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Le bovarysme et la littérature de langue anglaise

 | 
Yvan Leclerc
, 
Nicole Terrien

Under Flaubert’s Shadow

Madame Bovary and The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Tony Williams

Texte intégral

1Published in 1969, John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a remarkable reconstruction of life in nineteenth-century England with a built-in twentieth-century perspective. The novel contains a wealth of information about social behaviour and intellectual concerns around 1867 but these are presented from the vantage point of a century later, with a repeated emphasis on how attitudes have changed. In reconstructing the past, Fowles relies on a wide variety of sources, many of which are quoted at the beginning of each of the chapters, others cited in the main body of the text: Marx, Darwin, Tennyson, Matthew Arnold/Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy. The reader is invited to note the congruity between what the novel evokes and the point made in the quotation. Fowles does not make any attempt to cover his traces; rather he highlights his indebtedness to his various sources by quoting them directly. He also builds into the novel a self-conscious awareness of the way he is working, coming clean about what has guided and influenced him.

2A good example of this habit of putting his cards on the table is his reference to Thomas Hardy:

  • 1 Page references are to John Fowles, The.French Lieutenant’s Woman (London:Vintage, 1996).

I have now come under the shadow, the very relevant shadow, of the great novelist who towers over this part of England of which I write. When we remember that Hardy was the first to try to break the Victorian middle-class seal over the supposed Pandora’s box of sex, not the least interesting [...] thing about him is his fanatical protection of the seal of his own and his immediate ancestors’ sex life. [The French Lieutenant’s Woman 262]1

3Fowles goes on to explain that 1867, the year in which The French Lieutenant’s Woman is set, was a crucial year in the life of Hardy, the year in which he fell in love with his cousin Tryphena [263]. In the notes he made whilst working on the work, “Notes on an Unfinished Novel,” Fowles recognizes that he can’t avoid the shadow of Hardy, adding:

  • 2 Wormholes. Essays and Occasional Writings, ed. by Jan Relf (London: Cape, 1998), 22-3.

I don’t mind the shadow. It seems best to use it; and by a curious coincidence, which I didn’t recall when I placed my story in that year, 1867 was the crucial year in Hardy’s own mysterious personal life.2

  • 3 Fowles has expressed a strong admiration for Flaubert in his essay on William Golding: “I can see t (...)

4Fowles chooses, then, to build into the novel a kind of acknowledgement of Hardy’s importance for him, one which goes far beyond the curious coincidence to which he refers. Hardy may be the most important author lying behind The French Lieutenant’s Woman but he is not the only one. This paper will explore the extent to which John Fowles is also writing under the shadow of another writer for whom he professed an equally strong admiration: Flaubert.3

  • 4 Wormholes 13.

5The initial impetus4 behind the mythical presentation of the protagonist of The French Lieutenant’s Woman is clearly Hardy:

[T]he figure stood motionless staring, staring out to sea, more like a living memorial to the drowned, a figure from myth, than any proper figment of the petty provincial day. [11]

  • 5 “Stretching eyes west/Over the sea,/ Wind foul or fair,/ Always stood she/ Prospect impressed;/ Sol (...)
  • 6 That Fowles should choose to inject a strong French element into his novel comes as no surprise. Li (...)

6There is, however, an important difference between the hypotext, indicated in the epigraph to the chapter,5 and the hypertext: whereas the Hardy original stared westward, over the Atlantic, the figure presented to us by Fowles, is looking southward towards France. This is not just a geographical accident. The protagonist, we soon learn, has had an affair with a French Lieutenant and is waiting for him to return. If she is often seen on the Cobb looking out to sea, it is because “there, it was supposed, she felt herself nearest to France” [The French Lieutenant’s Woman 66]. In this way Fowles is perhaps signaling the gallic graft he is going to perform on the Hardy stock.6

