The French Lieutenant's Woman Chapters 21-23 Summary
by John Fowles

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Chapters 21-23 Summary

Sarah and Charles are still in the woods as Sarah continues the story about her relationship with the French lieutenant. About a month after Vargueness sailed away from England, she received a letter from him. In this letter, he explained to her that he was in an unhappy marriage. He maintained that he loved Sarah and wanted her to be with him, but Sarah says she knew he was lying. His letter did not hurt her as she had anticipated receiving such news would hurt her.

Sarah continues to insist that she needs to be shamed for her sins, though Charles presses her to leave Lyme and move to London for a fresh start. When she rejects this idea, Charles remembers what Dr. Grogan told him about some women who become lost in the habit of suffering.

During their conversation, Charles insists that Mrs. Tranter has already expressed a willingness to help Sarah. She is empathetic to Sarah’s plight, Charles says, and is able to help Sarah financially. Although Sarah initially refuses to consider this kind offer, she changes her mind and consents to meet with Mrs. Tranter to listen to her offer. Charles is thankful for two reasons. First, he feels relieved that he will no longer have to worry about becoming more involved with Sarah on his own. Second, with Mrs. Tranter involved, Charles will be able to keep tabs on any news about Sarah. He will also tell Mrs. Tranter that he will pay for any expenses that are incurred on Sarah’s behalf. Charles assumes Ernestina will not be happy with this arrangement, but he believes it is his duty to provide the support.

As they are about to leave the woods, Charles and Sarah hear laughter in the near distance. They are fearful of being discovered together in the woods. Fortunately for them, they are well hidden in the thick overgrowth and are not detected. When they walk ahead, they peer down the hill and find Sam and Mary flirting with one another. They have stopped in a spread of grass and are kissing. Sarah and Charles watch as if mesmerized by Sam and Mary’s actions. Their affection for one another arouses Sarah and Charles. At one point, when Sarah turns and smiles at Charles, as if sharing a secret, Charles is tempted to kiss her, but he does not. He then tells Sarah that they should never meet...

(The entire section is 626 words.)