The French Lieutenant's Woman Chapters 50-52 Summary
by John Fowles

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Chapters 50-52 Summary

Charles has arrived at Mrs. Tranter’s house and is prepared to tell Ernestina his news. On his way over, he practiced his speech. When he is alone with Ernestina, he begins by saying he is not worthy of her. He tells her that though he had not consciously done so, he has recently realized that he was marrying her not for love but for her money. It was his visit with her father that brought this to light. She is beautiful and pleasant and would make a wonderful wife, but his affections for her are not love.

This news shocks Ernestina at first, but she is in a state of denial. Maybe the engagement could be saved. Maybe what Charles is saying is not as serious as she had thought. She tells him that she can change. She knows that she is inexperienced in life, that she sometimes grates on his nerves with her childish manner, and that she does not always understand him and his needs—but she can learn. She asks him to give her a chance. Charles does not offer her this chance. After a while, Ernestina has an intuitive feeling that there must be something more affecting his change of heart. She believes that Charles is hiding something from her. She announces this belief to him.

Charles wanted to avoid mentioning his relationship with Sarah, but Ernestina demands a more thorough explanation. He offers her a half-truth and says that while in London, he chanced upon a woman with whom he had a previous relationship. He had thought his feelings for her were finished. However, upon meeting her, he discovered that he was still very much attracted to her. This attraction made him realize that he was not in love with Ernestina.

At this news, Ernestina becomes angry. She tells Charles he has broken his promise to her, so her father will ruin his name and his friends will drive him out of England. Then she tells him to leave. When she does this, she falls to the floor as if fainting. Charles reads her motions as inauthentic, as if she were putting on a performance. He leaves the room but calls to Mary and insists that Mary stay with Ernestina until Dr. Grogan arrives. Charles will contact the doctor to make sure he stops in to see to Ernestina’s welfare.

When Dr. Grogan sees Charles and hears what has happened, he assumes correctly that his actions have something to do with Sarah. Charles does not answer any of Grogan’s questions, but he insists that Grogan not mention Sarah’s name. Charles says that Ernestina knows there is another woman, but she does not and should not know the...

(The entire section is 695 words.)