Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 842
Daniel (Dan) Martin
Daniel (Dan) Martin, a British playwright turned Hollywood screenwriter. Dan is a forty-five-year-old man in emotional and artistic exile. Reared as a vicar’s son in Devon and educated at the University of Oxford, Dan is a comfortable atheist, a tentative socialist, and a skilled dialogue technician. He sees life through the distorting and limiting eyes of a filmmaker, objectifying or reinventing reality to fit his needs. Accordingly, he can be quick and clever (and often evasive and patronizing) in real emotional situations; after a failed marriage, he has had numerous satisfying but double-edged romances. He is very self-aware and senses his alienation and the echoes of his past. In going to the deathbed of his estranged friend Anthony, Dan faces that past (what Anthony, Jane, Nell, and he meant to one another) and rediscovers lost honesty and passion, his love of nature, and his belief in meaningful art. In subsequent travels in England and the Middle East, he falls back in love with Jane, the one with whom he suspects he should have spent his life.
Jane Mallory, Dan’s former sister-in-law. A forty-five-year-old widow, Jane emerges from years of unfulfilled marriage to Anthony a withdrawn, confused, and defensive woman. She is intelligent, well-spoken, and newly interested in Marxism and sociopolitical reform, but these sentiments cloak the internal battle to accept responsibility for the subterfuges of the past and to find a new direction in life. Jane is a deeply intuitive woman, responsive less to logic than to “right feeling” and as expressive in silence as in words. By accepting Dan’s concern and, ultimately, his love, she becomes strong, open, and trusting once again.
Jenny McNeil, Dan’s girlfriend. Jenny is a twenty-five-year-old British actress learning the ways of Hollywood. She is a shrewd and challenging woman who loves both Dan and the games and repartee their relationship entails. Modern and independent, with a sense of perspective and humor, Jenny turns bitter and sardonic when Dan ends their relationship.
Caroline (Caro) Martin
Caroline (Caro) Martin, Dan and Nell’s twenty-two-year-old daughter. Caro is a sensible, straightforward young woman who, though less sophisticated than she seems, is ready for the challenges of mature womanhood. She feels awkward with Dan but treasures the chance to grow closer; she has mixed feelings toward Nell and needs to establish her independence. She knows that her affair with her boss, Barney, could hurt her deeply, but she is willing to accept all risks and lessons.
Anthony Mallory, Dan’s former best friend. Anthony is a brilliant philosopher and academic who faces death from cancer at the age of forty-five. A dogmatic Catholic, he broke with Dan years before over a play Dan wrote but has since come to a more sober, generous, and responsible view of life. After settling his conscience in a final interview with Dan about their shared history and his widow Jane’s future, Anthony abruptly and mystifyingly takes his own life.
Nell Randall, Jane’s sister and Dan’s former wife. Nell, forty-four years old and happily remarried, is a woman of leisure and society. At base insecure, she thrives on propriety and decorum and needs to feel involved and in control of those around her.
Barney Dillon, an acquaintance of Dan from Oxford, now Caro’s boss and lover. Barney is a British television personality who has grown bored with his marriage, cynical about his Fleet Street milieu, and disillusioned with his own transparent achievements.
Andrew Randall, another of Dan’s Oxford acquaintances, now Nell’s husband. Andrew is a supercilious aristocrat whose naturally hearty manner is often a welcome relief in tense family situations.
Rosamund (Roz) Mallory
Rosamund (Roz) Mallory, Anthony and Jane’s older daughter. Roz, a twenty-three-year-old research assistant with the British Broadcasting Corporation, is a self-possessed, levelheaded, compassionate, and mature young woman.
Paul Mallory, Anthony and Jane’s son, a withdrawn and taciturn schoolboy whose only apparent passion is for English field systems.
Nancy Reed, Dan’s first love. Nancy is a chubby, blue-eyed Devon farm girl who loves adventure and delights in secret pleasures with Dan. Later, she reappears as a stout matron.
Abe Nathan, an older Jewish man, apparently lugubrious and obscene but essentially wise and bighearted. He is a veteran of the film industry. He and his wife, Mildred, lend Dan and Jenny their guest cottage in Los Angeles.
