The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Charles felt physically and mentally sick on the way home, but he woke up feeling better. He apologizes to Sam for being short with him the night before, and asks for some tea. Charles thinks about his life and concludes that things could change in the two years Mr. Freeman gave him to consider his future—his uncle could die. He remembers that he’ll soon be allowed sexual pleasure sanctioned by marriage, and children will make everything better.
Charles is grasping at straws for his happiness, trying to find the positives in an overall bad situation. Though this is often a good approach, it isn’t necessarily so wise when his potential unhappiness will affect his entire life as well as affecting Ernestina’s happiness. His reasons for marrying don’t include her.
Themes
Sexuality and Gender Theme Icon
Sam returns with two letters, one from Exeter and one from Lyme. He opens a letter from Grogan. When Charles returned after meeting Sarah, he sent Grogan a letter in which he pretended to still be in complete agreement about the best course of action to take. He asked Grogan to tell him what happened when he met Sarah, and admitted that he hadn’t yet come clean to Ernestina, but that he would do so. Grogan now replies that Sarah never turned up when he went to meet her. He learned the next morning that someone ordered her box sent to Exeter, and he thinks that she has left Lyme. However, he’s worried that she might follow Charles to London. He includes the address of someone who can help Charles if this happens. He again urges Charles to tell Ernestina everything. Charles is relieved that his secret is safe.
Charles is falling further out of the social contract that society embodies—he seems to feel less and less guilty about deceiving his friends, and he’s becoming more focused on what will allow him to preserve the façade he’s built. Grogan may seem a bit of a fool to the reader who knows what Charles has really been doing, but Charles seems almost pitiful for the web of lies he’s wound around himself. Grogan himself is not generally an adherent to mainstream society, so the fact that Charles now seems so far beyond Grogan’s quiet unconventionality is significant.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Charles then opens the other letter, which contains only an address. He throws it into the fire and takes a cup of tea from Sam. He says they’ll return to Lyme the next day. Once Sam has made arrangements, he can have the afternoon off. Sam announces that he’s going to propose to Mary, or he would if he didn’t have such a good job with Charles. Charles demands he speak clearly, and Sam says he wouldn’t be able to live with Charles anymore. Charles objects to Sam’s desertion, and says that once he’s married, Sam and Mary can both live with them.
This letter is clearly from Sarah. The fact that she’s sent Charles her address means that she hasn’t accepted their goodbye as absolutely final. Charles, however, doesn’t hesitate to destroy it, suggesting that he might be able to control any urge to see her again. Unlike Charles, Sam is free to marry the woman whom he really loves. Only when faced with losing him does Charles think of how much he needs Sam.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Sam says he wants to start a shop. Charles asks whether he has the money, and Sam says he’s saved some. To Charles’s astonishment, he says he wants to have a draper’s and haberdasher’s shop, but he and Mary still need to save a lot more money. Charles drinks his tea and eventually asks how much. The shop Sam wants would be 250 pounds, and he only has thirty, which it’s taken him three years to save. This is a third of his wages. Charles makes the mistake of giving Sam his true opinion, largely because he feels superior to him. He tells Sam he’ll be miserable if he tries to climb the class hierarchy like this, and he doesn’t want to lose him. They should continue in their currently satisfying relationship.
Sam’s financial difficulties really put Charles’s into perspective. Charles has plenty of money to live comfortably and no ambition to do much of anything with his life. Sam, on the other hand, has plenty of ambition but no money to make it reality, yet Charles is the one acting out because he feels so trapped. Charles again acts condescendingly towards Sam, assuming that he knows more about the class system, though people in oppressed positions inevitably know the most about the workings of the oppressive system.
Themes
Class Theme Icon
Get the entire The French Lieutenant’s Woman LitChart as a printable PDF.
The french lieutenant s woman.pdf.medium
Sam is terribly disappointed. Charles assures him that he’ll pay him more if he marries Mary, but Sam isn’t cheered. Charles realizes that Sam knows something of his wealth, and probably wants Charles to give him the money for the shop. He finally tells Sam that Sir Robert is going to be married. Sam pretends to be surprised. Charles says he doesn’t have much money to spare, as a result, but Sam must keep this a secret. Sam says he knows how to do that, and Charles looks at him sharply. Sam’s despair has largely come from believing that Charles doesn’t have a secret that he could use for blackmail, so Charles’s next words are a mistake. He says he might be able to offer the money once he’s married, and Sam realizes there is a secret. Charles says he’ll ask Mr. Freeman’s advice for Sam. When Sam leaves, Charles worries that Sam is becoming deceitful. He begins to think he can afford the gift, after all.
Charles comes out of this situation looking quite the fool. He’s actually hindered most by his adherence to convention in his relationship with Sam: He believes that Sam doesn’t know that he might be losing his inheritance because he hasn’t personally told Sam, rather than realizing that Sam hears things too. He also thinks that the wisest course of action is to subtly pay Sam off to not reveal that he saw Charles and Sarah together at the barn, but the very fact that he thinks this way is what makes Sam realize that there’s really something going on between them. It’s ironic that Charles is worried about Sam’s deceitfulness, when he himself is one of the most deceitful characters.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
Downstairs, Sam reads Charles’s telegraph to Ernestina, announcing his return to Lyme. Earlier that morning, Sam used steam to open the letter that contained the address. It’s becoming clear that he isn’t entirely honest, but impending marriage makes people more concerned with their ability to provide for their partner. It makes it easier to be dishonest. Sam needs Charles to marry Ernestina so that he’ll have enough money to give Sam. If Charles gets too involved with Sarah, it might ruin Sam’s prospects.
Sam’s motivations in interfering with Charles’s life are entirely selfish; he doesn’t care about Charles’s relationship with Sarah for any moral reasons. This makes it rather ironic that Sam will be the one whose actions impart moral consequences on Charles, and it adds to the theme that unlike Victorian novels, this novel is not trying to make a moral statement on its characters actions.
Themes
Storytelling and Morality Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon