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55 pages 1 hour read

John Fowles

The Collector

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Themes

The Death-Dealing Nature of Collecting

The Collector presents the hobby of collecting as a selfish practice of hoarding beauty. Most prominent is Frederick’s butterfly collecting, but Miranda also compares his lepidoptery to art collecting. In her view art collectors are “anti-life, anti-art, anti-everything” (111) because they steal from the world for their private collections. She also dislikes the collector’s obsession with categorizing art; she believes art should be experienced, not intellectualized. Frederick’s lepidoptery expresses the “anti-life” quality Miranda identifies at his core: “He’s a collector. That’s the great dead thing in him” (168).

The collector is concerned with trophies, prizing them for their rarity and value, more than their beauty. Butterflies are beautiful insects, but to kill and pin them in a display case becomes about quantity, control, and status, not aesthetic appreciation. Frederick treats Miranda the same way, prizing her social position over her selfhood. Miranda realizes that all Frederick cares about is possessing her: “The sheer joy of having me under his power, of being able to spend all and every day staring at me […] It’s me he wants, my look, my outside; not my emotions or my mind or my soul or even my body. Not anything human” (168).

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