7The “French Connection” takes a number of different forms and the image of the heroine is coloured by various associations. She has had an affair with a Frenchman, Varguennes, which gives her distinctiveness in the context of strait-laced Lyme Regis society. She has learnt to speak French and at one point writes a letter to Charles in “governess” French. Her behaviour is compared—albeit questionably by Grogan—to that of hysterical French women. More pertinently, in the mind of the principal male protagonist, Charles, there is a strong association made between Sarah and Emma Bovary. Charles Smithson has become fascinated by a mysterious woman, Sarah Woodruff, and has returned to the Undercliff, the natural setting where he has already caught sight of her twice. Returning there for a third time, Charles chances upon Sarah once again and it is at this point that the link with Emma is made:

Charles had [...] the advantage of having read—very much in private, for the book had been prosecuted in France for obscenity—a novel that had appeared in France some ten years before; a novel profoundly deterministic in its assumptions, the celebrated Madame Bovary. And as he looked down at the face beside him, it was suddenly, out of nowhere, that Emma Bovary’s name sprang into his mind. Such allusions are comprehensions; and temptations. That is why, finally, he did not bow and withdraw. [119-20]

  • 7 Sarah’s piercing look, which is turned repeatedly on Charles [89, 177, 182], recalls Emma’s (“son r (...)
  • 8 Both writers hint at a “masculine” element in the make-up of their heroine, in particular through t (...)

8This is, in many ways, a remarkable passage. Charles’s awareness is raised to a new level and he now guesses at darker qualities in Sarah, in particular intelligence, independence and a suppressed sensuality. At the same time his involvement deepens, in part on the back of a literary association. Charles, we are told, has the benefit of having read Madame Bovary — a novel which still needed to be read in secret in the Anglo-Saxon world. Upon this basis, he compares what is in fact one fictional protagonist to another, as if she were a real person. The reasons for this association are, in part, a similarity between the two women, in particular perhaps a suppressed sensuality expressed in both cases by dark eyes and direct gazes,7 and an element of “masculinity” expressed in details of appearance and behaviour.8 Fowles had earlier asked the question: “Who is Sarah? Out of what shadows does she come?” [96]. We can say that at this stage, at least, she is emerging from Flaubert’s shadow, from the shadow of Madame Bovary, which confers upon her a distinct sexual charge, a charge which runs counter to the dominant desexualisation of women in Victorian England.

  • 9 Woody Allen, “The Kugelmass Episode,” in The Complete Prose (London: Picador, 2002 [1997]).

9More than just a passing resemblance, the association with Emma Bovary has a number of powerful effects which help to propel Charles’s relationship with Sarah forwards. First, he is led into a better understanding of Sarah. We are not told exactly why but we might speculate that it is because Flaubert’s novel provided the age with a heightened sense of what it was to be a woman in a society that offered no outlet for her energies. Momentarily the whole weight of Flaubert’s depiction of Emma’s anger and frustration is thrown behind Charles’s response. If Ernestina is closer to a certain stereotypical image of Victorian femininity, all meekness, innocence and submissiveness, Sarah takes on a very different image in Charles’s mind by virtue of the Madame Bovary connection. Secondly, the link he makes leads to his becoming more obsessed by Sarah. Part of him is shocked and appalled by Sarah, but another part, one which has been largely repressed, but still able to remember his experience of foreign beds, is attracted to a figure who has received a kind of boost from her association with Emma Bovary, seen predominantly by him, just as she is by Professor Kugelmass in the Woody Allen story,9 as a sexually alluring figure.

10In referring to the association that occurs to Charles, Fowles uses the word “allusions’. This is an odd word to use to describe the process of associating the image of one woman with that of another. It is not, however, odd to describe a literary device. The connection between Sarah and Emma is perhaps one that is being made not just by Charles but also by the narrator. The blurring of the distinction between character and narrator, makes the reader wonder whether there is more at stake in this scene than a passing resemblance, perhaps something akin to the explicit acknowledgement of an indebtedness to Hardy. What, we might ask, might working under Flaubert’s shadow entail?

  • 10 Madame Bovary 83.

