June 02, 2009


John Fowles: The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969)

I think, if a foreigner like me wants to learn about the Victorian era, one of the most important book is The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.

For me the absolutely protagonist of the novel is Charles Smithson, this 32 years old (or not even old, just only 32 years!) British gentleman living in the middle of the 19. Century. Maybe it’s better to say: the protagonist is the sense of duty of Smithon, the battle between duty and real feelings. And it’s not only about the engagement between him and the young and rich Ernestina. It’s about Charles whole life and the common mentality of this era.

And that’s why I’ve said, it’s an important book. Ok, it’s a pastiche, it wants to tell us a story ( a love story) about an unusual love in a quite rigid period of the European history, and because of this is a pastiche, it also makes jokes about its topic.

But I think, if we want to write about the past, about the life of the people in ancient eras, the most important is to point out the differences between past and present. The French Lietenant’s Woman tells us a story from a point of view of someone living in the middle of the 20. Century. Just 100 years, but so many differences. And what is really fantastic in this book, it points out that we maybe use the same words, but we mean different things. For example duty or piety had an other meaning those days, the now.

And when the meaning of the simple words is different, the whole life is different too.

(This post was written for The Decade Challenge 09 )

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