The Collector

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Collector
First US edition
AuthorJohn Fowles
Cover artistTom Adams
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreThriller, Fable
PublisherJonathan Cape (UK),
Little, Brown and Company (US)
Publication date
May 1963
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages256 (Dell, 1964, Softcover)

The Collector is the 1963 debut novel by English author John Fowles. He wrote it between November 1960 and March 1962. It was adapted as a feature film of the same name in 1965.

Plot summary[edit]

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 he is socially underdeveloped. One day, he wins a large prize in the football pools. He quits his job and buys 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, preserved 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.

The second part of the novel is narrated by Miranda in the form of fragments from a diary that she keeps during her captivity. 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 consequently severed all contact with her.

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 begins to pity 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 stops her. She also tries to seduce him 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 to do so, Miranda passes through a phase of self-loathing. She decides that to kill Clegg would lower her to his level. She 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 narrated by Clegg. At first, he wants to commit suicide after he finds Miranda dead; but, after he reads in her diary that she never loved him, he decides that he is not responsible for what happened to her and is better off without her. He buries her corpse in the garden. The book ends with his announcement that he plans to kidnap another girl.


The Collector has been adapted as a film and a dramatic play. The Collector also is referred to in various songs, television episodes, and books.

Film versions[edit]

The novel was loosely adapted into a Mexican film called Honeymoon (2015).

Theatre versions[edit]

  • David Parker's adaptation of the novel was performed at the St Martin's Theatre in London. Marianne Faithfull starred as Miranda. It was poorly received by the critics. The script is available from Samuel French.
  • Adapted, again with permission from Fowles Estate, by Tim Dalgleish and Caz Tricks for Bare Bones Theatre Company, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, 1999
  • Another adaption was written by Mark Healy and first performed at Derby Playhouse in October 1998. This adaption was performed at Gothenburg English Studio Theatre in Sweden in April 2007.[2][3]. This adaptation was also performed at the 'Arcola Theatre' in Hackney, London from 26 August to 20 September 2008, at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe by 'Vivid Theatre Company', and at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival by 'Arkle Theatre Company'. Blink. Theatre] produced the play at The Space from 3–14 March 2015. It has also been performed at the Camden's People Theatre.[4]. The adaptation had its 2016 American premiere at 59E59 Street Theater in Manhattan, running from October 26th to November 13th.[5]


  • "The Collector", a song inspired by the novel, was written by Sonny Curtis. It was recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1966 and included on their album Two Yanks in England. The song was also recorded by 'The No. 1' band 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 said to be inspired by the book. It was about Soo Catwoman who, upon the implosion of the Sex Pistols, attempted to become part of The Jam's entourage.
  • The song "Purity" by metal band Slipknot has lyrics related to the novel.
  • The song "Prosthetics" by Slipknot recount a story similar to that in the novel.
  • The Smiths song "Girl afraid", B-side of their single "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and included in the compilation album Hatful of Hollow, is often cited as based in the novel.
  • The Smiths song "Half A Person" is thought to be titled after the quote, "Caliban is half a person at the best of times."
  • The cover of The Smiths single "What Difference Does it Make" featured a picture of Terence Stamp taken on the set of the film version of The Collector, though the actor reportedly objected and was replaced by a similar picture of Morrissey
  • The Smiths song "Reel Round the Fountain" includes the line "you can pin and mount me like a butterfly", thought to be a reference to the book.
  • 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 song "Chastity" by pop-rock group The Raves (album Past Perfect Tense Hologramophone 1992) has lyrics related to the novel.
  • The song "Collector" by German futurepop singer Felix Marc from his 2011 album Parallel Worlds was inspired by the novel.


The basic plot of The Collector: a lonely maladjusted person 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:

Books and comics[edit]

Associations with serial killers[edit]

In several cases since the novel was published, serial killers, spree killers, kidnappers, and other criminals have claimed that The Collector was the basis, the inspiration, or the justification for their crimes.[8]

Leonard Lake and Charles Ng[edit]

In 1985, Leonard Lake and Charles Chi-Tat Ng abducted 18-year-old Kathy Allen and later 19-year-old Brenda O'Connor. Lake is said to have been obsessed with The Collector. 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 remote Wilseyville, California. The videotapes of his murders and a diary written by Lake were found buried near the bunker in Wilseyville. They revealed that Lake had named his plot Operation Miranda after the character in Fowles' book.[9]

Christopher Wilder[edit]

Christopher Wilder, a spree/serial killer of young girls, had The Collector in his possession when he was killed by police in 1984.[8]

Robert Berdella[edit]

In 1988, Robert Berdella held his male 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.[10]


  1. ^ "'ராமாயணத்தை சினிமாவாக எடுக்க ஆசை'-இயக்குனர் பாலு மகேந்திரா" [I am interested in adapting the Ramayana for the screen]. Dinamani (in Tamil). 14 October 2016. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  2. ^ "GEST - Gothenburg English Studio Theatre - What's On". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  3. ^ ""Samlaren" blir teater". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  4. ^ "The Stage". Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Criminal Minds: Fisher King". Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  7. ^ "Treehouse of Horror X". Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  8. ^ a b "Christopher Wilder, sadistic serial killer of beauty pageant winners" – The Crime Library – The Crime library Archived 10 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Lasseter, D. (2000). "Die For Me." New York: Kensington Publishing Company
  10. ^ Bob Berdella – The Crime library Archived 21 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]