Mildred Nathan, his quietly supportive wife.
Phoebe, the simple, provincial old couple who inhabit and maintain Thorncombe, Dan’s Devon farmhouse retreat.
Parson Martin, Dan’s father, a rigid and humorless country vicar who loved gardening and opposed the display of emotion.
Millie Martin, Dan’s simple, old-fashioned unmarried aunt and surrogate mother.
Professor Kirnberger, a brilliant, sensitive German Egyptologist whom Dan and Jane befriend on their Nile cruise.
Jimmy Assad, Dan’s urbane Egyptian film contact and guide.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 777
A summary of Daniel Martin would seem to indicate that it is a romantic novel portraying a successful self-discovery and the rediscovery of lost love. Yet it is far from this—or rather, it is a questioning parody of that version of romanticism which places the self, the individual ego, at the center of the universe. The protagonist of John Fowles’s novel is, arguably, the only character in the novel, since all else seems to be focused upon the discovery of the self in its relation to the other, represented by Jane. Yet “character” or “self” in any traditional sense is precisely what is at issue in a novel in which the final lines read:That evening, in Oxford, leaning beside Jane in her kitchen while she cooked supper for them, Dan told her with a suitable irony that at least he had found a last sentence for the novel he was never going to write. She laughed at such flagrant Irishry; which is perhaps why, in the end, and in the knowledge that Dan’s novel can never be read, lies eternally in the future, his ill-conceived ghost has made that impossible last his own impossible first.
This last sentence is purposefully convoluted: It suggests that Daniel’s novel (the one the reader has supposedly been reading) has never been written, that the self-portrayal he has been contemplating remains unfinished, ghostly, and that the “last” upon which he has been stitching his identity is not located in narrative time but in some impossible “before” that precedes time, self, and language. Characteristically, for Fowles, Daniel Martin is filled with allusions to masks and roles; the merging of reality and illusion, or past and present is always at issue, so that the “self” is deeply questioned in regard to its makeup and presence. Is one always engaged in playing some role or other, and is there any authentic, single self behind the social masks one assumes? Is the “I” nothing more than a syntactic element, a prescripted device, a convenient fiction that allows one to forget to what extent the seemingly free individual is imprisoned by his personal history and the larger History within which he is situated? These questions emerge from a work containing an author/protagonist (or the ghost of an author) who conducts an intense self-scrutiny within the framework of a novel that keeps reminding the reader that he is only reading a script, watching the evolution of characters in a fiction.
While Dan attempts to relocate himself within a past—the fragments of which he recollects as the novel progresses—he also attempts to “resurrect” those aspects of Jane which have been subsumed in her tedious, cerebral marriage to Anthony. For Dan (indeed, this may be seen as a sign of his egotism), Jane is more of a philosophical concept or an obstacle than she is a person. She is the “other” to which he is magnetically attracted; she is all that is “not-Dan.” Indeed, the remaining major characters are drawn into the dialectic of self and other figured by the relation between Dan and Jane: Either they are cast within those roles which Dan wishes to assign them (he is, in fact, producer, director, writer, and hero of his own screenplay) or they are replaced, forgotten, turned away from the set. Jane refuses to be cast into a role, yet Dan finds, in the end, that to place or to replace her would be to murder a vital, unseen part of himself. On the surface, their reunion might be seen as Dan’s acceptance of “otherness” preliminary to his own self-discovery. Yet this reunion takes place in a strange manner: Fowles will not let the reader forget that Dan and Jane are characters in a fiction, and at that (if the last lines of the novel are to be believed), characters in an unwritten novel. In the Palmyra chapters, against an apocalyptic background representing the modern condition, Jane is seen—almost in the pose of the classic Victorian heroine, quiet, head bowed—submitting to Dan’s insistence that they live the remainder of their lives together, despite her earlier decision to remain alone. In short, Fowles insists on complicating, rather than resolving, the issues surrounding the discovery of self and other. Novelistic endings often imply that this process is dialectical, historical, closed. The ending of Daniel Martin suggests that, while “self” and “other” may be roles that can be assigned to characters in a fiction, they are also open-ended positions which individuals occupy at one time or another, often simultaneously, in the numerous social relationships in which one engages in a lifetime.