11The figure who gradually emerges from the shadows in the first part of The French Lieutenant’s Woman is constructed in such a way as to create a number of distinct echoes of Madame Bovary, as if Fowles wished to place his protagonist in a situation reminiscent of Emma’s. Sarah Woodruff is an intelligent, independent-minded young woman who finds herself trapped within a class-ridden, patriarchal society. Her family situation is like Emma’s in that her mother has died, leaving her at home with her father. Sarah’s father rents a small farm but becomes obsessed with his illustrious forbears. The picture of her seated across the elm table, slowly driving him mad is reminiscent of Emma’s relationship with le père Rouault.10 However, Sarah’s father does not have Rouault’s peasant roots: we are told that he gives up his tenancy, buys a farm that turns out to be a bad bargain, struggles to keep up appearances, and finally goes mad. By the time he dies, Sarah is earning her own living. Low social status is an important factor in the case of both heroines. In neither case does class define the protagonist, although it does lead to a narrowing of opportunities and is a partial source of frustration:

Given the veneer of a lady, she was made the perfect victim of a caste society. Her father had forced her out of her own class, but could not raise her to the next. To the young men of the one she had left she had become too select to marry; to those of the one she aspired to, she remained too banal. [58]

12In both cases the education received by the heroine has had a crucial effect in raising expectations.

13Sarah has been educated in “a third-rate young ladies’ seminary in Exeter,” where she has learnt during the day and paid for her learning by working during the evening. Sarah is another case of someone problematically affected by their reading:

She had read far more fiction, and far more poetry [...] than most of her kind. They served as a substitute for experience. Without realising it she judged people as much by the standards of Walter Scott and Jane Austen as by any empirically arrived at; seeing those around her as fictional characters, and making poetic judgements on them. [58]

14Emma’s convent-school education, which provides her with unattainable models for love and lovers, plays a major part in her development. Flaubert’s detailed account of Emma’s vulnerability to cultural conditioning provides an essential reference point. The results of Sarah’s exposure to literature are that she too finds those she encounters wanting. “Bovarysme” is bound up with exposure to literature: if in Emma’s case it takes the form of a “poetic” conception of herself, in Sarah’s case it is more a question of “poetic” judgements on other people. Fowles has refocused in a suggestive manner a problematic opened up by Flaubert.

  • 11 Madame Bovary 172.

15All these factors are introduced by an omniscient narrator operating in a manner reminiscent of the omniscient narrator in Madame Bovary. We have the impression that Fowles is juggling with a similar set of social and psychological factors in order to create a similar sense of a woman who is “empêchée continuellement”.11

  • 12 Plans et Scénarios de Madame Bovary. Ed. Yvan Leclerc (Paris: CNRS Éditions et Zulma, 1995), f° 5, (...)

16It would be quite wrong, however, to suggest that Fowles has created an English Emma Bovary. Sarah differs from Emma in a number of significant respects. Her situation may resemble that of Emma but her responses to it are very different. This is partly because she is more intelligent and perceptive. Whilst Emma displays what Flaubert refers to in a scenario as “peu de véritable sentiment et de jugement,”12 Sarah is able to see through people:

Sarah was intelligent, but her real intelligence belonged to a rare kind [...]. It was rather an uncanny [...] ability to classify other people’s worth: to understand them in the full sense of the word. [57]

  • 13 L. R. Edwards, “Changing our Imagination,” Massachusetts Review, 11 (1970), 607 [Quoted in Bruce Wo (...)

