Explore the relationship between Miranda and Frederick in The Collector by John Fowles
Miranda shows her prowess over Frederick (more commonly referred to in the novel as Ferdinand, so as not to reveal his identity) throughout their many exchanges. Almost right from the very beginning, Ferdinand is timid and tentative; willing to do whatever it was that his beloved Miranda wanted. In the passage (pages 66 to 71), Miranda takes great advantage this, showing the reader that she can manipulate Ferdinand to her will easily. She repeatedly asks for him to let her parents know that she is alive, and Ferdinand gradually relents to her demands; following her advice, her orders, to wear the gloves, purchase pens and paper from different stores, to send the letter in London, so it would be harder to trace. She appears to have him under her thumb, although there are times when Ferdinand appears to notice that he is not the one in control anymore. This is shown when he checks the letter and finds her secret note, demonstrating that he does not trust her fully. Their exchanges throughout the passage do not seem to be of those that would normally happen between captor and captive, as he dotes on her every whim, instead of becoming violent, and extracting what he wants from her, as we would expect a stereotypical kidnapper to behave. Mirandas idea of sending a letter back home shows the reader just how manipulative she can be, and indeed, is. It illustrates how she is always planning ahead and thinking of ways to escape ??“ in the second part of the novel it is revealed that her master plan was to dig a tunnel under the door whilst he was in London posting her letter. Whenever she wants something from Ferdinand ??“ something that no captor would give his captive, specifically the letter ??“ she becomes sweeter, she doesnt fight him, or mock him as she usually does, but is instead soothing and persuading. Whilst dictating the letter, for instance, Miranda interrupts with thats filthy English, but never mind. At any other time in the novel, she would be dragging him through the mud for his colourless English, but she doesnt condemn him because she benefits from the letter.
Another main exchange in the passage is Mirandas criticisms of Ferdinands use of the English language. She highlights the class difference between them and hints on her intellectual superiority with her colourful and interesting words that embellish her speech. She continually reprimands Ferdinand for his drab language skills, and how he kills the English language by just blurring the language with his rain-like words. Miranda is constantly condescending, only appearing to stop when she gets what she wants. He knows that shes being cutting, he knows that shes always criticising him, but Ferdinand doesnt try to stop it because she is always right. It is unclear why Miranda behaves this way ??“ whether it is to just to undermine Ferdinand, or rather to then give herself some sense of control of the situation, or is it just because she finds it harder to connect with her captor, harder to understand him, because of his lack of colourful words
Mirandas continual bouts of random behaviour continues to bewilder Ferdinand in the passage, especially when she just felt like a good scream. It seems like shes playing the rollercoaster to make him feel insecure, to make him feel as if he is not in control of her. Again, this could just be another of Mirandas plots that allow her to be in control, or to just allow her to feel as if shes the one in control, not the other way around, as that would then mean that she has submitted to Ferdinand, which Miranda, a headstrong, confident girl, believes she could never do. It seems that she just continually changes her emotions just to leave Ferdinand in the dust, just to confuse him and be one step ahead. Of course, at this point in the novel, the reader does not know what Miranda is thinking, and it is just possible that she is going crazy due to her confinement, or maybe even her feelings towards Ferdinand. It does not seem, as she sits beside him, that she is afraid of whatever threat he could possess (after all, he did endeavour to kidnap her ??“ what else could he be capable of), and instead appears interested by the puzzle that Ferdinand represents, he is her Chinese box. She allows their sleeves to touch, and even says youre thinking of touching me ??“ is this because she wants to touch him, to explore the enigma further, or is it just to manipulate him for her own rewards again Is she just toying with him, presenting him with his reward if he gives in to her demands, or lets her go free
Miranda begins to make several references to Caliban, from Shakespeares The Tempest, a reference that Ferdinand does not understand. In the second part of the novel, Miranda calls it a vile coincidence that her name and her captors are entwined as lovers in the play, and instead prefers to call him after the monstrous Caliban, whom, in The Tempest, it is revealed had tried to rape Miranda, Prosperos (the antagonist) daughter. Miranda could, in all theory, just be referring to this vile fact, though as Ferdinand hasnt raped her, and has indeed shown no inclination to, this, however, does not appear to be the case, as there are other factors between Ferdinand and Miranda. Before The Tempest begins, Prospero contrives to teach Caliban to become a gentleman, though this is dropped as soon as Caliban tries to take advantage of Miranda. The first time Miranda, in The Collector, calls Ferdinand Caliban, it is when she is trying to teach him of the artistic world. She could be calling Ferdinand that name due to his inability to learn, as he is constantly blinded by his infatuation with Miranda, much the same as in The Tempest. He appears to always be stumbling after Miranda, and therefore not able to concentrate on whatever is being taught to him. Ferdinand also lacks education and civilisation, just as Caliban did in The Tempest.
In the passage given, Miranda seems to hold the upper hand. She seems manipulative, intelligent, and a rollercoaster of emotions, all designed to coerce Ferdinand into doing what she believes will give her the best chance of being free. At the beginning of the passage, she rants and raves at Ferdinand for not being as relaxed as he should be, for becoming stiff and proper when their sleeves touch, referring to Ferdinand as equally sick as her friend whom continually kisses and touches people. Ferdinand just smiles his ghastly smile at her, and she becomes even more vexed. Miranda seems prone to these random bouts of emotion ??“ at one point she lets out a bloodcurdling scream, saying she just felt like a good scream. This is her typical, unpredictable behaviour ??“ she is seemingly trying to confuse Ferdinand, to either put him on his edge, or to make him drop his guard, or to just have some fun with him. Miranda continually uses much more colourful speech than Ferdinand, claiming that he blurs the English language just by talking. When she instigates humour (Miranda acts as if in great pain, so Ferdinand had to laugh), and he reciprocates, though she rebukes him, and shes suddenly all serious. Does she become aggressive to put him off As they talk, it sounds as though she wishes them to connect, to be on an equal par ??“ she even tries to teach him of art ??“ but then that changes as she believes that he is beneath her; she criticises the way he speaks, the way he smiles, his infatuation with her. Ferdinand, however, appears to just be infatuated with her, crooning her praises, telling her she is always right, appearing unintelligent besides her.
