Frederick Clegg, a government clerk in his middle twenties, wins seventy-three thousand pounds in the football pools, which enables him to act out his secret fantasy. Just as he collected butterflies in the past, he stalks and kidnaps Miranda Grey, an art student in her early twenties who is studying at the Slade School in London. Clegg recently purchased an expensive home in the Sussex countryside, with an underground room that he secured and prepared for his kidnapped guest, as he calls her.
When Miranda is chloroformed and taken to Clegg’s house, she discovers that he made extensive preparations for her, including the purchase of clothing and other items. In the beginning he treats her deferentially, serving her the food she wishes, and brings her anything she desires. It quickly becomes clear to Miranda that, although Clegg apparently is not interested in sex or violence, he does not plan to allow her to leave. The two, of approximately the same age but from very different worlds, become acquainted with each other.
Clegg, of working-class origin, resents his lower social position and did not have access to the privileged, artistic world that Miranda inhabited. In addition, his mental problems become more pronounced as his conversations with Miranda continue, just as her idealism and naïveté are revealed. Her naïveté is particularly evident when she believes he will make good on his promise to release her at the end of four weeks, for Clegg has no intention of doing this.
During the four weeks, more differences between the two emerge, particularly between her artistic, politically liberal worldview and Clegg’s disturbed, repressed mind. In his spare time, Clegg is a butterfly collector who kills and photographs his collections, activities that Miranda abhors. She makes clear her disgust with his narrowness and lack of culture and usually criticizes him sharply. Clegg accepts her verbal abuse and continues to defer to her wishes, telling her he abducted her because he is in love...
(The entire section is 827 words.)