Study Guide

Daniel Martin

by John Fowles

Daniel Martin Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In his fourth novel, Daniel Martin, Fowles writes his first happy ending. The protagonist, Daniel Martin, a writer and alter ego for Fowles, struggles throughout the novel with the concept of the happy ending and whether the late twentieth century world can accept it. He finally decides, as his own life reveals to him, that the happy ending is possible. The route to that decision forms the action of the novel. At the same time, Daniel’s story becomes Daniel Martin, the novel Daniel has wanted to write.

The quester has now come of age; in fact, he is middle-aged. His dilemma is like that of the questers of the earlier novels whose stories were of younger men confronting issues of choice and freedom. Once again, the protagonist is a man who seems to have everything. In this case, his “everything” is a successful life as a playwright and now screenwriter in Hollywood and a beautiful young actress for a lover. Yet the same longing and sense of incompleteness are within him, just as they are within Nicholas and Charles in Fowles’s previous novels. For Daniel, the call to the quest comes in the form of a phone call that returns him to the bedside of his former best friend, who is now dying. Returning to England, he is faced with the unfinished business of his life. With Anthony’s suicide, the way is cleared for him to become reunited with Jane, his true love and now Anthony’s widow. Daniel sees his opportunity to come alive again; Jane resists.

To know where they...

(The entire section is 617 words.)

Daniel Martin Summary (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Daniel Martin is, ostensibly, an autobiographical novel that portrays the life of a middle-aged British playwright who has betrayed himself and his craft by marrying the wrong woman and by selling out to Hollywood as a highly successful screenwriter. In a sense, the novel is the script, or reinscription, of Daniel Martin’s existence: Called to the deathbed of Anthony Mallory, a friend whom he has not seen in many years, Daniel is forced to confront a land and a past he had formerly forgotten and repressed. Through a variety of cinematic techniques grafted onto the writing of the novel (flashback, cuts, angled shots, rewrites), the reader sees Daniel as he sees himself—at times narcissistically, at other times with a seeming objectivity that compels him to refer to himself in the third person. In this way, Daniel recounts his Edenic existence as a minister’s son in the village of his youth, where he gains and loses his first love, Nancy Reed. He reconstructs his days at Oxford, particularly one day when, while boating, he and his fiancee’s sister, Jane, discover the body of a dead woman in the marshy reeds of the river. The trauma of the event leads to a declaration of love between Dan and Jane—and a onetime tryst—but immediately afterward, Jane insists that they marry the people to whom they are engaged and that their “affair” be buried forever. Dan’s marriage to Nell, while he struggles for success as a dramatist, is a disaster; his divorce from her, the reaction of Jane and Anthony Mallory to Dan’s play, The Victors, a thinly disguised rehearsal of their Oxford years, and an unsuccessful affair with a woman who, later, commits suicide, precipitate his departure from England, Nell, and...

(The entire section is 705 words.)