17Sarah’s “instinctual profundity of insight” [57] makes her less easily taken in by the men she encounters than Emma and goes some way to explaining why she does not follow the conventional pathway of love and marriage laid down for young women, although she appears to have embarked on such a pathway with Varguennes in one version of her story. In a bold and imaginative manner, she manipulates Charles, flees him when she has become his mistress, and ends up living in an unconventional Pre-Raphaelite household. Secondly, where Emma often behaves in a derivative fashion, Sarah achieves a kind of authenticity. Thirdly, unlike Emma who is reluctant to recognise the sexual basis of her adulterous relationships, Sarah frankly accepts her sexuality. Fourthly, whereas Emma is conditioned into believing that she needs a man to lean upon, Sarah assumes an equality with Charles. Many of these differences stem from the conception of Sarah as a “modern woman,” a modern woman who has been projected back into the nineteenth-century setting of the novel. The effect of this projection is to highlight the conventional nature of the other female characters in the novel but also to mark the limits of Flaubert’s sense of female possibility. Nor is it simply in the conception of Sarah’s character that there are divergences. Fowles may at first establish the background and antecedents of his protagonist very much as Flaubert does Emma’s, but beyond a certain point he ceases to provide the kind of detailed access to Sarah’s inner life which is so striking a feature of Madame Bovary. As one critic has pointed out, “We never get to see inside Sarah’s head.”13 Sarah remains an enigmatic figure as a result, leaving Charles, the narrator and the reader uncertain about what motivates her behaviour.

  • 14 R. C. Brown, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Pierre: Echo and Answer,” Modern Fiction Studies 31 (...)
  • 15 See Eileen Warburton, “Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down: Ourika, Cinderella and The French Lieutenant (...)

18The comparison with Emma, which has been prompted by the passage where the name of Emma Bovary springs into Charles’s mind, is by no means the only one that might be made. The novel contains references to other nineteenth-century heroines, Becky Sharpe and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, for instance. It has also been pointed out that Sarah’s predicament as an outcast resembles that of Isabel, the heroine of Melville’s last work, Pierre14. Fowles himself has drawn attention to the links with an obscure novel by Claire de Duras, Ourika, which he was later to translate.15 Flaubert is not the only writer under whose shadow Fowles is writing: Sarah is a composite figure behind whom a number of other fictional heroines lurk, although none of the others receive the star billing accorded to Emma Bovary.

  • 16 In an interview with Diane Vipond to the question “How would you describe the conflict between free (...)
  • 17 See Fowles’s comments: “Existentialism did seem to my generation, immediately after the end of Worl (...)

19The invited juxtaposition of The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Madame Bovary points up a fundamental difference in the way Fowles understands the relationship between free will and determinism.16 When the narrator insists that Madame Bovary is a novel “profoundly deterministic in its assumptions,” he is speaking from the vantage point of the twentieth century. The philosophical viewpoint adopted by the narrator is one which stresses the importance of freedom. At various points in the novel the narrator puts on display his existentialist credentials,17 contrasting them with the predominant outlook of the Victorian age: “[The Victorians] were not the people for existentialist moments, but for chains of cause and effect.” [241] He repeatedly applies an existentialist grill in the analysis of the development of Charles, insisting that he is not necessarily fated to follow a conventional pathway:

He had not the benefit of existentialist terminology; but what he felt was really a very clear case of the anxiety of freedom—that is, the realization that one is free and the realization that being free is a situation of terror. [328]

20It is from this existentialist position, reiterated on several occasions, that Madame Bovary is held to be “profoundly deterministic in its assumptions”.

21That Flaubert held strongly determinist views is unlikely to be challenged. We might also readily agree that the protagonist’s development possesses a certain inevitability. Flaubert, in what we can assume is Fowles’s view of the novel, has presented a set of causal factors, which lead Emma into an unfortunate marriage, into adultery and finally drive her to suicide. Her development appears to be an unbroken chain of cause and effect and the reader does not have the sense that, given her inclinations and aspirations on the one hand and the limitations of her marriage and of society, on the other, she could have at any point behaved otherwise or that her final suicide could have been avoided.

  • 18 Madame Bovary, 462.

22The narrator’s insistence on the deterministic vision of Madame Bovary invites the reader to make a broad comparison between the way Emma Bovary’s life unfolds and the way Sarah Woodruff develops. The central contrast is between constriction and freedom. At the end of the novel, referring to her suicide, Emma insists “Il le fallait, mon ami.”18 Throughout the novel, she has found herself restricted by various factors, her position in society, marriage, the patriarchal system, all of which have prevented her from fulfilling the dream of romantic bliss. Images of constriction proliferate in the novel, reinforcing the idea of a woman trapped in marriage but also in adultery. Emma’s suicide represents in this context a final rejection of life on the terms upon which it has been offered to her.

