The Collector by John Fowles
Published by Vintage on October 21st 1998 (first published 1963)
Genres: Classics, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mystery
Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.
’I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful. He knows that part of my beauty is being alive, but it’s the dead me he wants. He wants me living-but-dead.’
The Collector is the story of Frederick Clegg, an extremely odd and lonely man who also collects butterflies. He’s obsessed with a middle-class art student named Miranda Grey and as he continues admiring her from a distance a plan slowly starts developing in his mind that he would like to have her; like one of his butterflies. He makes preparations by buying a house out in the country, purchasing assorted objects and things he knows she will need, convinced that if he can only capture her and keep her that she will slowly grow to love him.
The first part of the novel was told from Frederick’s point of view and it was rather alarming at his thought process. In his mind, there is nothing morally wrong with what he intends to do (and what he actually ends up doing). He recognizes that Miranda is a human being as he takes care of her and provides her everything a human would possibly need, but she’s inevitably nothing more than an object or a collectible item to him. He doesn’t mean to harm her at first; however, it’s evident that as time progresses, he enjoys having power over her and almost finds humor in her attempts to escape.
The second part of the novel was told from Miranda’s point of view through diary entries that she hides underneath her mattress. She writes about G.P. often, a man she met and who ended up having a huge impact on her thoughts and ideals. To Miranda, G.P. was everything she wanted to be and his opinions and thoughts became a set of ‘rules’ for her. At first I had a hard time determining the relevancy of these recollections, but it essentially just became another disturbing piece of the story to see how influential G.P. and his ‘rules’ really were to Miranda.
’He’s made me believe them; it’s the thought of him that makes me feel guilty when I break the rules.’
It was almost expected, however still just as shocking when it becomes glaringly obvious that Miranda slowly begins to take pity on her captor. She starts feeling bad for the harsh things she says to him and she also unconsciously prevents herself from doing him excessive harm during an escape attempt as she feels that if she does she’s descending to his level…It was as if she had simply accepted her situation, and that was the most heartbreaking part.
’And yes, he had more dignity than I did then and I felt small, mean. Always sneering at him, jabbing him, hating him and showing it. It was funny, we sat in silence facing each other and I had a feeling I’ve had once or twice before, of the most peculiar closeness to him—not love or attraction or sympathy in any way. But linked destiny. Like being shipwrecked on an island—a raft—together. In every way not wanting to be together. But together.’
The third and fourth parts of the novel were the most disturbing parts of the entire book. Suffice it to say, it gave me goosebumps. It was not the ending I had anticipated, but I still felt that the author was successful in creating the everlasting effect I believe he intended. Obviously, you understand the severity of Ferdinand’s actions; however, not until the end do you fully understand just how abnormal he really is. This was certainly not a happy book, but one that I’m glad to have read and one that I will likely not forget.