The French Lieutenant's Woman


  • The Narrator – as in other works of metafiction, the narrator's voice frequently intervenes in the story with a personality of its own. Though the voice appears to be that of Fowles, Magali Cornier Michael notes that chapter 13, which discusses the role of author and narrator within fiction, distinguishes between the author's role in the text and the narrator's.[12] Alice Ferrebe describes the narrator as both a lens for critiquing traditional gender roles and a perpetuation of the perspectives on gendered identity perpetuated by the male gaze.[13]
  • Sarah Woodruff – the main protagonist according to the narrator. Formerly a governess, she becomes disgraced after an illicit, but unconsummated, liaison with an injured French naval merchant. The feminist critic Magali Cornier Michael argues that she is more a plot device, not interpretable as a main character because her thoughts and motivations are only interpreted from the perspective of outside male characters. Sarah offers a representation of myth or symbol within a male perspective on women.[14]
  • Charles Smithson – the main male character. Though born into a family with close ties to nobility, Smithson does not possess a title but has a sizable income and considerable education. Early in the novel he is described both as a casual naturalist and a Darwinist. Though trying to become an enlightened and forward-thinking individual, the narrator often emphasises, through commentary on Smithson's actions and situation, that his identity is strongly rooted in the traditional social system.[14] Moreover, conflicting identification with social forces, such as science and religion, lead Smithson to an existential crisis.[15]
  • Ernestina Freeman – Smithson's fiance and daughter to a London-based owner of department stores. Unlike Sarah, Ernestina's temperament is much less complex, and much more simple-minded.
  • Sam Farrow – Charles's Hackney servant with aspirations to become a haberdasher. Throughout the novel, Sam becomes the narrator's model for the working class peoples of Victorian Britain, comparing Sam's identity with Charles's ignorance of that culture. According to critic David Landrum, the tension between Sam and Charles Smithson importantly demonstrates Marxist class struggle, though often gets overlooked by criticism discussing Charles's relationship to Sarah.[16]
  • Dr Grogan – an Irish doctor in the town of Lyme Regis who both advises the various upper-class families in the town, and becomes an adviser to Charles. His education and interest in Darwin and other education make him a good companion with Charles.
  • Mr Freeman – the father of Ernestina, he earned his wealth as an owner of a drapery and clothes sales chain of stores. He "represents the rising entrepreneurial class in England" which stands in stark contrast to the old money which Smithson comes from.[16]
  • Aunt Tranter – a prominent member of Lyme Regis society who is friends with Grogan and, as her maternal aunt, hosts Ernestina during her stay.
  • Mrs Poulteney – a wealthy widow and, at the beginning of the novel, the employer of Sarah Woodruff. Hypocritical, and hypersensitive, her character fulfills the archetype of high-society villainess.
  • Mary – stereotypical lower class servant to Ernestina Freeman and future wife to Sam Farrow.

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