  • 19 For a detailed analyis of Sarah as “the genuine advocate of existentialist principles in the novel” (...)

23Sarah Woodruff’s position, as we have seen, initially bears some similarities to that of Emma. However, we do not get a sense of a life which is hemmed in, in spite of the insistence on the narrow-mindedness of Victorian society. This is because Sarah chooses to play a series of parts rather than passively accept the role society seeks to enforce upon her. Although she appears to have been ostracized by Lyme Regis society, she insists at one point in what sounds like an existentialist “déclaration de foi”19 that she has freely chosen the role of outcast:

So I married shame [...] It was a kind of suicide. [...] What has kept me alive is my shame, my knowing that I am truly not like other women. I shall never have children, a husband and those innocent happinesses that they have [... ] I think I have a freedom [other women] cannot understand. No one can touch me. Because I have set myself beyond the pale. [...] I am the French Lieutenant’s Whore. [171]

  • 20 See James Acheson, John Fowles 397.
  • 21 Madame Bovary 493.
  • 22 “[My books] are about the difficulties of attaining personal freedom, especially of discovering wha (...)

24At the end of the novel Sarah again opts for freedom. Having been found by Charles, she could have accepted a future with him and the child conceived in their one sexual encounter in Exeter. However, in the second, more satisfying ending, she preserves her independence and her integrity, achieving an existential authenticity.20 She also provides a final inspiration for Charles, showing him the existentialist way. Emma’s influence on Charles is not so beneficial. Of his adoption of her ways, the narrator comments “Elle le corrompait par delà le tombeau.”21 Fowles has suggested that his novels are about the difficulties of achieving personal freedom.22 When we compare the broad pattern of Sarah’s life with Emma’s we have a stronger sense of a successful attempt to escape all that determines a person’s life. The essentialist assumption of fixed identity which is implicit in Gaultier’s notion of “bovarysme” is refuted by Fowles, who has effectively produced a “post-bovaryste” novel, presenting the capacity to see oneself as something other than one “is” (or appears to others to be) as desirable and beneficial rather than negative and destructive.

  • 23 See the comments made by Flaubert in a letter dated 20 November 1866 to Taine [Correspondance (Pari (...)

25Fowles’s approach to the whole question of the freedom of characters is bound up with the broader question of the relationship between author and character. We know from the Correspondance that Madame Bovary marks a key moment in the evolution of the relationship between author and character. Although Flaubert thinks of himself as anatomising his heroine’s romantic temperament, he also fuses with her at crucial junctures.23 The French Lieutenant’s Woman also represents a key moment in the relationship between author and character. In an extremely artful manner that resembles Gide’s, Fowles foregrounds the whole question of the author’s relationship with his characters.

26In Chapter 13 he breaks with the more traditional approach to narrative. Up to this point he had assumed an omniscient perspective on human affairs, pretending to know his characters’ minds and innermost thoughts. Now he declares:

This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my own mind. If I have pretended until now to know my character’s minds and innermost thoughts, it is because I am writing in [...] a convention universally accepted at the time of the story: that the novelist stands next to God. [97]

  • 24 See Fowles’s comments in an interview with Ramad K.Singh: “I make no plans. I’m a total believer in (...)

27It is wrong, he insists, to think that novelists have fixed plans to which they work24:

This is why we cannot plan. We know a world is an organism, not a machine. We also know the genuinely created world must be independent of its creator; a planned world [...] is a dead world. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live. [98]

28The novelist should, therefore, abandon his attempts to plan the destinies of his characters; only then will they begin to have any autonomy. According to this new ideal, the novelist may still be god-like but what this entails has changed dramatically:

The novelist is still a god, since he creates [...]; what has changed is that we are no longer the gods of the Victorian image, omniscient and decreeing; but in the new theological image, with freedom our first principle, not authority. [99]

29We might have serious doubts about the argument put forward by Fowles. Indeed, he himself has commented that he has resorted to a piece of trickery and that a character can never be truly autonomous:

  • 25 Interview with John Fowles from “The South Bank Show,” London Weekend Television, transcript P/NO 8 (...)

