“French Lieutenant's Woman” summary

“The Woman of the French Lieutenant” - a novel by the English writer John Fowles, published in 1969

“French Lieutenant's Woman” summary

The action of the novel takes place in the second half of the XIX century, the place of the tie is the coastal town of Lyme Regis. The protagonist, Charles Smithson, the heir to a poor aristocratic family, is engaged to an ordinary and descended from an obscure but wealthy family of businessman Ernestine Freeman. Once, while walking along the pier, the heroes see a woman named Sarah Woodruff, known as the “woman of the French lieutenant”. According to rumors, she had an affair with a visiting French officer who promised to marry her, but left for his homeland and did not return. Sarah became an outcast, she was received by the rich, but limited and hypocritical Mrs. Poultney as a maid, and in her free time, Sarah came to the pier and peered at the sea.

Charles, an amateur paleontologist, once meets Sarah on a walk. She tells the story of her seduction by a Frenchman named Wargenn and asks him for help and support. Later, Charles gives Sarah money and advises him to leave the city. Sara settles in a hotel in Exeter. When Charles arrives there, an explanation occurs between the characters, Sarah surrenders to Charles. He discovers that Sarah is a virgin, which means that the whole story of the French lieutenant, told to him by Sarah, turns out to be a lie. Charles in love with Sarah returns home, announces the termination of the engagement with Ernestina and returns to Sarah, but discovers that she has disappeared.

The disappearance of Sarah was a big blow for Charles, and the termination of the engagement undermined his reputation at home. He spends three years traveling, but returns to England to find Sarah. Finally, he discovers her in the artist’s house (the author hints at Rossetti) as a free and confident woman, secretary and possibly companion of the master.

The author offers three possible endings throughout the novel. In the final, described before the scene at the hotel in Exeter, Charles marries Ernestine and Sarah disappears from their lives. However, this end is refuted by the continuation of the novel. In the end, the author, introducing himself as an episodic character, unfolds two possible epilogues in front of the viewer. In the first, Charles, who entered the artist’s house, discovers that Sarah gave birth to a child from him, and the final lines suggest that the heroes are reunited and will find their happiness together. In the second - the reunion did not take place, Charles revealed that he was a toy for Sarah. He leaves this house to start life anew, having known the bitterness of loss and disappointment.

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