What role does class play in the novel? How do the class differences between Miranda and Clegg prevent them from seeing eye to eye?
Answer: Miranda is well-educated. Her father is a doctor and she attended the prestigious Slade School of Art after going to a well-regarded high school. The main results of her class privileges are her fine appreciation of art and her inability to fathom Clegg's indifference to art. She views Clegg as beneath her, as constantly in need of education. On his end, Clegg believes that he is never good enough, despite his new-found wealth, to belong to the upper class. He constantly feels belittled by Miranda and by the wider world. His anger about the class differences between himself and Miranda partly informs his treatment of her: he simultaneously spoils her with everything money can buy and hates her sense of superiority.
How is Miranda similar to the butterflies Clegg has collected, and how is she different? Think about how these similarities and differences inform Clegg's view of Miranda.
Answer: Miranda is beautiful and can be captured, just like Clegg's butterflies. Clegg admires both her and the butterflies from afar, and in each case traps what he admires - killing the butterflies and arranging them together, and locking Miranda in her basement cell. Clegg admires the "essence" of Miranda and of the butterflies. He wants to look at them and collect them, but not understand them.
Yet Miranda is very different from the butterflies because she has the capacity to resist Clegg. She has a mind of her own, which Clegg cannot subdue. She becomes increasingly resistant to his keeping her captive; when Clegg becomes unable to tolerate her escape attempts and attacks, their relationship reaches a major turning point. While he can manage his butterflies, Clegg cannot control Miranda without killing her. This fact causes Clegg to become increasingly distressed and paranoid, and may lie at the root of his inability to act when Miranda falls mortally ill.
How does Fowles use The Tempest as a framework for the novel, and how does the novel depart from or align with the play?
Answer: Two characters from The Tempest, Ferdinand (the young prince) and Caliban (the wretched monster), are here combined into one character, the butterfly collector Frederick Clegg. Clegg views himself as Ferdinand, while Miranda views him as a Caliban. Both sides of his personality are apparent in his treatment of Miranda: the Ferdinand aspect brings Miranda food, clothing, perfumes, and almost anything else she wants, while the Caliban aspect kidnaps her, abuses her, and keeps her captive. Fowles subverts Shakespeare by making it Miranda's fate to be killed by the Caliban side of Clegg's character, rather than leaving her confinement and finding harmony with the Ferdinand side. The Collector is a tragedy, whereas The Tempest ends on a note of happiness.
Do money and power corrupt Clegg, or has his personality been warped all along?
Answer: In Fowles's opinion (and Clegg's as well), money will always corrupt, for all people have dreams of the crazy things they might do if they had the means; only money can make such bizarre dreams into realities. When Clegg was a city clerk without money, he contented himself with viewing Miranda from afar. It was only with his acquisition of wealth than he became Miranda's captor. Perhaps Clegg would argue that his potential for this kidnapping and imprisonment had been in his psyche all along, but it took the acquisition of money and power to allow him to reach his "potential."
What does Miranda hate about photographs and what does Clegg like about them? How are their opinions indicative of their personality differences?
Answer: Miranda hates that photographs can never fully capture the beauty of art or of a moment. Clegg thinks that photographs are a safe means of processing his obsessions, especially his obsession with Miranda. He cannot deal with her headstrong human personality, but loves to look at the photographs he has taken of her; in this format, she cannot resist his obsessive eyes. These different views of photographs reveal that Miranda is not afraid of exposure or self-exposure, while Clegg fears such revelations and would much rather be able to kill things before he collects them. Though he does not want to kill Miranda literally, he can "kill" her metaphorically by viewing her through photographs.
There are two points of view in The Collector, that of Miranda and that of Clegg. How do their respective viewpoints complement and oppose each other?
Answer: Clegg's viewpoint is creepier and offers a remarkably visceral experience, partly because the reader may unexpectedly come to sympathize with his repugnant actions, and partly because the reader is absorbing all the main events of the novel for the first time. Miranda's viewpoint is not as shocking, since the reader already knows everything that will happen. Rather, her perspective serves as a deeper psychological examination of the effects of captivity on a sensitive human mind. In these ways, the two perspectives both mirror and oppose each other.
How does being imprisoned change Miranda's view of the world?
Answer: Before her imprisonment, Miranda had apparently never interacted with anyone as narrow-minded as Clegg, or as oblivious to high culture as he is. Her interactions with Clegg open up her mind to the sheer diversity of viewpoints in England; he does not view the world from her perspective, a perspective which is very much a product of Miranda's upper-middle class childhood and education. More importantly, her imprisonment makes her appreciate all that she had in the outside world, from simple pleasures such as sunlight to deeper ones such as her relationship with G.P. For Miranda, it takes a brush with the precariousness of her own life to come to a deeper understanding of how she wants to live.
What effect does Miranda's death have on the narrative? Why might Fowles have chosen to have Miranda die in the end, rather than escape?
Answer: Miranda's death provides an undoubtedly depressing end to the novel, especially because she becomes so full of life and excitement about the future before she falls into her grave illness. That her death comes so soon after she reaches a new awareness of her life's potential may be an attempt, on Fowles's part, to highlight the importance of living in the moment and seizing every opportunity, which Miranda never gets to do. Just as importantly, Miranda's death reveals Clegg's true character. He does not genuinely mourn her death, because he still has photographs of her and is no longer required to deal with her acts of defiance. Rather than learning a lesson from Miranda's death, Clegg is empowered to perhaps capture another woman.
Are there any novels or other forms of art that remind you especially of The Collector? How are these other sources similar to, or different from, Fowles's novel?
Answer: The novel bears similarities to Lolita, A Clockwork Orange, and The Silence of the Lambs. Much like the narrators of Lolita and A Clockwork Orange, the narrator Frederick Clegg becomes somewhat sympathetic to readers despite his criminal acts. He is, however, less likable than the narrators of those two novels, and he often lacks the verbal cleverness of the learned narrator of Lolita, Humbert Humbert. But like the protagonists of these novels, Clegg has a badly confused sense of right and wrong, which points to larger upheavals and breakdowns in the structure of society.
As is the case with The Silence of the Lambs, the plot of The Collector revolves around the acts of a man obsessed with collection and capture. Yet The Collector is different because of its ending: for all intents and purposes, Frederick "wins." He is never discovered by the police and may go on to victimize more women in the future.
What is the effect of Fowles's meta-commentary on art in the novel?
Answer: At one point Miranda talks about how words are inadequate to express her actual experience of being imprisoned by Clegg. Words cannot convey her feelings and observations accurately: only drawing can do that. By offering forth such ideas, Fowles condemns his own attempt to tell this story through words, alerting readers that whatever they are reading would be even more impactful could they actually see it, rather than just read about it. This serves to compound the horror of the story, but also creates a valuable meta-discourse on the limitations of different modes of expression. Just as Miranda's account challenges Clegg's, a visual or cinematic rendering of The Collector could differ radically from the written accounts in Fowles's novel.