“The Collector” by John Fowles is the
story of a lonely, isolated young man named Frederick Clegg who had an
obsession over a girl named Miranda Grey. Frederick spends time collecting butterflies
in jars and watching them die. Seeing the beautiful Miranda drives him to
transition from collecting butterflies to wanting to ‘collect’ her. He would admire
her from afar without being seen. He could only watch from a distance and was
unable to communicate with her because he was socially awkward.
Miranda moved to London and his obsession
seemed to have died down till he saw her when he moved to London. While in
London, he began to fantasize about kidnapping Miranda as he was obsessed and
wanted to be with her but unable to make contact. He buys an isolated house in the country that
would fit in with his plan for hiding her. His hope was that if he keeps her
captive long enough, she will eventually grow to love him. The purchase of the
house further aided his preoccupation about abducting Miranda.
The first part of the novel is
written from Clegg’s point of view, explaining to the reader how he followed
her around for weeks, determining her whereabouts almost on an hourly basis and
explains how he kidnapped her. He uses chloroform to drug her and locks her in
the cellar. He is convinced that she will grow to love him after some time.
When she wakes up and realizes what transpired, he promises to let her ago after
The second part of the novel is in
the form of a diary, written from Miranda’s viewpoint. It is comprised of diary
entries and remembrances of a past life. She misses her friends, school and her
freedom. She suspects Clegg has sexual motives for kidnapping her but as time
goes on, she realizes this is not the case and begins to feel pity for him. She
tries to escape a few times but is stopped by Clegg. She starts to fantasize
about killing Clegg but realizes that make her no better than him.
Part three of the novel brings us
back to Clegg’s viewpoint. Miranda develops a cold which leads to most likely
pneumonia. He refuses to get a doctor for fear of being discovered and her
condition worsens. Miranda dies and Clegg contemplates committing suicide.
However in part four, he has a change
of heart. He finds Miranda’s diary and discovers that she felt nothing but
hatred towards him. He buries her and sets his sights on a new victim.
The author, John Fowles, shows us Clegg’s
obsessive personality which is displayed through his actions. “I worked for a
month or more getting my plans ready. I was alone all the time; not having any
real friend was lucky.” Fowles demonstrates how organized and prepared Clegg
was. He was meticulous and thorough in his plan, ensuring no one came to the
house or bothered him while he worked on the house. “Then the vicar came from
the village came and I had to be rude with him. I said I was a Nonconformist, I
wanted nothing to do with the village,”
Another way Fowles describes the obsessive
behavior, is when Clegg finds Miranda’s diary after she died. Once again,
Clegg’s attention to detail was shown by how he planned Miranda’s burial “(went
down and got her in the box I had made and outside). I don’t think many could
have done it. I did it scientific. I planned what had to be done and ignored my
Clegg’s desire to collect and
preserve butterflies and then Miranda is the central theme. The author shows
how Clegg and Miranda’s relationship evolved and changed throughout the novel. His
fascination for her grew in his head. “I used to see her everyday sometimes,
because her house was right opposite the Town Hall…I used to have daydreams
about her, I used to think of stories where I met her, did things she admired,
married her and all that”. While Clegg felt love for her, Miranda felt hatred
and bitterness. “She stood a moment, then she suddenly jumped at me across the
face…. There was real hatred in her looks.” Clegg was convinced that Miranda
might still fall in love with him. He believed he was her host and not her
captor and could not understand why she was so ungrateful. “I want you to be my
guest. ‘Your guest!” The exclamation mark further underlines the disgust felt
by Miranda at the thought of being his guest.
He was blind to her hatred of him and held on hoping
she would love him eventually. He tried to find common ground with her and also
tried giving her his belongings and money to no avail. He was determined to
have her be the perfect wife. Miranda fought it. He asked her to marry him but
she then took advantage of his susceptibility by trying to escape once again,
only this time Clegg was ready and quickly detained her using chloroform and
took her back to her room. While Miranda was lying down on the bed unconscious,
Clegg decided to take pictures of her “This was my chance I had been waiting
for.” this quote shows the deep seated obsession he had for her.
In conclusion, the author, John Fowles, delves in to
the psychological obsessive personality of Frederick Clegg and details the
struggle between captor and victim.