The Collector, by John Fowles is a novel about many themes but one major theme through out the book is about social classes, the few and the many. This theme is seen repeatedly through out the book because of two characters that come together by unfortunate reasons who represent the few and the many. The few are those who are wealthy, highly educated, intellectual, and are at the top of the social pyramid. The many are those who make up the bottom of the social pyramid and have a lack of education, poor, struggling to make it each day, and tries to be part of the few. Fred who represents the many comes from a poor background, orphaned, and has a lack of education. According to the author, Fred doesn’t have a choice but to be part of the many. He is part of the masses which make up a huge part of the social pyramid. Miranda is the character who represents the few. She comes from a good background, educated, artistic, and extremely intellectual. She is aware of her standings. These two characters come together because Fred imprisons Miranda and the clash between two different social classes begins. The Collector, is a novel about the few and the many and the author ultimately shows the readers that the two cannot co-exist.
The few and the many are like different worlds. The few likes to be the few. They like to enjoy their own place in the world without interruptions from people who are not like them. They are the elites. They have the power to do what they want to do, be who they want to be,
and they don’t have to worry about certain issues like money, food, clothing, etc. They are the few because they are most likely born into it and have known that lifestyle for probably almost all their lives. The many are different from the few because they want to be like the few. They strive day to day to do something to be like them. They are at the bottom and their lives are surrounded by ideas and images of the few. The many survives on taking these ideas and images and turning them into something affordable, and easy to attain. The few doesn’t like this. They don’t like this because the many are taking things from the few and “dumbing” them down and lowering the value of these things. The many are everyday, ordinary people who strive to one day be part of the few.
In the novel, the readers consistently see a clash between Fred and Miranda. Fred is this ordinary man who loves this girl he has been watching for a while and decides to kidnap her. He decides to kidnap her because one day he wins the pools and this gives him the opportunity to do as he pleases. Miranda who is educated and snobby at times is forced with this man who is nothing like her and she absolutely hates him and wants to correct him and teach him all the time. She doesn’t understand why he is the way he is and doesn’t understand why he isn’t as intelligent as her.
One thing Miranda does at the beginning of the novel is criticize Fred about his looks and his plainness, “ You’re very difficult to get. You’re so featureless. Everything’s nondescript. I’m thinking of you as an object, not as a person.” “You’re not ugly, bur your face has all sorts of ugly habits. Your underlip is worst. It betrays you”(p.59). This is something that the few often
do. They criticize people who are not like them. Miranda doesn’t understand why Fred is so plain. It’s because he is part of the many. The many are plain people. They are ordinary. She can’t see him as a real person because she can’t see any special features about him. She is used to being around people who are lively and full of intellect. Miranda constantly criticizes Fred about his plainness through out the novel.
Another example is when Miranda said, “He makes me change, he makes me want to dance round him, bewilder him, dazzle him, dumbfound him. He’s so slow, so unimaginative, so lifeless. Like zinc white. I see it’s a sort of tyranny he has over me. He forces me to be changeable, to act. To show off. The hateful tyranny of weak people. G.P said it once. The ordinary man is the curse of civilization” (p.134). Not only does this passage show how Miranda criticizes Fred on his plainness but it’s a good example of how she fees about ordinary people and how they don’t fit into civilization. Miranda hates that Fred is so ordinary because she notices how it has a hold of her. She notices that he has a different kind of power over her and it’s one she doesn’t like. She hates the idea that someone so ordinary can control her feelings and emotions and this is why she thinks that ordinary men is the curse of civilization. She doesn’t want the many to control the few.
This idea of ordinary and plain that Miranda hates and Fred is all about comes to show one way that these two classes cannot co-exist. It clashes too much and are exact opposites. Miranda is full of life and a very round character and for her to be trapped with Fred who is a flat character only creates conflict not resolution.
Another reason these two classes cannot co-exist within this novel is because Miranda also constantly wants to teach Fred how “decent human beings live and behave”(p.137). Throughout the book Fred has gone out and bought things for his house which he thinks is up to standard for Miranda. He has bought china, carpets, and accessories not only for Miranda’s room but for the rest of his house as well. Fred is basically trying to prove to Miranda that he can be part of the few because he now has money and can afford material things. But this proves that they can’t co-exist because even though he has the money he doesn’t have the right taste and style. Miranda hates everything he buys and doesn’t think they are right for the way humans should live. She explains this when she says, “ I’m so superior to him. I know this sounds wickedly conceited. But I am. And so it’s Ladymont and Boadicaea and noblesse oblige all over again. I feel I’ve got to show him how decent human beings live and behave. He is ugliness. But you can’t smash human ugliness” (p.137). This is a perfect example of how Miranda knows she his better than Fred. She doesn’t think of Fred as a decent human being because of his lack in style and taste for home furnishings. She confirms the fact that she is part of the few. She makes refrences to Ladymont and Boadicaea as a way to back up the fact that she is superior because she has had the right education.
Miranda shows the readers another way that the few and the many cannot co-exist and this is through food. Fred comes from a background where the food was probably the same over and over again and was probably also different kinds of frozen and not fresh foods. This is part of being the many. Frozen foods are cheaper and more accessible. Fresh foods are
harder to come by if your part of the many because it is just not made available to them. On the other hand the few enjoy wonderful fresh fruits and different meals each day. After eating Fred’s food for endless days Miranda expresses her feelings, “I’m making him cook better. Absolute ban on frozen food. I must have fruit, green vegetables. I have steak. Salmon. I ordered him to get caviare yesterday. It irritates me that I can’t think of enough rare foods I haven’t had and have wanted to have” (p.155). The way Miranda demands that she has steak and salmon shows that she is out of place. When she says that she “ordered him to get caviar yesterday” she is talking down to Fred. She also says that she is “making” Fred cook better as if he doesn’t have a choice and cooking should be done one way, the few way. The author really makes it clear that Miranda and Fred are opposites and part of different social classes.
Ultimately the author is trying to say that it is difficult for two different social classes to come together because there are two many differences. Being ordinary and non-sophisticated isn’t good enough for those who are eccentric and sophisticated. Even though the many makes up more of the social pyramid than the few, the few will always be looked up too because they are not the norm. They are what the many works for day to day to be like. The few knows this. They know that others want to be like them and this gives them more power to be greater and more different. This novel shows that when putting different people of different social classes together constant conflict arises and sooner or later one will be defeated. At the end of the novel Fred survives and Miranda tragically dies.