The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The French Lieutenant’s Woman


John Fowles

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman Characters

The narrator

The narrator of the book appears sporadically as a disembodied narrative “I,” and also, twice, as an actual character who inserts himself into the scene of Victorian England. The narrator suggests that he is also… read analysis of The narrator

Charles Smithson

Charles is an upper-class amateur paleontologist who believes wholeheartedly in Darwin’s theory of evolution. In fact, he shares his first name with Darwin, gesturing to the importance of evolution to his life. Though Charles believes… read analysis of Charles Smithson

Sarah Woodruff

Sarah, the titular French Lieutenant’s Woman, is modeled after the trope of the mysteriously alluring woman who often tempts the male protagonists of Victorian novels. Her motives are always murky, and her actions are unexpected… read analysis of Sarah Woodruff

Ernestina Freeman

Ernestina, modeled after the conventional love interest of a Victorian novel, is Charles’s fiancée. She comes from an upper-middle-class family, and even though her family is actually wealthier than Charles’s, she feels very anxious… read analysis of Ernestina Freeman

Dr. Grogan

Dr. Grogan is an Irish doctor who lives in Lyme. He and Charles find common ground in their intellectual pursuits, particularly their dedication to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Grogan believes that Sarah is not only… read analysis of Dr. Grogan
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Sam Farrow

Sam is Charles’s manservant. He’s a London Cockney, but he has dreams of moving up the social ladder by opening a haberdashery. Although he’s not portrayed as a fundamentally bad person, Sam willingly takes… read analysis of Sam Farrow


Mary is a maid at Mrs. Tranter’s house. She comes from an impoverished country family. She knows she’s pretty, and she’s not above making Ernestina jealous of her looks. She falls in love with… read analysis of Mary

Mrs. Poulteney

One of the upper-class women of Lyme. Mrs. Poulteney is generally known to be a horrible person who mistreats her servants and judges those around her by skewed religious standards. Her secret is that she… read analysis of Mrs. Poulteney

Mr. Freeman

Ernestina’s father. Mr. Freeman has made his fortune through his draper’s store on Oxford Street. He exemplifies the upper-middle-class nouveau riche of the Victorian Era. Though he strives to be a gentleman and wants… read analysis of Mr. Freeman

The prostitute

When Charles is in London, feeling trapped by his future, he picks up a prostitute on the street because she looks vaguely like Sarah. This woman has a young daughter and goes about her… read analysis of The prostitute

Mrs. Tranter

Mrs. Tranter is Ernestina’s aunt, with whom she stays in Lyme. She’s one of the most truly kind characters, and in her treatment of her servants, she acts as a counterexample to Mrs. Poulteneyread analysis of Mrs. Tranter
Minor Characters
Sir Robert
Charles’s uncle, a baronet. He only cares about fox hunting and he doesn’t understand Charles’s intellectual pursuits. Though he’s been a bachelor his whole life, he finally decides to marry, endangering Charles’s inheritance.
Mrs. Fairley
Mrs. Poulteney’s cruel housekeeper. She delights in having Sarah’s activities spied on and then reporting her wrongdoing to Mrs. Poulteney, which eventually gets Sarah fired.
The vicar
The clergyman who serves Mrs. Poulteney. He suggests that she take Sarah in to pave her way to heaven. He doesn’t particularly like Mrs. Poulteney, but he humors her because she donates freely to his church.
The curate
A clergyman who lets Charles pray in his church in Exeter. His religion leans towards Catholicism.
A servant of Mrs. Poulteney’s whom Sarah saves from being fired. She has a breakdown and begins to sleep in Sarah’s bed for comfort.
Mrs. Hawkins
A servant at Winsyatt. She acted as a mother figure to Charles when he was little.
Mrs. Endicott
The owner of Endicott’s Family Hotel, where Sarah stays in Exeter. She cares only about how much money her guests will pay for a room.
Sir Thomas Burgh
A man Charles knows from his time at Cambridge. He has a reputation of living entirely for pleasure, and he takes Charles to a brothel in London.
Harry Montague
Charles’s lawyer.
Mr. Aubrey
Mr. Freeman’s lawyer.
Serjeant Murphy
An official of the law who presides at the meeting that Charles has with Mr. Freeman and his lawyers. He has a frightening reputation.
Charles and Sarah’s daughter.
Mrs. Talbot
Sarah’s former employer, who wants to help her after her affair with Varguennes. Mrs. Talbot’s loving relationship with her family constantly reminds Sarah of what she believes she can never have.