Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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

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 A forty-five-year-old widow, Jane emerges from years of unfulfilled marriage to Anthony a withdrawn, confused, and defensive woman.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

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,...

(The entire section is 842 words.)

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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 entire section is 777 words.)