Ultimately, however, it’s all a piece of trickery. What I say on that subject—whether the author controls his characters—in The French Lieutenant’s Woman is really a bit of eye-wash. And I’m afraid I’m playing; a sort of double trick on the reader. Of course I control the text [...]. We all do.25

  • 26 James Campbell, “An Inteview with John Fowles,” Contemporary Literature 17 (1976), 463 [Quoted in J (...)

It’s silly to say the novelist isn’t God, [...] because [...] when you write a book you are [...] a tyrant, a total dictator [...]. [I]t’s difficult for a character in the book to stand up and say, you cannot do that, or I demand that that line be changed.26

  • 27 The games Fowles plays with character are reminiscent of Gide’s in Les Faux-Monnayeurs. See David H (...)

30This disavowal is, however, external to the text. In the novel, the pretence that he is seeking to respect the freedom of his characters is sustained and leads him finally to give two endings to the novel.27

31One of the novelists who represent the old narrative paradigm for Fowles may well be Flaubert. It is perhaps significant that the sudden declaration of Chapter 13 should be precipitated by the difficulties he has experienced in negotiating a crisis involving Sarah Woodruff, who is on the verge of throwing herself out of the window: She was not standing at the window as part of her mysterious vigil for Satan’s sails; but as a preliminary to jumping from it.” [96] It is at this point that the narrative veers away from a classic suicide attempt. I will not make her teeter at the window-sill; or sway forward, and then collapse sobbing back on to the worn carpet of her room.” The narrator finally confesses that he does not really know who she is:

Who is Sarah?
Out of what shadows does she come?

32One thing is sure: she is not going to repeat the story of Emma Bovary. The reader might recall Emma s first suicide attempt. Rodolphe’s letter saying that they cannot run away dashes Emma’s dreams, the heat and the light, the droning of Binet’s lathe, her vertigo all make her teeter by the window-frame of the attic. Like her final suicide, it is an over-determined moment. The omniscient narrator gives us full access to the heroine’s thoughts and sensations, creating a strong sense of someone clinging precariously onto life.

  • 28 Madame Bovary 449.

33Emma’s first suicide attempt may well have encapsulated for Fowles the kind of tight authorial control, which he wished to get away from. Flaubert was, of course, a novelist whose planning was extremely detailed, an écrivain à programme” rather than an “écrivain à processus,” as the “scénarios” testify. We have already noted that a kind of necessity appears to dominate Emma’s development: Emma progresses from one stage to the next in such a way as to preclude the idea of alternative possibilities and her final suicide seems completely unavoidable. It is even possible to find in Madame Bovary a kind of denunciation of the “déterminisme rétrograde” which requires that, in order for the novel to reach a satisfactory conclusion, events should be organised in such a way as to drive Emma to suicide. Binet can be seen as a parodic portrait of the artist at work, the napkin rings he produces on his lathe being the equivalent of the finely turned sentences produced by Flaubert. In this context the way in which the whirring of the lathe is heard in the first suicide attempt and Emma thinks she hears it immediately prior to the second (“Oh! finissez! Murmura-t-elle, croyant entendre le tour de Binet”)28 constitutes an auditory persecution which represents the remorseless narrative necessity at work, a necessity from which we are invited to believe Sarah Woodruff is released.

