I used to have daydreams about her, I used to think of stories where I met her, did things she admired, married her and all that. Nothing nasty, that was never until what I’ll explain later.”
Frederick combines an ordinary romantic fantasy of impressing his crush with an ominous line that foreshadows what his desire will devolve into. This mix of romantic cliché, suspense, and impending horror defines the tone of the book. These lines also introduce Frederick’s unreliability as a narrator: It’s unclear whether his initial fantasies are as innocuous as he portrays them, or whether he’s concealing his ill-intent.
My father was killed driving. I was two. That was in 1937. He was drunk, but Aunt Annie always said it was my mother that drove him to drink. They never told me what really happened, but she went off soon after and left me with Aunt Annie.”
The emotionless tone with which Frederick conveys the tragedy of his childhood suggests either that this tragedy stunted him emotionally or that he’s innately unable to feel emotions such as grief. There is not even a trace of anger in his description of being abandoned to the care of his unloving aunt—he writes in a completely reportorial style. That Annie conceals the truth from Frederick leaves an open wound in his past that continues to affect his attitude toward women.
“There’s never been anyone but you I’ve ever wanted to know. ‘That’s the worst kind of illness,’ she said. She turned round then, all this was while I was tying. She looked down. ‘I feel sorry for you.’”
In the novel, what the characters describe as love is actually an all-consuming obsession, akin to a kind of sickness. Miranda and Frederick discuss hopeless, since Miranda experienced a form of unrequited attraction in her relationship with George.
By John Fowles