UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Concept of truth and artifact in the fiction of John Fowles Mercer, Michael George


The aims of this thesis are to investigate the use of artifice in John Fowles' The Collector, The Magus, and The French Lieutenant's Woman, and show how, through the manipulation of illusion and reality, Fowles explores his own belief that the purpose of the artifact is in revealling the truth. In the Introduction, Fowles' vision of reality is examined with particular reference to his philosophical work, The Aristos: A Self-Portrait in Ideas. To Fowles, the universe is ruled only by hazard and flux; and therefore, the meaning of life is, in the absence of a comprehensible force of causality, an eternal mystery to man. But it is a positive and omnipresent mystery that can bring to the individual an existential awareness of his own freedom to create meaning through choice and action. In Fowles' vision, the truth that the artifact conveys is this transcendent reality of mystery that lies behind the appearance of the phenomenal world. In his novels, John Fowles is chiefly concerned with the manner in which conscious artifice brings the knowledge of this truth. Toward this end he imposes a pattern upon his novels that involves the creation of two central characters in a complementary relationship. One serves as the agent of a fiction within the tale, the other as the elected victim who, through the imposition of that fiction, is brought to an awareness of the truth. Fowles' three novels to date, all moving toward a similar revelation inevitably reveal the recurrent pattern of the search for truth. Chapter II examines the quest for this truth in The Collector. When Clegg, himself a victim of self-imposed illusions, becomes the agent of a fabricated situation into which he brings Miranda, he unwittingly plays the "godgame", and becomes the living embodiment of the absent 'God.' Through him Miranda finds the truth of the mystery posed by the absent 'God’. Chapter III examines The Magus and considers the expanded form that Fowles employs to bring the reader a different perspective. Conchis is examined as the confidant of the author and as the agent in the "godgame". Through his mask of illusion and his portrayal of the "god-novelist" in the tale, he brings to Nicholas the truth that the artifact can offer - the truth of the omnipresent mystery created by the absent 'God'. Nicholas, like Miranda before him, loses him selfhood and enters into an understanding of the greater truth which Conchis brings him. Chapter IV examines the nature of the quest in The French Lieutenant's Woman. The central problem of time and history is considered and the novel's relevance to the present is affirmed. The role of the authorial narrator is discussed as a further expansion of Fowles’ investigation of the artifact, and Sarah's roled as the embodiment of mystery is examined in her approach to the "godgame". In this, the most advanced point of development in Fowles' scheme, the reader shares the quest with Charles and is not provided with the privileged information that will give meaning to the mystery that Sarah poses.

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