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The Search For Selfhood In John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman

Posted on:2008-06-26Degree:MasterType:Thesis
Country:ChinaCandidate:W MengFull Text:PDF
GTID:2155360212994678Subject:English Language and Literature
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John Fowles is one of the most famous postmodernist writers in Britain. As the representative works of Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman is an excellent postmodernist fiction, which wins him tremendous popularity after its publication. The novel tells a story happening in the Victorian Age in which Sarah and Charles have succeeded in achieving their individual freedom by shaking off social restrictions.The French existentialism has a profound influence on John Fowles. During his Oxford years, Fowles read a lot about French existentialists especially Jean-Paul Satre. However, Fowles has his own view of freedom which is shaped due to his life experiences in his childhood and youth, such as the patriarchal system in his family, the punishment experienced in his boarding school and the bleak European economy after WWII. Fowles does not believe in absolute human freedom and proposes his "relative freedom" in his The Aristos. Fowles thinks that we are hemmed in by the social realities, so freedom exists relatively. Besides, he holds that freedom is part of the social justice and equality and the pursuit of freedom is a process of constant change and dynamic development. The French Lieutenant's Woman is just such a good example to illustrate Fowles's view of freedom, which can be shown from Sarah and Charles's courageous pursuit of freedom.The French Lieutenant's Woman was published in 1969 and it is an important novel of postmodernism. One important reason for its success lies in Fowles's use of postmodernistic writing techniques, such as parody, open endings and intertextuality. As a novelist of postmodernism, Fowles breaks away from traditional forms of narration and deploys various writing techniques of postmodernism. This novel is a good example to illustrate his postmodernist skills.The main purpose of this study is to illustrate the theme of search for selfhood in John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman. In order to demonstrate the quest motif, Sarah and Charles's quest for selfhood is examined in detail to show their endeavor to find their "True Self in the Victorian society.The thesis consists of three chapters. The first chapter mainly focuses on the gist of the novel as well as its thematic concerns. Besides, it provides the life experiences of John Fowles and his philosophical thoughts. His philosophical thoughts include his view of writing and his view of freedom especially the influence of existentialism upon Fowles.The second chapter analyzes the frustration and aspiration for freedom of Sarah the protagonist and Charles the antagonist as well as their self-alienation and isolation in the novel. The first part is the frustration and aspiration for freedom of Sarah and Charles. With humiliating birth and low status, Sarah has intellectual knowledge and wisdom, which makes her quite different from others in that time. Being a fallen woman in other people's eyes, Sarah is disregarded and scorned by people in the town. Charles breaks the engagement with Ernestina and also loses the inheritance from his Uncle. Thus he loses his fame and property and becomes an outcast finally. In the second part it mainly focuses on the character's self-alienation and isolation. Sarah has received the education that raises her above her own social position and she has the ability to see through the pretense of people. All this makes Sarah unfit for her age and she suffers a lot from this isolation. Sarah's dissatisfaction with the Victorian society lies in her intelligence and her modern consciousness of independence and emancipation.The third chapter attempts to examine the search for selfhood of Sarah and Charles through their self-construction and analyze Fowles's narrative techniques in the novel including intertextuality, the ironic first-person narrator and open-endedness. The search for selfhood or self-realization is a major theme in Fowles's fiction. Self-construction is an important means to achieve one's individual freedom. Mystification is an important way of Sarah's mystification. Sarah creates two identities, that is, the images of the fallen woman and the New Woman. Charles's reconstruction is achieved with Sarah's education and guide. Besides, John Fowles not only focuses on the characters' freedom of self-construction, but also emphasizes the freedom of writing, that is, the freedom of narration, such as the use of intertextuality, open-endedness and the first-person narrator. This indicates Fowles's theory of existential freedom in literary creation.Conclusion gives a general summary of this thesis and emphasizes that the quest for selfhood is a significant way to embody Fowles's philosophy.The novel tends to draw the attention of the critics for its experimental writing techniques and writing styles. However, what attracts me most is the theme of existential freedom of the novel, which is shown by Sarah and Charles's search for selfhood in the novel. Therefore, this thesis is mainly to discuss the discovery of the true self of Sarah and Charles and illustrate Fowles's view of freedom.
Keywords/Search Tags:selfhood, John Fowles, postmodernism, existential freedom
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