The Collector

"The Collector" is the title of a 1963 novel by John Fowles. It was made into a movie in 1965.

Plot summary

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, an upper-class art student. 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 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 hopes that if he keeps her captive long enough, she will grow to love him. After careful preparations, he kidnaps Miranda using 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 fantasise 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, probably of pneumonia.

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. Finally, he starts to plan the kidnapping of 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 (for this, Fowles was accused by some critics of being a fascist).

Clegg's pools win has left him free to do anything he wants with the rest of his life, but due to his social and intellectual background doesn't know what to do with it. Emotionally and educationally stunted, he sees the world as a place where people take what they can if they have the power (by money, position, etc.) to do so, and the rest have to make do. Therefore he takes Miranda.

Miranda is intelligent, but she is also a snob with a thinly veiled contempt for those she feels intellectually inferior to her. Ironically, she also has her own fixation on G.P., a middle-aged painter and mentor who hints at regrets for his hedonistic life which has left a lot of people he loved hurt, and does not want Miranda, whom he loves, to be next. Despite this — and despite what has happened to her from another's fixation — Miranda is determined once free to embark on a relationship with G.P. on any terms of his choosing, regardless of the emotional destruction it may cause to all concerned. Thus Miranda is the converse of Clegg, someone too clever for her own, and everyone else's, good.

Versions of "The Collector"

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.

Film version

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.

Theatre versions

* 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. [cite web|title=The Stage|url=|accessdate=2008-01-30]

* Another adaption was written by Mark Healy and first performed at Derby Playhouse in October 1998.

* Mark Healy's adaptation is also due to be performed at the 'Arcola Theatre' in Hackney, London from 26 August to 20 September 2008.


* 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 original cover art for the single of The Smiths' song "What Difference Does It Make?" featured a promotional shot for the film featuring Stamp holding a chloroform pad. Stamp protested the use of the still as promotional material and the Smiths instead used their singer, Morrissey, to recreate the photo for future pressings of the single, except in this instance Morrissey held a glass of milk (an in-joke over the number of fan letters they received asking from what film was the still of "the actor holding the glass of milk"). The UK version of the single with Morrissey in the photo for the cover is now a rare-collectible for fans of The Smiths. The song's title is also a line spoken by Stamp in the film. Another Smiths song, "Half A Person", takes its title from a line in the book "The Collector" ("Caliban is half a person at the best of times").

* Canadian band Stars samples dialogue from the movie in their song "International Rockstar" on the 2001 album "Nightsongs".

* American metal band Slipknot's song "Prosthetics" off of their self-titled album is based on the film.


The basic plot of "The Collector" - a lonely maladjust kidnapping the object of their 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" episode, "The Fisher King", "The Collector" was the book used by the kidnapper to send a coded message to the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Other references to the book included a clue of a butterfly, as well as the style of the kidnapping. [cite web|title=Criminal Minds: Fisher King|url=|accessdate=2008-01-30]

* In an episode of "The Simpsons", "Treehouse of Horrors 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. [cite web|title=Treehouse of Horror X|url=;episode_title;1|accessdate=2008-01-30]

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.

* 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. [ [ Christopher Wilder, sadistic serial killer of beauty pageant winners - The Crime Library - The Crime library ] ]

Claiming corruption by media influences is a court room gambit dating back to Charles Manson, but despite the press coverage such defences receive, not one acquittal or clemency in sentence has ever been secured on these grounds.

Leonard Lake and Charles Ng

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 "Miranda" operation 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 with Cricket's help. 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. [Lasseter, D. (2000). "Die For Me." New York: Kensington Publishing Company]

Christopher Wilder

Christopher Wilder, known as a spree/serial killer of young girls, had "The Collector" in his possession when he was shot and killed by the FBI. [ [ Christopher Wilder, sadistic serial killer of beauty pageant winners - The Crime Library - The Crime library ] ]

Robert Berdella

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. [ [ Bob Berdella - The Crime library ] ]


External links


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