The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

by

John Fowles

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman: Chapter 30 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sarah had gotten home before Mrs. Fairley. When she went to her room for a few minutes, Mrs. Fairley took her chance. She came to Sarah’s room and triumphantly told her Mrs. Poulteney was waiting for her. When Sarah went into the drawing room, Mrs. Fairley listened at the door. Mrs. Poulteney was standing at the window and refused to acknowledge Sarah. Sarah saw an envelope on a table, but she hardly reacted. Mrs. Poulteney wasn’t quite sure how to best ruin her. Finally she said that the envelope held a month’s wages, and Sarah would leave the next morning. Sarah didn’t reply, and Mrs. Poulteney had to prompt her angrily.
Both Mrs. Fairley and Mrs. Poulteney are clearly ecstatic at this chance to hurt and humiliate Sarah, demonstrating what reprehensible people they are. For her part, Sarah clearly knows what’s coming and has purposefully orchestrated it, which actually gives her the upper hand in this situation, making it possible for her to foil the other women’s satisfaction at her firing. Thus, Sarah’s supposed self-sabotage is in fact giving her power.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Sarah demanded to know why she was being dismissed. Mrs. Poulteney said she would have her locked away, and commanded her to leave. Sarah said it would be a pleasure, and turned to go, but Mrs. Poulteney told her to take her wages. Sarah suggested she use them to buy a torture machine to use on her servants. Mrs. Poulteney gasped that she would pay for those words, and Sarah implied that God might not listen to Mrs. Poulteney in the next life. She smiled at her knowingly. Mrs. Poulteney stared, then collapsed in her chair.
Counting Grogan’s plan to put Sarah in an asylum, this is the second time people have threatened her with institutionalization for her unconventional behavior. This was not an uncommon reaction to rebellious women in this time. Sarah turns this scene completely against Mrs. Poulteney, using her power of perception to throw a dart that hits Mrs. Poulteney where it hurts—her fear of going to hell.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Sexuality and Gender Theme Icon
Sarah opened the door quickly and motioned Mrs. Fairley inside, who accused Sarah of murder. After a few moments Sarah went to her room. She covered her face, then lifted her fingers and looked in the mirror. Then she wept into her bed, believing she was praying.
Although Sarah’s self-sabotage does give her a certain power, it is also, in the end, sabotage, and its consequences hurt her too. If her goal was to manipulate other people, as Grogan thinks, she doesn’t seem very happy about doing so.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Religion, Science, and Evolution Theme Icon