The Collector - John Fowles : character analysis of Fred
June 19, 1989

What do we learn from the introductory pages about Clegg's personality and attitudes towards Miranda? List evidence of his obsession with his guest.

He treats her like a specimen from page 1 - he notes her appearance in his Observations diary. He never talks about anyone other that himself and Miranda - not because he's self-conscious, just because he is a "loser". And he watches her all the time... he wants to please her, and feels ashamed that he cannot.

He excuses himself all the time, like his impotency ("I didn't try very hard anyway"), and he calls her his "guest" rather than the expected prisoner or something.

He has obssessions - watching her, giving things to her, thinking about her, keeping her.

List any observable changes in his mentality in the first part of the novel. What happens when his illusions are shattered? How does his attitude toward her change after the seduction scene?

When she tries to escape, he "hardens up" and isolates himself from her, as if to shut out the possibility of her ever escaping. When she tries to seduce him, he treats her like dirt because she has showed herself to be common (ie. not rare - he is a collector of rare and beautiful things, and in his eyes she is neither rare nor attractive any longer, so he loses interest). When he realises she will NEVER love him, in sense of the word, he hardens up again and is never quite the same from that time on, probably because he is aware that all his efforts have been in vain.

List evidence to suggest that he has an inferiority complex. What subjects does he have difficulty discussing? Discuss why this occurs.

He has this "la-di-da" class mentality, examplified by the restaurant incident - he says he did not enjoy is food because he felt that they were all treating him like dirt, when in reality they probably were taking no more notice of him than any other patrons.

He has trouble discussing sex, and all of his deeper thoughts and emotions. The problem of talking about sex, even THINKING about it, stems from his impotence and also.. he has trouble talking about deeper feelings and emotions because he repressed them violently in his childhood - a response to the deaths of his father and uncle, and the rejections of his aunt and mother. He was also deprived of a "normal" childhood by living with a "nonconformist"; this would make him feel different, which would make him make HIMSELF immune to outside problems, which is basically why he can't ever talk below the surface, delve down into his real thoughts and express them. His problem is not aided by being basically dumb.

List evidence of his constant rationalising with himself to justify his behaviour and sanity and that his excuses allow him to avoid facing reality and accepting responsibility.

"I was not different, I can prove it". This is when he buys the dirty books from Soho; this act is different in itself because most people get REAL women, not pictures on paper. When his "session" with the postitute didn't work, he blames it all on her - he says she was old, horrible, worn and common. Then, he excuses himself still further by saying "I didn't try hardly".

These excuses do not really let him dodge responsibility, I think he honestly thinks that his exuses are REASONS, and that as such he should not be even questioned about it, he assumes that he is correct and that there is not possibly another opinion. They do, however, let him avoid reality, simply because they appear to him as valid reasons, and therefore in HIS mind, he is ok, and it is someone else's fault (like Miranda's for dying!).