34The relationship of The French Lieutenant’s Woman to Madame Bovary is tangential but suggestive. Fowles pays a kind of tribute to Flaubert in making Charles think of Emma at a crucial juncture in the narrative. He establishes Sarah’s antecedents with a sideways glance at Madame Bovary, inviting a comparison of the characters and predicaments of the heroines. He offers a more optimistic view of female possibility and female emancipation. He also signs up as a member of the character liberation society, highlighting the way Emma Bovary is caught up in a plot which allows her no leeway. Flaubert’s shadow is in many respects a dark one, one which undergoes considerable lightening in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. But, then, Sarah is really a modern woman who has wandered into a nineteenth-century novel, having to all intents and purposes shed the “bovarysme” that Jules de Gaultier diagnosed as the source of Emma’s problems.

Notes

1 Page references are to John Fowles, The.French Lieutenant’s Woman (London:Vintage, 1996).

2 Wormholes. Essays and Occasional Writings, ed. by Jan Relf (London: Cape, 1998), 22-3.

3 Fowles has expressed a strong admiration for Flaubert in his essay on William Golding: “I can see that Golding has faults and weaknesses as a writer, beside his outstanding virtues. ([...] I would not let the greatest—even my greatest, at any rate—off blameless there: not Defoe, not Austen, not Austen-drowned Peacock, not Hardy, not even Flaubert),” Wormholes 201.

4 Wormholes 13.

5 “Stretching eyes west/Over the sea,/ Wind foul or fair,/ Always stood she/ Prospect impressed;/ Solely out there/ Did her gaze rest,/ Never elsewhere/ Seemed charm to be.” Hardy, “The Riddle,” The French Lieutenant’s Woman 9.

6 That Fowles should choose to inject a strong French element into his novel comes as no surprise. Like Julian Barnes he read French at Oxford and has said that he knows French literature better than English. In an essay entitled “A Modern Writer’s France,” originally published in 1988, he gives a detailed account of his love of France and its culture, concluding: “I sometimes imagine what I would be if I did not read French [...], did not know its culture [...], did not know its nature and its landscapes [...]. I know the answer. I should be half what I am; half in pleasure, half in experience, half in truth,” Wormholes 55. See also his observation in an interview in 1995 with Diane Vipond: “I’ve always been glad I studied French at Oxford. It introduced me (through the Romance languages in general) to the other great culture of Europe and much of America. I am English, yet I would guess myself closer to the other side of Europe than most other English writers—with some obvious exceptions, of whom Julian Barnes is a current example,” Wormholes 368.

7 Sarah’s piercing look, which is turned repeatedly on Charles [89, 177, 182], recalls Emma’s (“son regard arrivait franchement à vous avec une hardiesse candide,” Madame Bovary (Paris: Livre de poche, 1999), 72; “C’est qu’elle a des yeux qui vous entrent comme des vrilles,” 226).

8 Both writers hint at a “masculine” element in the make-up of their heroine, in particular through the description of their appearance. Emma is first presented to the reader carrying “comme un homme [...] un lorgnon d’écaille” [73], she wears a waistcoat like a man, and smokes in public like a man. In a not dissimilar manner, Sarah wears a “black coat...more like a man’s riding-coat than any woman’s coat” [15], which produces a strong impression on Charles: “Something about the coat’s high collar and cut, especially from the back, was masculine” [163]. It is Sarah’s scorn for social conventions that is perceived by Charles as breaking with a certain norm of femininity: “There was something male about her there” [175]. More generally, the heroine’s adoption of a more domineering role in relations with men is central to the overturning of conventional gender distinctions that both novels enact. For a discussion of the “masculine” dimension of Emma’s behaviour see Tony Williams, “Gender Stereotypes in Madame Bovary,Forum for Modern Language Studies 28 (1992), 130-39.

9 Woody Allen, “The Kugelmass Episode,” in The Complete Prose (London: Picador, 2002 [1997]).

10 Madame Bovary 83.

11 Madame Bovary 172.

12 Plans et Scénarios de Madame Bovary. Ed. Yvan Leclerc (Paris: CNRS Éditions et Zulma, 1995), f° 5, 24.

13 L. R. Edwards, “Changing our Imagination,” Massachusetts Review, 11 (1970), 607 [Quoted in Bruce Woodcock, Male Mythologies: John Fowles and Masculinity (London: Harvester, 1984), 94]. In “John Fowles: a Novelist’s Dilemma,” Saturday Review (October 1981), 40, Joshua Gilder quotes Fowles as saying: “I deliberately did not tell anyone what was going on in [Sarah’s] mind” [Quoted in James Acheson, John Fowles (London: Macmillan, 1998), 98, note 21].

