The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

by

John Fowles

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman: Chapter 59 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Charles is seasick on his trip across the Atlantic, and he begins to regret going. But he’s pleasantly surprised when he gets to Boston, and before long he’s welcomed into society. Some people are inclined to be hostile to an Englishman because of their stereotype of the British, but Charles assures them that he approves of American independence and culture. He enjoys the new plants and animals he sees as well as the people. They don’t always understand his humor, but he likes their honesty and charm. He’s attracted to the boldness of American women, but he’s afraid to get attached to any of them because of the document he signed for Mr. Freeman.
Charles continues to distance himself from British society, and he finds that he no longer has to be an outcast. He’s clearly happier being accepted into the fold of society, and he feels that American society has made an improvement on the duplicities of British society. However, even here Charles continues to feel the consequences of his decision to renounce the comforts of British society—he can’t seek romantic happiness because Mr. Freeman is sure to ruin any marriage prospects.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Charles sees Sarah’s directness in the Americans he meets, and he begins to think well of her again. He wonders whether she could be here, and he often sees women who look like her. Once he’s sure she’s walking ahead of him, and is disturbed to find that it’s not her. After that, he advertises for her in newspapers wherever he goes. He goes south and visits the friends he met in France, then continues on through the major cities. In the South, he sees the effects of the Civil War, and he changes to fit in with the different cultures he finds there.
Even though Charles has found a place where he can live as normal, he’s still searching almost obsessively for the one for whom he became an outcast. He continues to practice the “cryptic coloration” that Fowles mentioned earlier, as he modifies his own behavior to make him acceptable in the various situations he finds himself in throughout the United States.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Charles finds much both good and bad in the United States. He spends a month in Charleston and finds he’s beginning to speak like an American. Though he thinks slavery is wrong, he also understands the Southerners’ anger. He eventually decides he likes Boston best, but he continues traveling south. America gives him a sense of faith in freedom. Though the South seems prone to anarchy in their freedom, Charles thinks this is better than the rigidness of England. One evening he stands on a beach facing Europe and writes a poem predicting that America will one day create a better society than England.
For Charles, America grows increasingly to represent a freedom that England doesn’t have, as well as proof that freedom can work as a defining cultural ideal. In England, the defining cultural ideal is more like conformity. The American Civil War is only a few years in the past, and it acts as a symbol of the triumph and enduring power of freedom. By becoming so intimate with another culture, Charles is able to gain a better perspective on his own.
Themes
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
In the three months since Mary saw Sarah, she’s given birth to a son. One peaceful evening, Sam is playing with his children when he realizes he must do something for his conscience. Two days later, Charles receives a telegram in New Orleans. Montague writes that he has found Sarah in London. Tears come to his eyes, and after a few minutes he asks the hotel desk when the next ship to Europe sails.
Sam essentially has a perfect Victorian family, but he’s always aware that he’s gotten it through duplicity, and he thinks he can still undo the damage that he’s done. Charles is clearly still deeply enough in love with Sarah that he will literally cross an ocean for her, though he can’t know what to expect.
Themes
Storytelling and Morality Theme Icon
Convention vs. Freedom Theme Icon
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