The French Lieutenant's Woman Chapters 34-36 Summary

John Fowles

Chapters 34-36 Summary

Charles visits Mrs. Tranter later that morning. Ernestina is slightly angry with him because he had a long, private talk with her aunt before coming to see her. She is not included in the discussion and is not told the subject of their talk. Then when he finally comes to her, Charles does not comment on her dress or her hair, although she had taken great care to make it look nice just for him. She is even more disturbed when Charles tells her that he must leave immediately for London. She suggests that he have his accountant handle his affairs but he says his business must be conducted in person. Besides, Charles tells her, he must also go visit her father and report the change in his financial status now that his uncle might disinherit him.

Ernestina complains about the visit to her father, too, and teases Charles that his financial status should not affect their marriage. She is certain that his money will make no difference to her father. But Charles says that is beside the point; it is a social convention that he must perform. He does not want her father to think that he is keeping anything from him, especially because now Ernestina will be bringing more money to the marriage than Charles will.

When he finally attempts to leave her, Ernestina makes Charles understand that she is expecting him to kiss her. But Charles cannot do this—he had just kissed Sarah a mere hour or so before this and feels he cannot kiss two women in the same day. However, Charles is sexually aroused by Ernestina, maybe for the first time, when she leans against him. This surprises him. It is not the same feeling he had with Sarah, but it is definitely a physical response he had not intended.

The narrator then provides a comparison between the sexual views of the Victorian Age and the author’s contemporary timeframe (1960s). He explores which society experienced more sexual suppression. Outwardly, he concludes, the Victorian Age was more restricted sexually. However, he points out that there were far more brothels, prostitutes, and marital infidelities in the late nineteenth century than there were in the 1960s. He also states that in some ways, because the people of the Victorian Age were less apt to talk about sex or even think about it, sexual relationships might have been more enjoyable than they were in the age of sexual freedom in the sixties. Having little discussion about sex might have made it much more alluring.

This section concludes with a visit to the rooms Sarah has rented in Exeter. She has found a very modest abode and has used some of the money Charles has given her to buy a few gifts for herself: a teapot, a shawl, and a nightgown, for example. She enjoys her new freedom and realizes that this is the first vacation she has ever had.