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The style and structure of The Collector

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The style and structure of the novel identify Clegg’s strategies for controlling Miranda as not just physical but linguistic as well. In this way they point beyond themselves to that more pervasive methodology of authorial control which further restricts Miranda in the text.

The Collector dramatizes the clash between a socially entrenched, wealthy middle class and an unprivileged but upwardly mobile working or lower middle class, dubbed “the New People” in the book.

Fowles’s interest in the flexibility of fictional form is further evidenced here in his reversal of the terms of class struggle as it usually appears in “proletarian” fiction.

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«The style and structure of The Collector»

The style and structure of the novel identify Clegg’s strategies for controlling Miranda as not just physical but linguistic as well. In this way they point beyond themselves to that more pervasive methodology of authorial control which further restricts Miranda in the text.

The Collector dramatizes the clash between a socially entrenched, wealthy middle class and an unprivileged but upwardly mobile working or lower middle class, dubbed “the New People” in the book.

Fowles’s interest in the flexibility of fictional form is further evidenced here in his reversal of the terms of class struggle as it usually appears in “proletarian” fiction.

Miranda expresses Fowles’s own sentiments when she says of Clegg: “He’s a collector. That’s the great dead thing in him” (161).

Observing Clegg’s treasures, with their “little wings stretched out all at the same angle,” Miranda identifies with them: “poor dead butterflies, my fellow-victims” (127). The sustained comparison between woman and butterfly, which parallels that between man and collector in the novel, provides the terms for Clegg’s initial idealization of Miranda:

Seeing her always made me feel like I was catching a rarity, going up to it very careful, heart-in-mouth as they say. A Pale Clouded Yellow, for instance. I always thought of her like that, I mean words like elusive and sporadic, and very refined – not like the other ones, even the pretty ones. More for the real connoiseur. (9)

Clegg’s language here associates the adored woman with the humanly unattainable perfection suggest4ed by the butterfly beauty. Thus when he presents Miranda in his narrative as a butterfly, Clegg is celebrating not only her beauty, but her vulnerability to capture as well. Miranda’s sinister admirer inscribes her as both goddess and insect, at once superhuman and subhuman. Both extremes ignore her human reality. Just as Clegg’s entomological activities provide him with the imagistic and linguistic means to idolize Miranda, so the aesthetic equivalent of collecting in the book, photography, provides him with the literal means to degrade her. The relationship between Miranda and Clegg culminates in a photographic “rape” where the sexual and possessive meanings of the word “take” (and, by association, of “have”) operate interchangeably to reveal the hatred behind Clegg’s “love”.

She drew pictures and I looked after my collection (in my dreams). It was always she loving me and my collection, drawing and colouring them; working together in a beautiful modern house in a big room with one of those huge glass windows; meeting there the Bug Section, where instead of saying almost nothing in case I made mistakes we were the popular host and hostess. (10)

In the above extract, grammatical elisions reveal Clegg’s deepest perceptions: his view of Miranda as a function of himself is shown here as a failure to discriminate between them in language. So the word “working,” preceded by no explicit clarifying pronoun, draws together Clegg, Miranda, and the butterfly collection into a wilfully homogenized whole. Later in the passage he shifts illogically from the mistake-making “I” to the hostly “we,” whose joint accomplishments compensate for his individual inadequacy. Clegg’s language has a disconcerting tendency to consume or absorb Miranda’s subjectivity, as if writing about her were yet another way of appropriating her being.

Clegg’s memoir further enacts his obsession with control stylistically by keeping monotonously to the simple present tense and so treating the experience it describes as concluded, contained, and effectively dead. For Clegg, language not only facilitates appropriation, it acts as a kind of embalming fluid, artificially preserving a past incapable of touching or altering him. Through language Clegg reifies the past as efficiently as he reifies Miranda, and this disengagement from historical time precludes any awareness of futurity. Instead, his narrative denies progress and growth in favour of cyclical recurrence. The Collector ends with Clegg quietly preparing for his next “guest”: “I have not made up my mind about Marian (another M! I heard the supervisor call her name). This time it won’t be love, it would just be for the interest of the thing and to compare them [.]... Of course I would make it clear from the start who’s boss and what l expect” (283).

These details locate Miranda retrospectively in a projected sequence of victims, as Clegg shifts effortlessly from the individual to the generic woman, from his one-and-only to her replacement. His “guests” have, like their names, become almost interchangeable. At the end of the novel, then, Clegg is planning not action but re-enactment, the compulsive remaking of a situation and an erotic paradigm which he cannot escape. It is his love of stasis and his quest to discover and preserve it within time that finally imprison the jailer, while assimilating him into the realm of myth and folklore as the typological equivalent of Bluebeard. (The direct inspiration for the novel was a performance of Bartok’s opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, which Fowles saw in the 1950s. He was struck by “the symbolism of the man imprisoning women underground”; in Newquist, p. 219. Fowles’s essay on Hardy considers the desire for absolute isolation with the beloved woman as an aspect of the male author’s creative drive.) In The Collector, narrative is thus at once mimetic and metaphoric: it creates the very closed circle which it describes and, as the story prepares to turn back on itself at the end. The idea of control is also centralized structurally through the placement of the novel’s three chapters: Clegg’s monologue literally contains and envelops Miranda’s in a mimetic recapitulation of their situation.

