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Literature / The Collector

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Frederick Clegg: I said, if you asked me to stop collecting butterflies, I'd do it. I'd do anything you asked me.
Miranda Grey: Except let me fly away.

The first novel of John Fowles (who was later to write The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Magus), published in 1963.

It tells the story of Frederick Clegg, a butterfly-collecting maniac who wins 73,091 pounds in a lottery and uses the money in an elaborate kidnapping of a beautiful young art student, Miranda Grey, whom he has been stalking from afar for months. Frederick purchases a lonely house in the country and imprisons Miranda in a luxuriously furnished, inescapable room in the cellar, where he showers her with gifts and admiration in the hopes that she will come to love him as much as he loves her.

The story, shaped very much like a thriller, is told both from the viewpoint of the kidnapper and of his victim. The first half of the novel is narrated in first-person by Frederick as he coldly, logically, and convincingly explains his rationalization to the reader. The second half switches to Miranda's diary as she desperately chronicles her terror, her frantic efforts to reason with her unreasonable kidnapper, her failed escape attempts, and her growing despair— before swapping back to Frederick for the book's sobering conclusion.


It was adapted for film in 1965, directed by William Wyler, starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar.

Provides examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: Deconstructed. Frederick kidnaps Miranda with the hope that she might fall for him one day. But their relationship, instead of improving, turns worse and worse. Frederick loses his respect for Miranda after she tries to seduce him in the hope that he might let him go after they have sex. He begins to abuse his position, and Miranda, who previously pitied Frederick, comes to fully hate him.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Miranda reveals that her family call her Nanda. Frederick dislikes it — he thinks Miranda is a perfect name that should not be altered.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Miranda is in love with her mentor from art school, G.P. He is twenty one years older than her.
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  • Antihero: Frederick, fully in the territory of Villain Protagonist by the end of the book.
  • Bound and Gagged: Miranda.
  • Bunker Woman: Miranda is abducted by Frederick and held against her will in a cellar of an isolated countryside house. Her cellar room is furnished luxuriously and she is showered with gifts and other comforts, but she can't leave.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Frederick is very jealous and upset when he sees Miranda in the company of young men. Sometimes, his strong jealousy determines him to fantasize about hitting her.
  • The Collector: a Trope Namer.
  • Creepy Basement: Frederick's house where Miranda is held has one. It's a basement without windows and with thick walls and a heavy door.
  • Downer Ending: Miranda dies and Frederick has set his eyes on a new victim.
  • Diary: Miranda's point of view is presented in her notes.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: After all of Miranda's escape attempts and her eventual illness and death due to Clegg's negligence, the only thing Clegg gleans from his experience is that things went south because he was too lenient a captor, and the book ends with Clegg stalking another girl, eager to put his new knowledge to use.
  • Has a Type: Frederick seems to prefer pretty blonde women. The second girl he decides to kidnap looks very much like Miranda.
  • Instant Sedation: In the movie, Frederick uses chloroform when initially kidnapping Miranda, which only takes a few moments to make her pass out. Inverted the second time he uses it, as it takes several moments for the drug to take effect (though that could be attributed to the fact that Miranda struggles and shoves the rag away from her mouth several times).
  • Kavorka Man: G.P.
  • The Kindnapper: Frederick.
  • Lima Syndrome: Frederick literally adores his captive.
  • Meaningful Name: 'Miranda' means in Latin 'the one who is to be admired'.
  • Mentor Ship: Between Miranda and her art teacher, G.P.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Frederick.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Frederick's only hobby is collecting butterflies. He studies their habits and environments so that he can hunt and capture them easily, then locks them away so that he can take them out and admire them whenever he wants. Prior to the kidnapping, he keeps track of his Miranda sightings in the same diary where he records sightings of rare butterflies. But of course, the only way to keep butterflies forever is to kill them.
  • Shout-Out: Miranda asks Frederick to bring her books to read. She re-reads Sense and Sensibility and Emma. She compares herself to Marianne and thinks she is like her, but should try to be like Elinor. She also sees herself as manipulative Emma, but her attempts to influence Frederick fail just like Emma's matchmaking schemes. She also likens Frederick to sleazy Mr Elton and her fling from university to Frank Churchill. She asks herself if G.P. is Mr Knightley. She reveals that they share a Christian name — George, which she happens to dislike.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Miranda has the name of the beautiful daughter of Prospero from The Tempest by Shakespeare. She also nicknames her kidnapper 'Caliban'. Fredrick convinces her that his real name is Ferdinand, who is Miranda's beloved in the play. He chooses the name partially to disguise his real name (Miranda has just learned his initials) and partially because he's liked the name since childhood, but he doesn't seem to recognize the irony in using it now.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The name references and characters correspond to The Tempest.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Frederick. A very dark version as his creepy love and obsession drives him to kidnap the woman he thinks he loves.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Miranda tries very hard to fight it, but she confesses in her diary to feeling grateful at some of the things Frederick does.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Between Miranda and Frederick. From his side only...
    • There was attraction between Miranda and G.P., which was a case of unresolved Teacher/Student Romance.
  • Villain Protagonist: Frederick.