|Cover artist||Tom Adams|
|Publisher||Jonathan Cape (UK),
Little, Brown and Company (US)
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Pages||256 (Dell, 1964, Softcover)|
The novel is about a lonely young man, Frederick Clegg, who works as a clerk in a city hall, and collects butterflies in his spare time. The first part of the novel tells the story from his point of view.
Clegg is obsessed with Miranda Grey, a middle-class art student at the Slade School of Fine Art. He admires her from a distance, but is unable to make any contact with her because of his nonexistent social skills. One day, he wins a large prize in the football pools. This makes it possible for him to stop working and buy an isolated house in the countryside. He feels lonely, however, and wants to be with Miranda. Unable to make any normal contact, Clegg decides to add her to his "collection" of pretty, petrified objects, in the hope that if he keeps her captive long enough, she will grow to love him. After careful preparations, he kidnaps Miranda by drugging her with chloroform and locks her up in the cellar of his house. He is convinced that Miranda will start to love him after some time. However, when she wakes up, she confronts him with his actions. Clegg is embarrassed, and promises to let her go after a month. He promises to show her "every respect", pledging not to sexually molest her and to shower her with gifts and the comforts of home, on one condition: she can't leave the cellar.
Clegg rationalizes every step of his plan in cold, emotionless language; he seems truly incapable of relating to other human beings and sharing real intimacy with them. He takes great pains to appear normal, however, and is greatly offended at the suggestion that his motives are anything but reasonable and genuine.
The second part of the novel is narrated by Miranda in the form of fragments from a diary that she keeps during her captivity. Clegg scares her, and she does not understand him in the beginning. Miranda reminisces over her previous life throughout this section of the novel, and many of her diary entries are written either to her sister, or to a man named G.P., whom she respected and admired as an artist. Miranda reveals that G.P. ultimately fell in love with her, and subsequently severed all contact with her. Through Miranda's confined reflections, Fowles discusses a number of philosophical issues, such as the nature of art, humanity and God.
At first, Miranda thinks that Clegg has sexual motives for abducting her, but as his true character begins to be revealed, she realises that this is not true. She starts to have some pity for her captor, comparing him to Caliban in Shakespeare's play The Tempest because of his hopeless obsession with her. Clegg tells Miranda that his first name is Ferdinand (eventual winner of Miranda's affections in The Tempest).
Miranda tries to escape several times, but Clegg is always able to stop her. She also tries to seduce him in order to convince him to let her go. The only result is that he becomes confused and angry. When Clegg keeps refusing to let her go, she starts to fantasize about killing him. After a failed attempt at doing so, Miranda passes through a phase of self-loathing, and decides that to kill Clegg would lower her to his level. As such, she then refrains from any further attempts to do so. Before she can try to escape again, she becomes seriously ill and dies.
The third part of the novel is again narrated by Clegg. At first, he wants to commit suicide after he learns of Miranda's death, but after he reads in her diary that she never loved him, he decides that he is not responsible and is better off without her. The books ends with his announcement he plans to kidnap another girl.
Fowles' own explanation of the purpose behind The Collector
Fowles explained in his follow-up book The Aristos, that the main point behind the novel was to show what he felt to be the danger of class and intellectual divisions in a society where prosperity for the majority was becoming more widespread, particularly power (whether by wealth or position) getting into the hands of those intellectually unsuited to handle it.
In The Aristos Fowles talks about how he got the idea for The Collector from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who saw mankind as divided into two groups. The first was a moral and intellectual elite known as the aristoi, or "the good", (not necessarily meaning those of noble birth) and the second was the hoi polloi, or "the many", who were viewed as an unthinking, conforming mass. Fowles was inspired by Heraclitus' ideas and, in The Aristos, he makes a point that the reader should try to understand that "the dividing line should run through each individual, not between individuals." He also explicitly states "I tried to establish the virtual innocence of the many. Miranda, the girl he imprisoned, had very little more control than Clegg over what she was: she had well-to-do parents, a good educational opportunity, inherited aptitude and intelligence. That does not mean that she was perfect. Far from it - she was arrogant in her ideas, a prig, a liberal-humanist slob, like so many university students. Yet if she had not died she might have become something better, the kind of being humanity so desperately need."
Fowles goes on to explain that the purpose of the novel was not to say that a precious elite was threatened by the barbarian hordes. Rather, that people had to face up to an unnecessary brutal conflict based on envy and contempt, and accept that we will never be born equal until The Many can be educated out of a false sense of inferiority and The Few can understand that biological superiority is not a state of existence but rather a state of responsibility. He strongly opposes the view that the idea behind The Collector is a fascist one.
There have been numerous presentations and adaptations of The Collector, including film and theatre. The Collector also appears in various songs, television episodes, and books.
The novel was made into a film in 1965. It was adapted by Stanley Mann and John Kohn and was directed by William Wyler (who turned down The Sound Of Music to do it). It starred Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.
- A stage version of the novel (also written by John Fowles) was performed in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Marianne Faithfull starred as Miranda. It was badly received by the critics.
- It has also been performed at the Camden's People Theatre.
- Another adaption was written by Mark Healy and first performed at Derby Playhouse in October 1998.
- Mark Healy's adaptation was also performed at the 'Arcola Theatre' in Hackney, London from 26 August to 20 September 2008.
- The play was also performed at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe by 'Vivid Theatre Company.'
- A song inspired by the novel, also called "The Collector", was written by Sonny Curtis. The song was recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1966 and was included on their album Two Yanks In England. The song was also recorded by the Connecticut-based band The #1 in 1967 on Kapp records (K824/K-10643) b/w "Cracks In The Sidewalk" (Kapp K824/K-10644).
