The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman Imagery

The description of Mary in Chapter 11

The description of Mary in Chapter 11 may not be a key turning point of the novel, but it shows how Fowles can deftly paint a character in just a paragraph, making liberal use of metaphors and similes.

Mary has "corn-colored hair," a metaphor that is employed to make us think of the outdoors and that emphasizes Mary's rustic charms and lower-class status compared to her pallid employer, Ernestina (64).

Mary's eyes "invited male provocation," the narrator says, and they "bubbled as the best champagne bubbles, irrepressibly; and without causing flatulence" (64). Although Mary is far from being rich, and could never afford real champagne, this simile shows us that her wealth lies in her pleasant, laughing nature and her good humor. The image of the champagne - not just champagne, but "the best" champagne - implies something valuable and special. This simile, then, helps us to understand why Mary is so popular with men, and to characterize her as more than just another inconsequential maid.

Description of Ware Commons

Chapter 10 begins with three paragraphs describing Ware Commons - the piece of uninhabited land that is the site of many of Charles and Sarah's early meetings. The imagery in this description is mysterious and lush, painting Ware Commons as "an English Garden of Eden" and calling it a "Brazilian...tropical jungle" (59). These references create a sort of exoticism in line with the "mysteries" and "dangers" of Ware Commons - we can see why Sarah is so attracted to the place, because she is also mysterious, out-of-the-ordinary, and potentially dangerous (59).

Charles kissing Sarah

Charles is so overwhelmed by his first kiss with Sarah Woodruff that a variety of powerful and seemingly unrelated images are stacked into a single ecstatic sentence, describing his emotional response. He feels "borne on wings of fire" - a Biblical reference which paints him as an angel (273). He feels so liberated from Victorian suppression of sexuality that he is like "a child at last let free from school," which is a less elevated and epic simile than the angelic one, but still effective for conveying the extent of the liberation that Charles feels - as is the simile that compares him to "a prisoner in a green field" (273). There is some more imagery of flying; Charles feels like "a hawk rising" (273). Taken together, these images show us how giddy Charles feels, and how Sarah represents a whole new world for him compared to his stuffy Victorian life, like a "green field" or an open sky (273).

Anachronistic imagery

The narrator emphasizes how out-of-place in Victorian society Sarah is by using anachronistic imagery to describe her uncanny traits that distinguish her from her peers - for example, he says that she has a "computer in her heart" that allows her to read people's emotions with incredible precision (87). Sarah could have been portrayed as a psychic, but Fowles chooses to use imagery relating to modern technology to drive home the point that Sarah is 'modern woman' and not at all like Ernestina and Mary.

The narrator also uses anachronistic imagery when describing himself - he says he is as minor a character as a "gamma-ray particle" (361). Of course, the Victorians didn't know about radioactive particles, and so by referencing this future invention, he reminds us that he is an outsider, like Sarah is, and that he doesn't belong to the era.