Chapters 1-3 Summary

The French Lieutenant's Woman is set in England in the coastal town of Lyme Regis. (A similar setting is found in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, which similarity Fowles acknowledges at the beginning of this story.) The year is 1867; the social constraints of the Victorian age are a major influence on the characters. However, this is written as a Victorian novel with a twist, which will become more evident as the story progresses.

The novel opens with the three main characters: Charles Smithson; his betrothed, Ernestina Freeman; and the novel’s mysterious female protagonist, Sarah Woodruff, the so-called French lieutenant’s woman. The three characters are either standing on or walking along the...

(The entire section is 551 words.)