Once again, Clegg’s narrative strategies suggest an effort to appropriate and control Miranda which his memoir both depicts and enacts. The narrative technique further seeks to suppress her individuality, not only by incorporating her fragmented image into Clegg’s obscene pictorial text, but by encoding her in his written text as a kind of imminently replaceable generic woman. This prepares us for the identical but less obtrusive use that Fowles’s own fictions make of such strategies.

It should be noted, however, that the implied acknowledgement of the author as almost inevitably a kind of collector is partially offset by the novel’s attempt to present Miranda as a narrator who pursues strategies other than Clegg’s, and Paston as an artist who at least grasps the need to respect human integrity. It seems that, in Miranda’s diary, Fowles tries to delineate narrative principles different from Clegg’s and, by implicitly aligning himself with these (if not always with Miranda herself), to explore more positive and vital creative possibilities. But here the ambiguous depiction of G.P. acts indirectly to control Miranda and curtail her creativity in ways which reaffirm that connection between artist and collector which the diary seems designed to undermine. Miranda rather than Ciegg introduces Fowles’s own philosophical categories of the Few and the Many: she feels herself one of a “band of people . . . [t]he Few,” who must stand against the corrupting vulgarity of “all the rest” (208). She also expresses Fowles’s liberal political beliefs in her anti-nuclear protesting, and his critical views on contemporary literature in her negative comments on Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (230).

In Miranda and Clegg, the extrovert clashes with the solipsist, and although her hopes for a “brave new world” are overwhelmed her experience of a “sick” one (245), the expansiveness of her perspective is intended as life-enhancing: “This is the worst possible time in history to die. Space-travel, science, the whole world waking up and stretching itself. A new age is beginning. I know it’s dangerous. But it’s wonderful to be alive in it. I love, I adore, my age” (234, emphasis in original).

Miranda’s vitality is expressed in literary terms by the thematic eclecticism of her narrative and its fluidity of style. Unlike Clegg, she does not seal off experience into compartments: she uses both past and present tenses, thinks often about the future, and even switches genres within her chosen diary form. She sometimes renders conversation as drama (132—36, 182—84), writes letter to her sister (124) tells Clegg fairy-stories (187) and in her last entries lapses into free verses (258-60). Neither does Miranda share Clegg’s obsession with closure; her narrative ends with death still only a possibility and it is left to Clegg to “finish off” Miranda both literally and linguistically. Thus her cry — “Oh God oh God do not let me die. / God do not let me die. / Do not let me die” (260)—is contrasted with the finality of Clegg’s: “She is in the box I made, under the apple trees. It took me three days to dig the hole.... I don’t think many could have done it. I did it scientific.” (282).

Miranda’s diary’s intense preoccupation with Paston and its tendency to quote him so much Miranda but her mentor who is associated with authoritative creativity in the book. Thus Miranda’s views on photography are originally Paston’s (159), and it is he who sees art as concerned with “essences” (131) and the transcending of personality in its exploration of “the furthest limits of ... self” (159). Neither can Miranda’s many references to Paston be seen as her effective textualization of him – a way of possessing him by appropriating his wisdom. Miranda never adopts a personal perspective of her own on Paston’s opinions; she is basically unquestioning of his views on life and art, and her commitment to G.P. makes her more passive mouth-piece than a creative and independent reworker of his intellectual or artistic products.

Clearly Miranda is no more in control of all the implications of her narrative than Clegg is of his. As a narrator, she is not only intellectually and artistically dependent on G.P. in her idealization of him; she too partakes in certain ways of the creative dubiety of Clegg himself. Some of the novel’s darkness is thus generated by Miranda, ‘both in her uncritical acceptance of G.P.’s sometimes “trite existential maxims” and in her unintended presentation of him as a sort of death’s head at the feast: “And the face is too broad. Battered, worn; battered and worn and pitted into a bit of a mask” (171).

Not apparently grasping the implications of the image, she makes no comment on it, but it constitutes a mise en abyme of one of the novel’s themes: the destructive relationship between sex and power, and the inevitable involvement (as Fowles sees it) of a controlling and predatory male erotic dynamic in the production of art. This image makes clear that the difference between Paston and Clegg is more one of degree than of kind, for it draws together the two whom Miranda perceives as so different and reveals the level on which they are united. Intellectually irreconcilable, Paston and Clegg are identical in their male perception of the desired woman as actual or potential victim.

Because of the conventional assumption in the diary form that the writer is the only reader (or, as Miranda says, that she is “talking to herself”), we must assume that we are getting a very private glimpse into the innermost thoughts and feelings of the diarist. We are thus ironically required to imagine ourselves in an analogous role to Clegg’s, the role of the voyeur, reading what was never intended for us to read, and gaining vicarious enjoyment from this experience.




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Предмет: Английский язык

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The style and structure of The Collector

Автор: Зейтуллаев Осман Люманович

Дата: 23.01.2019

Номер свидетельства: 496786

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