14 R. C. Brown, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Pierre: Echo and Answer,” Modern Fiction Studies 31 (1985), 115-32. Brown notes, however, an important difference: “The mute passivity of Isabel contrasts sharply with Sarah’s independent and purposeful action’.

15 See Eileen Warburton, “Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down: Ourika, Cinderella and The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” Twentieth-Century Literature, 42 (1996), 165-85.

16 In an interview with Diane Vipond to the question “How would you describe the conflict between free will and determinism in your writing?” Fowles replied “I wouldn’t and couldn’t! But I know it exists,” Wormholes, 376.

17 See Fowles’s comments: “Existentialism did seem to my generation, immediately after the end of World War Two, like a breath of fresh air. We all took it a lot too literally, mainly because we were ignorant of French intellectual tradition and their rules of rhetoric,” Interview with Carol Barnum, Modern Fiction Studies, 31 (1985), 199.

18 Madame Bovary, 462.

19 For a detailed analyis of Sarah as “the genuine advocate of existentialist principles in the novel” see M. Salami, John Fowles’s Fiction and the Poetics of Postmodernism (Rutherford: Associated University Presses, 1992), 126.

20 See James Acheson, John Fowles 397.

21 Madame Bovary 493.

22 “[My books] are about the difficulties of attaining personal freedom, especially of discovering what one is. As I grow older I doubt whether we have very much freedom to change basic and major behavioural patterns; that is, I think we are all very considerably conditioned. Nevertheless, I cannot believe we are totally so. The writer’s position in this is of course highly ironic, since nobody could be less free in terms of being under the power of a major obsession—the very need to write. [...] Daniel Martin certainly attempted to show characters escaping from all that has determined them, as did The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, in different ways,” Interview with Carol Barnum, Modern Fiction Studies 31 (1985), 201-2.

23 See the comments made by Flaubert in a letter dated 20 November 1866 to Taine [Correspondance (Paris: Pléiade, 1991), 3, 562]: “Les personnages imaginaires m’affolent, me poursuivent, — ou plutôt c’est moi qui suis dans leur peau. Quand j’écrivais l’empoisonnement de Mme Bovary j’avais si bien le goût d’arsenic dans la bouche, j’étais si bien empoisonnné moi-même que je me suis donné deux indigestions coup sur coup.”

24 See Fowles’s comments in an interview with Ramad K.Singh: “I make no plans. I’m a total believer in organic growth. I have no idea where I am going when I start a book. There is for me a marvellous element of pure hazard about writing; you write a tiny passage, perhaps of only one sentence, and yet that somehow has nuclear energy in it,” “An Encounter with John Fowles,” Journal of Modern Literature 8 (1980-81), 181-202 [188].

25 Interview with John Fowles from “The South Bank Show,” London Weekend Television, transcript P/NO 80103,1982, 3 [Quoted by Bruce Woodcock, Male Mythologies: John Fowles and Masculinity 98].

26 James Campbell, “An Inteview with John Fowles,” Contemporary Literature 17 (1976), 463 [Quoted in JamesAcheson, John Fowles 97]. See also Charles Scruggs, “The Two Endings of The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” Modern Fiction Studies, 31 (1985), 95-113: “Fowles the existentialist cannot escape the fate of Fowles the poeta, the maker of others’ destinies.” [97]

27 The games Fowles plays with character are reminiscent of Gide’s in Les Faux-Monnayeurs. See David H. Walker, “Subversion of Narrative in the Work of André Gide and John Fowles,” Comparative Criticism. A Yearbook 2, ed. Elinor Shaffer, 1980, 188-212 [199-205].

28 Madame Bovary 449.

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