The French Lieutenant's Woman Analysis

John Fowles

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Lyme Regis

*Lyme Regis. Old Dorset town on the English Channel. Its manners are old-fashioned, just the place for a conventional and traditional courtship. The novel opens on the Cobb, an ancient breakwater along the shoreline. There Charles Smithson and his intended bride, Ernestina Freeman, see the French lieutenant’s woman, Sarah Woodruff, staring longingly out to sea, evidently trying to find something more than Lyme can provide. Charles lives at the White Lion Hotel (now the Royal Lion Hotel) on Broad Street. Ernestina stays with her aunt a few yards to the north on the west side of that same street. Sarah is a servant in a house located on higher ground not far away. In 1867, at the base of Broad Street on the sea’s edge stand the Assembly Rooms where Charles and Ernestina attend a concert. Dr. Grogan’s rooms are also close to the sea, but farther west near the Cobb.

*Ware Cliffs

*Ware Cliffs. Also known as the Undercliff, a mile-long slope caused by the erosion of the ancient vertical cliff face, located at Lyme’s boundary, stretching west from where the Cobb juts out into the sea. Because the slope tilts toward the Sun, its vegetation is lush and exotic, appropriate to the values that challenge Lyme’s (and Charles’s) conservatism. Here, in stone outcrops, Charles hunts for fossils. Here, too, Sarah walks. In this romantic and erotic place, several miles from conservative Lyme, they meet. Walking back from their first encounter, Charles stops at a farm. That farm, which still exists, is where John Fowles himself lived when he began writing this novel.

*Wiltshire

*Wiltshire. County in England between Dorset and London where Charles’s uncle has his estate, Wynsyatt,...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Historical Context

Existentialism
Existentialism is a school of philosophical and artistic attitudes that investigates the nature of being. Its...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Literary Style

Narrative
The novel’s narrative is postmodern in that it focuses on the self-conscious act of the author telling a story....

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Literary Techniques

Fowles playfully uses the techniques of the Victorian novelist in his so-called Victorian novel to advance the action and comment from a...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Social Concerns

John Fowles has always believed that the writer of serious fiction is committed to altering the society in which he lives. While not so...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Compare and Contrast

Late Nineteenth Century: A new term, the “New Woman” is used to describe the population of women who challenge traditional notions...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Topics for Further Study

Research the treatment of women in England in the 1860s. How does Fowles depictions of Ernestina and Sarah reflect and challenge Victorian...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Literary Precedents

Fowles believes that the literary precedent for all his fiction, as well as for fiction itself, is the Celtic romance, which focused on the...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Related Titles

No two titles are related stylistically in Fowles's fiction. In fact, it is difficult, often, to see the same authorial hand at work in the...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Adaptations

The French Lieutenant's Woman was made into a motion picture in 1981 with Fowles securing the right to veto anything of which he did...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman What Do I Read Next?

The Awakening (1899) is Kate Chopin’s masterful novel of a young woman who struggles to find self-knowledge and inevitably suffers...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Fowles, John, The Aristos: A Self-Portrait in Ideas, Little Brown, 1964.

—, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Signet, 1970.

Huffaker, Robert, “Chapter 4: The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” in John Fowles, Twayne’s English Authors Series Online, G. K. Hall, 1999; originally published as Twayne’s English Author Series, No. 292, Twayne Publishers, 1980.

Pifer, Ellen, “John Fowles,” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 14, British Novelists Since 1960, edited by Jay L. Halio, Gale Research, 1983, pp. 309–36.

Review of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, in Life, May 29, 1970, p. 55.

Review of...

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The French Lieutenant's Woman Bibliography

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Conradi, Peter. John Fowles. New York: Methuen, 1982. A general introduction to Fowles’s fiction. Brief discussion of the novel’s technique and themes.

Huffaker, Robert. John Fowles. Boston: Twayne, 1980. A general introduction to Fowles’s fiction. Focuses on the intrusive author, the novelist as character, and the alternative Victorian and modern endings of the book.

Olshen, Barry N. John Fowles. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1978. An introduction to Fowles’s fiction, focusing on the basic themes in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, including that of the breakup of Victorian culture...

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