The Collector

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The Collector is the title of a 1963 novel by John Fowles. It was made into a movie in 1965.

Plot

The book is about a lonely young man, Frederick Clegg, who works as a clerk in a city hall, and collects butterflies in his free time. The first part of the novel tells the story from his point of view. Clegg is attracted to Miranda Grey, an art student who he thinks is very beautiful. He admires her from a distance, but is unable to make any contact with her because of his nonexistant social skills. One day, he wins a large prize in the pools. This makes it possible for him to stop working and buy an isolated house in the countryside. He feels lonely, however, and wants to be with Miranda. Unable to make any normal contact, Clegg decides to add her to his 'collection,' in hopes that if he keeps her captive long enough, she will grow to love him. After careful preparations, he kidnaps Grey using chloroform and locks her up in the cellar of his house. He is convinced that the girl will start to love him after some time. However, when she wakes up, Grey confronts him with his actions. Clegg is embarrassed, and promises to let her go after a month. He promises to show her "every respect," pledging not to sexually molest her and to shower her with gifts and the comforts of home, on one condition: she can't leave the cellar.

Clegg rationalizes every step of his plan in eerily emotionless language; he seems truly incapable of relating to another human being and sharing real intimacy with them; it could be inferred that he is a sociopath. He takes great pains to appear normal, however, and is greatly offended at the suggestion that his motives are anything but reasonable and genuine.

The second part of the novel is narrated by Grey in the form of fragments from a diary that she keeps during her captivity. Clegg scares her, and she does not understand him in the beginning. At first she thinks that he has sexual motives for abducting her, but this turns out not to be true. She starts to have some pity for her captor, comparing him to Caliban in Shakespeare's play The Tempest because of his hopeless obsession with her and his warped behavior. She tries to escape several times, but Clegg is always able to stop her. She also tries to seduce him in order to convince him to let her go. The only result is that he becomes confused and angry. When Clegg keeps refusing to let her go, she starts to fantasize about killing him. Before she can try to escape again, she becomes seriously ill and dies, probably of pneumonia.

The third part of the novel is again narrated by Clegg. At first he wants to commit suicide after he learns of Grey's death, but after he reads in her diary that she never loved him, he decides that he is not responsible and is better off without her. Finally, he starts to plan the kidnapping of another girl.

Movie

The book was made into a movie in 1965. It was adapted by Stanley Mann and John Kohn and was directed by William Wyler. It stars Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Samantha Eggar), Best Director (William Wyler) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

Reference

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