Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629
I could go on all night about the precautions. I used to go and sit in her room and work out what she could do to escape. I thought she might know about electricity, you never know with girls these days, so I always wore rubber heels, I never touched a switch without a good look first. I got a special incinerator to burn all her rubbish. I knew nothing of hers must ever leave the house. No laundry. There could always be something.
In the above quote, we see Frederick (Ferdinand) Clegg's neurosis on full display. His obsessive, anxiety-ridden perspective haunts the novel as he toys with the unfortunate Miranda Grey. Clegg's waking thoughts are primarily about Miranda, how he can keep her under his power and how he can get her to love him. While he worships Miranda, Clegg also obsesses about her possession of any secret knowledge that could threaten him. He is focused on maintaining dominance over Miranda, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
She often went on about how she hated class distinction, but she never took me in. It’s the way people speak that gives them away, not what they say. You only had to see her dainty ways to see how she was brought up. She wasn’t la-di-da, like many, but it was there all the same. You could see it when she got sarcastic and impatient with me because I couldn’t explain myself or I did things wrong. Stop thinking about class, she’d say. Like a rich man telling a poor man to stop thinking about money.
The above quote highlights one of the main themes of the novel: social structure is based on class distinctions. In the novel, Miranda comes from an upper-middle-class background, while Clegg is from the working class. Despite his supposed new-found wealth, he remains obsessively self-conscious about his image. Frederick also resents the fact that an unspoken gulf separates him from Miranda. To hide his inadequacies, Clegg refuses to acknowledge his real name, preferring to call himself Ferdinand instead.
To Clegg, the name "Ferdinand" makes him feel distinguished and relevant. However, it does nothing to hide Miranda's contempt for him.
You think I’m mad because of what I’ve done. I’m not mad. It’s just, well, I’ve got no one else. There’s never been anyone but you I’ve ever wanted to know.
It's clear that Clegg's neurosis does not render him incapable of lucid judgment. Here, he tries to justify his actions to Miranda, hoping that she will understand his twisted reasons for holding her captive. Throughout the novel, Clegg continually makes excuses for his behavior. He justifies his cruelty by referencing all the injustices he has suffered in his life.
No one would believe this situation. He keeps me absolutely prisoner. But in everything else I am mistress. I realize that he encourages it, it’s a means of keeping me from being as discontented as I should be. The same thing happened when I was lameducking Donald last spring. I began to feel he was mine, that I knew all about him. And I hated it when he went off to Italy like that, without telling me. Not because I was seriously in love with him, but because he was vaguely mine and didn’t get permission from me.
In the above quote, we hear Miranda's voice. She understands that she has a strange power over Clegg, yet she also realizes that this power is an illusion. Basically, she is only mistress of what Clegg allows. In other words, she is just as helpless with Clegg as she was with Donald. Miranda and Clegg's wills clash in the novel, but it is Clegg who eventually prevails.