13 of The French Lieutenant’s Woman. As reader, one is puzzled as surely the narrator must know. The oddness only increases as he continues on to talk of the very writing process. The novel transforms into a work of metafiction and one begins to wonder, who actually is speaking at this point. It could be Fowles himself, as the responsibility of writing the novel does lie with him, “it is because I am writing in […] a convention universally accepted at the time of my story: that the novelist stands next to God” (Fowles, 1970, 41). Yet, the reader never really finds out. There are things that suggest that Fowles is the one speaking, since he did…show more content…
Had Fowles chosen to name the narrator after himself, he would have signed what is considered an ethical contract, and the novel should then only portray truths. However, the story presented is far from factual, yet perhaps based on certain events in Fowles’ own life. By simply omitting to name his narrator, Fowles stirs up even more uncertainness in the reader. The term ‘double contract’, coined by Poul Behrendt, covers those situations where it is no longer apparent whether the presented text is factual of fictional. Fowles blurs the lines between narrator and author on purpose, so the reader has to get involved to make anything of the story. The curiousness of the narrator far from ends here, however, as he continues to defy all expectations by, for example, claiming that his characters have a will of their own, “When Charles left Sarah on her cliff edge, I ordered him to walk straight back to Lyme Regis. But he did not” (Fowles, 1970, 41). This seems preposterous to most people the first time they read it, as of course he in the end chooses what goes down on the page, but it not to be understood so

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