The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

by

John Fowles

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman: Chapter 54 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Charles tries to find Sam before he leaves Lyme, but he can’t. As his carriage draws further away, he begins to feel better. He accepts that he must prove that his decision was the right one, but he feels hopeful. He thinks of a statue in the British Museum of a pharaoh and his wife standing in an embrace, and he feels that he and Sarah are similarly carved from one stone. He plans for them to go abroad as soon as possible, and he imagines the places they’ll go. They’ll be exiled, but they’ll be brought together by their outcast state.
Charles is finally able to look forward to a new life. He has taken a moral and philosophical stand, and now he needs everything to play out in practice the way he imagines it in theory. He’s pinning all his hopes for the future on Sarah. However, he’s taking a different approach to being an outcast than she has—she insisted on staying in the place of her shame, whereas he wants to escape.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
In Exeter, Charles goes straight to Endicott’s Family Hotel, imagining the purity of his reunion with Sarah. He knocks on Mrs. Endicott’s door and says he’s going to Sarah’s room, but she says that Sarah has left. He doesn’t understand at first, and she says Sarah took the train to London. Charles asks if she left an address, but Mrs. Endicott says Sarah didn’t even speak to her. She thought maybe she was going to meet Charles. He tells her to let him know if she hears anything from Sarah. He leaves, but returns to ask if a servant came with a letter for Sarah that morning. He did not.
Charles is thwarted at the very first moment of what’s supposed to be his new happiness. But Sarah has always fiercely guarded control over her own story, so it’s unsurprising that the plot Charles is trying to write for her isn’t working. The most ironic part of this situation is that Charles has no idea where in London Sarah is, and thus she might be lost to him forever just when he was finally going to be with her.
Themes
Storytelling and Morality Theme Icon
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Charles collapses in his carriage. He wonders why Sam didn’t deliver the letter. He realizes Sam must have read it and quit because his disobedience would be discovered when they returned to Exeter. Charles wants to kill him. His only hope is that Sarah might have gone to London to find him, but if she was looking for him, surely she would have gone to Lyme. And besides, she probably thought he was lost to her. That night, Charles prays that he will find Sarah.
Even now, Charles continues to think that Sam’s life revolves around him, failing to realize that Sam quit to throw in his lot with Mary. Ironically, Sam didn’t get what he wanted by stealing the letter, because Charles still broke up with Ernestina, and now he’s ruined Charles’s chance with Sarah mostly by accident. Although Charles has scorned organized religion, his desperation drives him to prayer.
Themes
Religion, Science, and Evolution Theme Icon