Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles

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[Betlehem Fekade | Innovation Editor]

This novel tells the story of Fredrick Clegg, a recluse who works at city hall as a clerk, and spends his free time as an amateur entomologist with a special love for butterflies. For Fred, the rarer the butterfly, the more he is determined to possess it, and there is nothing rarer than beautiful teenager Miranda Grey. An outcast without any social skills, Fred is unable to approach her. For him, she becomes the unattainable dream; a perfect woman high on a pedestal that he could only reach if he was more social, more educated and someone from a higher social class. Later in life, and after winning a large amount of money on football pools, he begins to revisit his obsession with the now 20 year Miranda as she works through art school. He buys a large house in the countryside, and isolates himself from the world he feels has abandoned him.

The collector by John Fowles
Photo credit: Little, Brown and Company

Consumed by his loneliness, Fred decides that he will add Miranda to his collection. To him she would be a guest, someone that he would love and shower with gifts – he believes that if kept long enough, she would love him and stay with as his prize specimen. After careful preparation he kidnaps Miranda and brings her to her new home, but is very confused by her reluctance to be his guest. Much like the butterflies he catches, what he liked about her was nothing more than the perception of beauty; something he could frame and keep forever, but the real Miranda was lacking. Fred believes that she does not love him because she is of a different class, and indeed the class difference between the two is vast.

For Miranda, he is nothing but her malevolent captor. She attempts to educate Fred by making him read Catcher in the Rye. She thinks of Fred as Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest – a monstrous and deformed being, obsessed with his own Miranda from the play. Unlike most victims in other novels however, she is not represented as a completely innocent character. Miranda is arrogant and contemptuous. In her mind, they are from different worlds, and he is not worthy of her. In her section of the book, she describes in great length G.P., a man who was worthy of her affection; an arrogant, intelligent man who adopted the philosophies of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

Fowles uses the relationship between Miranda and Fred as an example of the huge social disparity between the lower class and their higher counterparts, but unlike most authors, he does not attempt to demonise ‘the few’. In The Aristos, Fowles’s second book presented as a collection of philosophical essays, he discusses his intentions behind the meanings and themes of The Collector. In particular, the intellectual gap between the rich and the poor. He explains that his intention for The Collector was not to attack the elite of society, but to make the reader realise that equal education is necessary in a broken class system.

The Collector is an engaging and intellectual novel which stimulates not only your sense of fear and anxiety through the portrayal of Miranda’s capture, but also encourages you to start a dialogue and to think about the social pressures we all face; no matter our class.

Have you read The Collector? What did you think? Tweet us @TridentMediaUK.

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Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles