The French Lieutenant's Woman By John Fowles Summary and Analysis Chapter 47

The two lovers lie in each other's arms. We see this moment from Charles' point of view. His conduct horrifies him, as it can only horrify a Victorian gentleman who believes that no well-bred woman enjoys or desires physical lovemaking. Furthermore, we see an interesting contrast in this chapter when he idealizes Sarah. She is perfect, an angel, and he can think of no other course of action than to marry her. But she gently tells him that she is unworthy of him, though she never explains why. It is enough, she insists, that she knows he loves her, and that under other circumstances they might have married. He doesn't argue any more, but says that he will think about what to do for a few days.

As he gets up and proceeds to get dressed in the next room, he discovers blood on himself. At first he thinks he has injured himself, but then realizes that she was a virgin. He suddenly understands fully that everything she said and did was based on a lie. She had never given herself to Varguennes. It is here that we see the other side of Charles' concept of her. Now, instead of seeing her as an angel, Charles can only believe that she is a temptress, a demon, and a wicked woman who for some unknown reason, perhaps blackmail, wanted to seduce him. Yet he is still perplexed by what she has done, and he wants to know why. Sadly, she says she does not know. She does love him, but insists that they cannot marry. Sarah asks him to leave, addressing him as Mr. Smithson. He is hurt by her return to formality. She has told him that he has given her something to live for, the knowledge that he might have loved her. But he cannot comprehend what little explanation she is able to give. She orders him to leave and finally he does.

The two images that Charles has of Sarah are illustrated here. We cannot conceive of her except in terms of some romantic ideal. She is a woman of mystery, an angel, and finally a woman of mystery again, but this time one who, to him, has sinister overtones.

The impression that the reader gets from this chapter is that Sarah is none of the women Charles thinks she is; she is simply a human being. This does not fully explain why she acted the way she did in her relationship with Charles, but although we do not know the secrets of her motives, we know that Charles' conclusions are wrong. It is worthwhile to remember that Sarah, for reasons of her own, was playing the role of the fallen woman long before Charles arrived in Lyme. Yet something apparently happened to her when she met Charles, just as he was affected when he met her. They were attracted to each other and, without really understanding why, they fell in love. Had these events occurred under other circumstances their relationship might have evolved along other lines. But that is another story.

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