Today’s topic is The Collector by Jown Fowles.
Everytime I read John Fowles, suprisingly, I find myself in the character. Even if the character is evil by nature. The author has the gift of finding some dark side in us that he exploits very well. Somehow, the crimes that the characters happen to do don’t have an initial evil purpose. They are made out of anguish, out of pure conviction that they aren’t doing anything wrong, that they deserve to do it, and that the victim should rather be happy and not shocked by their actions.
The collector exploits the theme of loneliness and secret love, or passion. The main character is at the edge of the society, introvert, and without connections to a real world as we know it. He finds himself obsessed with a single being, Miranda, and is concentrated on obtaining what he desires. The paradox is that the guy himself doesn’t really know what he wants. He knows he wants Miranda, but he doesn’t know in what way. His obsession evolves in time, from the need of only seeing the object of his obsession every day, watching and having different imaginative fantasies, to the need of having her close to him. He does not have any interest in her feelings or her desires. Miranda is considered not much than an object, and without expressing his feelings, he wants to be understood, without words, expecting a very high empathy on her side.
Obsession is tight up with the need to protect, to have the other one around, to watch and care, to be the hero, to be the necessary other that the male psychology requests from the man. Caliban, the main character, named by Miranda in this way, considers that Miranda should be his in all ways, putting her on a high altar of admiration, by the small things that make a man fall in love with a woman: her femininity, her small gestures, her way of being, which is so different from his: brutal, asocial, without any connection with social considered beautiful things. Caliban is so different from her, but he fails deeply to realize it. Miranda has so high aspirations, as to complete herself as a human being, to achieve perfection in her professional work, in her as an artist.
Miranda’s kidnapping is an expression of a young juvenile love, where the experience of a strange and compelling feeling completely changes a man. Caliban is broken apart from his normal life, become stranded on unknown land. He is unfamiliar with social conventions, with the human knowledge about love, with the reactions a man has when he falls in love. His act is somehow a desperate cry of a juvenile boy, expressed in the terms and power of a grown-up. I think that a strong majority of us had at least a thought that crossed their mind about what it would be like to kidnap the loved one, before approaching her, or after her denial. Normally this doesn’t end up in a kidnap, that is why I am saying that Caliban is the augmented expression of a normal juvenile feeling.
Miranda is aspiring completion, as in general female psychology, achievement on all possible planes: love, social position, professional fulfillment. She has however a slight misjudge on Caliban, as she considers him rude, driven by sexual desire, mad, unintelligible. She cannot realize his childish behavior.
Caliban on the other hand evolves in his torment from the simple juvenile love to the landlord, the owner of the property named Miranda. He only expects Miranda to act accordingly, and is sometimes intrigued by the fact that she is so different from him and surprises him. For him Miranda remains a mystery to the bitter end. Continuous lies, mischief, make Caliban’s love fade away into sole property obsession and fear of getting caught. Miranda manages to destroy his juvenile love and turn it into hate and deprive. Her attempts at seducing him and escaping only make Caliban fear her, as he realizes that his angelic image of Miranda is in fact stained, the discovery of her diary and admiration – love for another man bitters him deeply.
Miranda is a fallen angel, who never understands Caliban, going down from the statue of an angel to the deepest misery and sorrow. Her illness is a reflection of the bitterness of Caliban’s soul degradation. Miranda is a victim, one that didn’t deserve her faith, a sample of femininity that is unable to understand the deep of the male soul.
Caliban evolves from the innocent lover to a merciless criminal, with a child conscience, absolving himself of any guilt, and failing miserably at expressing his feelings and with an nonexistent empathy. He can never understand why Miranda doesn’t approve of his actions, finding guilt only inside her and never being able to distinguish past this point.