The Collector, first published in 1963, is a book which has ever since excited a great deal of critical and popular debate. John Fowles himself has claimed that it had a dual inspiration: one was his enduring interest in Béla Bartók’s opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (1918), and the other a contemporary newspaper account of a young man who had abducted a girl and kept her for some time in an air-raid shelter.1The Collector has many realist elements, no doubt related to the abduction, which may in some ways remind us of the detailed naturalism practised by a certain strain of the novel from Daniel Defoe onwards. However, my particular concern here is with the elements of The Collector which derive from Fowles’s attraction to Bluebeard’s Castle, and might be considered Gothic, or ‘neo-Gothic’. By Gothic, I mean specifically to refer to a tradition of fiction, beginning in the late eighteenth century, which customarily deals in exaggerated, even melodramatic scenarios: the best-known authors are Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, C. R. Maturin and James Hogg. Within the ‘neo-Gothic’ we might include writers from the late nineteenth century such as Bram Stoker, and also some aspects of the work of H. G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson; but we might also think of the ghost story and of the kinds of intensity of horror practised by such recent writers as Stephen King, Angela Carter and Ian McEwan.
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