The balance of relations between the two characters in the extract is a precarious one, though it appears that Miranda holds the upper hand; she is seen to be able to manipulate Ferdinand for her own benefits. However, as Ferdinand discovers the secret message in the envelope, he seems to recognise the imbalance of power and tries to set it to rights. The reader is beginning to lose the clarification of who is the real leader in the novel. Ferdinands infatuation with Miranda tends to allow to him relax his guard, it tends to allow him to trust her, and Miranda takes advantage of this by continually manipulating him at a small level. She plants an idea into his mind, and works on it, feeds it with smaller ideas, builds upon it until Ferdinand eventually relents and allows her to write her letter, which, in turn, allows her to attempt a plea for rescue. Miranda uses her seemingly greater intellect to play mind games with Ferdinand, shes shown to lead him into believing that hes right, though it appears that she really has the upper hand, for instance, Ferdinand is manipulated to send the letter, believing that he can control what is written, and know whether this is really a plot for her escape, or not. Though Miranda appears to be fearless in the face of her captor, she would admit to being frightened in the letter, and she shows this when Ferdinand shows her his ghastly smile, she says: dont look at me like that, showing that shes not in as much control as she thought, which makes her so much more frightened. When he appears to take control of the situation she tries to disparage him, telling him that he needs psychiatric help, and using her sexuality seemingly against him as a weapon, after all, the only thing she can use against him is her intelligence and her sex. Even as she is persuading him to let her be released, she tells him that shell still want to see him and that he interests her so much, that even though hes captured her, if he allows her to leave, he may still have a chance, and he can still see her again. Throughout the exchanges, Miranda continually tries to add humour to their conversations following the letter incident, where she tries to erase the seriousness of the escape plot. This shows that she still recognises who is ultimately in control of the situation, as she must try to please Ferdinand for, she believes, her own wellbeing. Though she manipulates him, though she condescends him, though she mocks him, she realises that he is truly the master of the situation, as he holds her captive and she just doesnt know why.
Ferdinands mental state is indubitably not that of a normal being, which, I believe, Miranda correctly identifies. The novel certainly starts with a question mark of the characters sanity, as he seems obsessed with this one girl that he claims to have fallen in love with though hes never met her. Ferdinand seems to be a character with a high opinion of self worth, announcing in the beginning that if more people were like me, in my opinion, the world would be better. The reader accepts this ??“ who hasnt thought themselves to be better than someone else ??“ though, the reader is also shocked at the stark contrast in the statement made about his cousin, Mabel: I think people like Mabel should be put out painlessly. This may be one of the first hints that Ferdinand is not a person in his correct state of mind. As Ferdinand wins the pools, the reader breathes a sigh of relief, as Miranda is not mentioned again for another four or five pages. And then he kidnaps her. Ferdinand appears, though not the most stable of people, to be someone with a moral understanding of right and wrong. This, however, is thrown into doubt as he kidnaps Miranda and imprisons her in his cellar, waiting for the day that she falls in love with him. Mirandas accusations of his needing a psychiatrist is completely acceptable, in my opinion, as I believe that there is something undeniably wrong with a person that could just kidnap another human being and not feel remorse ??“ only a sense of great personal happiness.
The secret note in the letter allows both the reader and Ferdinand to become far more dubious to Mirandas intentions. Though the reader realises that a captive shall inevitably try to escape, Ferdinand believes that he has covered all of the escape routes that Miranda may or may not try to take. He believes that he has made the cellar resilient to her attempts to escape, and although the note does not penetrate the cellars walls, it does undermine Ferdinand in such a way that he know realises the extent of her deviousness, and her will to escape. Both Ferdinand and the reader see now how capable she is, how intelligent she is as it was all planned beforehand, how it spanned over a few days, how she had thought it out and how cunning she can be by creating a situation that would allow her to send the message, even though hes been allowed to dictate it, even though he believes that hes the one thats in control. The reader sees how she has already premeditated on the plot; how she must have thought this through over a period of time to make it almost foolproof. Ferdinand now realises that she can directly control the events around her unless he maintains his guard always, the reader may now respect Miranda more due to how she acts using her intellect instead of playing the helpless victim, and both the reader and Ferdinand now recognise just how cunning, manipulative and resourceful Miranda can be.
I believe that Ferdinands view of events is quite honest, as he does try to justify his actions to the reader. However, as with any first person account, there does leave a certain amount of biased views in the story. Due to Ferdinand not being able to understand Miranda completely, it is hard for him to empathise with her, and by extension, hard for the reader to empathise, too. The fact that Ferdinand cannot understand Miranda shows that there may be elements of the novel missing, elements that would allow the reader to consider both sides of the story, which would then mean that the first part of the novel is extremely biased in Ferdinands favour. Ferdinand maintains that Miranda is always right; however Ferdinands record of events continues to prove that that is not the case. Mirandas attempts to escape seem very reasonable to the reader ??“ who wouldnt try to escape if they were in the same situation ??“ though this Ferdinand cannot see, and so therefore believes that she was wrong to try to leave when he had shown her nothing but kindness.