The passion of existence : a study of the themes of quest and self-knowledge in the fiction of John Fowles
Van der Berg, Christoffel Johannes
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In this dissertation the contrasting male-female relationships in John Fowles's fiction are examined. The main aim is to establish the themes of quest and self-knowledge at the basis of a thematic hierarchy which can be used to make a thematic analysis of Fowles's fiction. Chapter 1 of the dissertation discusses the major themes in Fowles's work as identified by Simon Loveday (1985). However, I go one step further by establishing a specific thematic hierarchy as an aid to the analysis of Fowles's fiction. In chapters 2-8 this matrix is used in a thematic analysis of Fowles's novels and short stories. A diachronic approach is used and each novel and short story is discussed in terms of the themes of quest and self-knowledge and their relation to the other themes in Fowles's work. The analyses of the texts in terms of the theoretical part of the dissertation lead one to come to the conclusion that the initial working hypothesis has been proven a valid one: in each of Fowles's fictions there is a definite fixed pattern (with a slight variation in The Collector, Mantissa, and A Maggot). The male protagonist sets out on a quest for an ideal woman. His contrasting relationship with this woman leads him to self-knowledge, and even if he sometimes fails to conquer this heroine, he emerges as a person with existential authenticity. The quest is always an educational process. A number of areas for further research are indicated in the conclusion. The themes of the male quest and self-knowledge form the nucleus around which the thematic, structural and textual elements are woven: it is without any doubt the determining factor in all of Fowles's fiction to date.
- Humanities