- The song "The Butterfly Collector" by The Jam (the B-Side of the 1979 single "Strange Town") was inspired by the book, but the song was in fact about Soo Catwoman, who upon the implosion of the Sex Pistols, attempted to become part of The Jam's entourage. The song states the band's contempt for those obsessed with "collecting" reflected fame from contemporary celebrities as a substitute for living their own lives.
- The song "Purity" by metal band Slipknot. The lyrics relate to this book.
- The song "Prosthetics" by previously said band Slipknot. The lyrics depict a story similar to that of the book, which has been confirmed by vocalist Corey Taylor and is visible on the band's wiki, which has a page dedicated to the song and its meaning.
- The song "The Collector" by Russian band Deadushki. The lyrics relate to this book.
- The Smiths song "Half A Person" is thought to be titled after the quote, "Caliban is half a person at the best of times." In addition, a still from the film adaptation was used on the cover of their single "What Difference Does It Make?"
- The song "International Rock Star" by the Canadian band Stars is loosely related to the plot of the book and features soundbites from the film.
- The song "The Man Who Stole A Leopard" by British band Duran Duran (All You Need Is Now album) was inspired by the movie, according to the keyboardist Nick Rhodes.
- The song "Index" by UK Artist Steven Wilson (album Grace For Drowning Kscope 2011) was inspired by the novel. The lyrics relate to this book.
- The song "Chastity" by pop-rock group The Raves (album Past Perfect Tense Hologramophone 1992) was inspired by the novel. The lyrics tell the story of this book.
The basic plot of "The Collector" - a lonely maladjust kidnapping the object of his or her desire - has become a standard plot device of a number of TV shows, ranging from soap operas to crime series. Some more explicit references to John Fowles' book are:
- In the Criminal Minds two-part episode, "The Fisher King", The Collector was the book used by the kidnapper to send a coded message, via an Ottendorf Cipher, to the Behavioral Analysis Unit by sending the agents a butterfly, a skeleton key and a lock of hair from his victim.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror X", Comic Book Guy uses the persona "The Collector" as a supervillain and kidnaps Lucy Lawless from a comicbook convention to take her back to his lair to marry her.
- Seven Days, a UPN Television Series, had an episode called The Collector, a serial killer who chloroformed and kidnapped women including the show's heroine Dr. Olga Vukavich (Justine Vail).
Books and comics
- In the book The Dark Tower by Stephen King, Finli O'Tego, also known as The Weasel, reads The Collector. Later Finli noticed another character, Dinky, reading Fowles' The Magus, and asks him what he thinks of the author. This is clearly referential to Fowles' The Ebony Tower, which shares some thematic elements, as well as a similar title with The Dark Tower.
- In the book Misery by Stephen King, the character Paul Sheldon compares his situation to that in John Fowles' novel. A quote from The Collector prefaces part three.
- In Neil Gaiman's comic The Doll's House there is a reference to The Collector. One episode of the comic, titled as "Collectors," is about a convention of serial killers. One of the films shown at the convention is The Collector, and one of the killers mentions the novel favourably, as he considered himself for the first time "understood," presumably in the character of Freddie Clegg.
Associations with serial killers
There are several cases in which serial killers, spree killers, kidnappers, and other criminals have claimed that The Collector was the basis, the inspiration, or the justification for their crimes.
Leonard Lake and Charles Ng
In 1985, Leonard Lake (with help from Charles Chi-Tat Ng) abducted 18 year-old Kathy Allen and later 19 year-old Brenda O'Connor, in hopes of fulfilling his fantasy of owning his own "Miranda". He is said to have been utterly obsessed with The Collector and plotted the abduction and holding of the women. Lake and Ng subsequently abducted, raped, and tortured the women. Lake described his plan for using the women for sex and housekeeping in a "philosophy" videotape. The two are believed to have murdered at least 25 people, including two entire families. Although Lake had committed several crimes in the Ukiah, California area, his "Operation Miranda" did not begin until after he moved to a home in remote Wilseyville, California, owned by his ex-wife's family. There he built a bunker into the side hill which included a soundproof cell with a disguised entrance. It was at this point fellow ex-Marine Charles Ng joined Lake following Ng's release from Ft. Leavenworth Prison. The men videotaped some of their milder interactions with Allen and O'Connor in a tape labeled "M Ladies" using a camera stolen from the Dubs family, whom they kidnapped and murdered in the early stages of their crime spree. Lake's "Miranda" plan was cut short after only three confirmed females (Dubs, Allen, and O'Connor) had been held (and then murdered) because Ng was caught shoplifting a vise in San Francisco. Lake was arrested when linked to a car belonging to one of their murder victims, Paul Cosner. At that point, Lake committed suicide taking a cyanide capsule and Ng escaped to Canada. Ng was subsequently extradited back to California. The videotapes and a diary written by Lake were found buried near the bunker in Wilseyville. They revealed that Lake had named the plot Operation Miranda after the character in Fowles' book.
In 1988, Robert Berdella held his victims captive and photographed their torture before killing them. He claimed that the film version of The Collector had been his inspiration when he was a teenager.
- John Fowles, The Aristos. Preface to the 1968 Edition
- "The Stage". Retrieved 2008-01-30.
- "Criminal Minds: Fisher King". Retrieved 2008-01-30.
- "Treehouse of Horror X". Retrieved 2008-01-30.
- Christopher Wilder, sadistic serial killer of beauty pageant winners - The Crime Library - The Crime library
- Lasseter, D. (2000). "Die For Me." New York: Kensington Publishing Company
- Bob Berdella - The Crime library
- FowlesBooks.com—The Official John Fowles web site