The French Lieutenant's Woman Chapters 17-18 Summary
by John Fowles

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Chapters 17-18 Summary

Charles is at a concert with Ernestina and cannot quite understand why his mind continues to wander toward Sarah. He begins to compare the two women. Ernestina is younger and less experienced as well as less deep in her thoughts. She is also a bit spoiled and selfish, Charles finds, but he could have expected nothing else from the only child of rich parents. Then he questions if Ernestina is any different from any other rich girl and wonders if it is only her money and good looks that attract him. Sarah, on the other hand, is a mystery to him, and he spends much time trying to figure her out. Although she does not have money and is not as commonly pretty as Ernestina is, Charles finds himself much more attracted to her.

While Charles is bored at the concert and wishing he were somewhere else, his servant, Sam, is sitting in the kitchen at Mrs. Tranter’s house and holding Mary’s hand. Whereas Charles is questioning his feelings for Ernestina and wondering why he is about to marry her, Sam is very much taken with Mary. Mary understands Sam and brings out the best in him. She does not dress as finely as have some other women he has pursued, but she always is interested in what Sam says. She wants to know about his dreams for the future. Mary is also pleased to hear Sam talk about how fine she would look in London, dressed in the fashions of the day. When Mary questions if she could fit in with the women of London, Sam assures her that she would not have any trouble at all.

A few days later, Charles find himself again bored and sets off for a walk in the woods. He tells himself that he will not look for Sarah; his main goal is to find fossils. For a while this is all he does, but he does not find anything worth saving. However, while engrossed in his search, he is startled by the sound of falling pebbles from the hillside above him. When he looks up, he sees Sarah and feels she must have followed him. Sarah admits that she has. She has brought him two fossils she has found. Charles examines them and finds them to be excellent specimens and thanks her. He senses that she did not come solely to give him fossils and asks her...

(The entire section is 616 words.)