The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles


On page 316 of the novel The French Lieutenant's Woman author John
Fowles briefly interrupts the fiction to discuss with the reader his role
as a novelist. He has come up with two very different endings to the novel
and wishes to share both with his readers. However, he cannot give two
storyline endings simultaneously, and if one comes before another, the
final chapter will seem more potent than the first. In trying not to side
with any particular characters he decides on a coin toss to decide which
conclusion to give last. At this point Charles is on a train, and Fowles
considers leaving him there to allow the reader the opportunity devise
their own conclusion for the novel.

I can only assume that Fowles came up with both endings at roughly the
same time, and each of them seemed as valid an ending as the other to him.
Traditionally, it would have been up to him to chose one ending and make it
final. However it seems he was not able, or did not want to chose just one
of the endings to the novel. It would seem that Fowles is trying to be fair
to all of the characters by including the various endings which satisfy all
of them. Fowles comments that the job of a novelist is "to put two
conflicting wants in the ring and describe the fight", which is essentially
what he has done. However it is hard to decide for whom to fix the fight in
favor of when one owns both fighters.

Fowles also briefly mentions allowing "freedom of characters" in his
writing. This concept is somewhat vague. To allow freedom of characters is
to essentially allow the characters to do anything that the author thinks
of. Why would a character ever not be able to do whatever the author thinks
of ? There are no written rules that authors must conform to while writing
a novel about how characters must behave, and that a character must stay in
character. The identity of the character is constantly changing as the
novel progresses, constantly being updated since the reader has only a
brief glimpse into the life of a character in the novel. I think it would
be quite rare for an author to not allow his characters freedom (unless of
course he is living in a country under dictatorship or communism, but that
doesn't count because the author doesn't have freedom either so why should
his characters).

"The chief argument of fight fixing is to show one's readers what one
thinks of the world around one". The author must fix the fight in favor of
one side to make the writing a novel, to create the story with one's views
on the world implanted into it. Fowles however did not live in the world he
is fixing the fight in and can only know about it from other readings or
indirect information. Fowles describes a story that has supposedly taken
place over a century ago, and shows several views of another world by
giving the novel two separate endings. Through this Fowles shows two
separate views , by giving us two separate endings, which essentially
changes his entire outlook on the world from one ending to another. One is
more optimistic than the other, so he gives us an optimistic look at the
world as well as a pessimistic view of the world in which the novel
unfolds.

The bulk of Fowles comments on what a novelist should be are somewhat
contradictory to what he has done with his novel. He has said that it is
the job of the author to describe the conflict after having chosen the
outcome. However, Fowles himself seems to play quite an active role in The
French Lieutenant's Woman , often jumping in to give modern day references
such as in the case of Mrs. Poultney and the Gestapo. I believe this kind
of writing is very beneficial for the reader. If the author has enough
information about an era to convincingly write about it, and make
references to modern times, it seems to give the reader a better
understanding of the novel and make them feel more involved. Although
Fowles has said that his job is simply to describe the fight it is somewhat
more interesting when he slips back into the 20th century.

In the many places in the novel when Fowles jumps in to the novel to
explain or further describe something, he often gives