The French Lieutenant's Woman Chapters 19-20 Summary
by John Fowles

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Chapters 19-20 Summary

Dr. Grogan, a friend of Ernestina’s aunt, has dinner with Charles, Ernestina, and Mrs. Tranter. Afterward, Dr. Grogan invites Charles to his home for a drink. While there, Charles recognizes the doctor’s open mind and intellectual curiosity, so he introduces the topic of Sarah. Dr. Grogan has been to visit Sarah and diagnoses her as suffering from melancholy. The more the two men talk, the less Charles understands Sarah’s condition. Dr. Grogan has concluded that Sarah is all but obsessed with her sadness and refuses to let it go. No matter what anyone would subscribe for her depression, Sarah would probably refuse help.

After a while, Charles changes the topic to scientific theories they share, particularly the theories of evolution as espoused by Darwin. In the mid-1800s, the theory of evolution is very controversial. Only a minority of scientists embraces the theory, so Charles is pleased to find that Dr. Grogan is open-minded enough to talk about it. By the end of the evening, Charles feels intellectually inspired. However, he is still completely confused about Sarah; he does not know what it is that he might do to help her or why she has singled him out for the task.

The time comes for Charles to meet Sarah in the woods. She is waiting for him. She watches him approach and leads him to place more concealed, where no one will walk past them. They seat themselves upon rocks. After many minutes of silence, Sarah begins her story.

She refers to the French lieutenant by name, Vargueness. He was severely injured when they found him. His skin was torn from his hip and down his leg. Sarah was impressed by Vargueness’s ability to never complain. He was strong and alluring. They conversed in French; she admits that she might have misunderstood things he said to her. But by the time he was healed, he had lured her into believing he cared for her.

When he left, he asked Sarah to sail back to France with him. He informed her that he would be staying at an inn and she should come to him within the week. At first Sarah refused to go, but her life was consumed with loneliness. She had recently lost her father to mental illness. She had also lost all her family possessions because her father went bankrupt. She worked for a couple that was in love and had two lovely children. She says that being a governess was very difficult for her because it was as if she were witness to...

(The entire section is 652 words.)