In his second book, The Aristos, a collection of philosophical essays, Fowles wrote that he intended the novel to explore the danger of class and intellectual divisions in a society where prosperity for the majority was becoming more widespread, and power (whether by wealth or position) was gained by those intellectually unsuited to handle it.
He further discusses his inspiration for The Collector. He said that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus saw mankind as divided into two groups. The first was a moral and intellectual elite known as the aristoi, or "the good", (not necessarily meaning those of noble birth), and the second was hoi polloi, or "the many", who were viewed as an unthinking, conforming mass. Fowles wanted readers to understand that "the dividing line should run through each individual, not between individuals."
"I tried to establish the virtual innocence of the many. Miranda, the girl he [Clegg] imprisoned, had very little more control than Clegg over what she was: she had well-to-do parents, a good educational opportunity, inherited aptitude and intelligence. That does not mean that she was perfect. Far from it – she was arrogant in her ideas, a prig, a liberal-humanist slob, like so many university students. Yet if she had not died she might have become something better, the kind of being humanity so desperately need."
Fowles goes on to explain that the purpose of the novel was not to say that a precious elite was threatened by the barbarian hordes. Rather, that people had to face up to an unnecessary brutal conflict based on envy and contempt, and accept that we will never be born equal until The Many can be educated out of a false sense of inferiority and The Few can understand that biological superiority is not a state of existence but rather a state of responsibility. He strongly opposes the view that the idea behind The Collector is a fascist one.