The relationship of theme and structure in the fiction of John Fowles

Pratt, Robert Tucker (1977) The relationship of theme and structure in the fiction of John Fowles. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Although John Fowles has had immense success with the reading public he is still today generally dismissed by the critics as a talented and intelligent storyteller whose work lacks the necessary depth and complexity to be considered serious literature. However, in this thesis as each of the author's first four fictional publications (The Magus, The Collector, The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Ebony Tower) is examined in its own chapter, a discernible structural and thematic continuity emerges from all Fowles's work which indicates that these novels, despite their widely diverse subject matter and essentially romantic nature, are not empty thrillers and simple entertainments but instead are progressively more sophisticated and complex reworkings of one fundamental situation. All of John Fowles's works share six basic structural elements. First, each begins with a precisely fixed location of time and place. Second, the protagonist of each novel quickly shows himself to be alienated from his homeland and invariably he begins a solitary journey into a mythical or legendary world. Third, each protagonist undergoes an ordeal in this "other world" and by doing so experiences a spiritual reawakening. The next structural element is that each protagonist then returns home to reconcile his old self with his newly-found perceptions. Fifth, each of these novels ends with a new beginning and, finally, whatever triumph each protagonist may achieve is always spiritual, self-contained, and seen primarily in existential terms. As each novel reworks these six structural elements into a progressively more complex version of the same basic situation a corresponding refinement and development become evident in the author's technical ability to control his work. For each successive novel uses two main thematic devices in an increasingly effective and improved manner. The first of these devices is the specifically physical loyout of each novel through which the author innovatively presents his material in order to best reveal his theme to the reader. The second and more important thematic device which Fowles consistently uses and improves is the creation of one single image to develop the central motif in each book. Therefore, this thesis concentrates on an examination of Fowles's progressively developing structural and thematic techniques in order to show that his novels are serious literature which deliberately and consciously try to perfect the author's artistic vision.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7277
Item ID: 7277
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [173]-178.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1977
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Fowles, John, 1926---Criticism and interpretation

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