Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Tracing Variegated Streaks of Feminism in the French Lieutenant's Woman through Pinteresque Jigsaw

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Tracing Variegated Streaks of Feminism in the French Lieutenant's Woman through Pinteresque Jigsaw

Article excerpt

Dealing with a work of art visited creatively thrice and critically on a numerous occasion is like walking into an intellectual conundrum where the clue at the vertical end leaves us out at the horizontal. The paper attempts to deal with one such intellectual puzzle and concentrates on The French Lieutenant's Woman, a memorable film by Karel Reisz. Apparently, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), by John Fowles, is a novel inspired by the 1823 novel Ourika, by Claire de Duras (Warburton, 1996). Published in 1969, the novel stands as a unique example of twentieth century depiction of the nineteenth century Victorian society especially probing the male-female equations amidst the Victorian England hypocrisies.

Although a male writer, Fowles's deep understanding and critical perception and compassion for the women of Victorian times, is evidently observed in his portrayal of variegated female characters ranging from the intriguingly volatile Sarah Woodruff to the stereotypical Victorian woman such as Ernestina Freeman. One of the most outstanding features of the novel, the strong female characterization, puts Fowles on the pedestal of a male feminist writer of the twentieth century. In fact, though the text of the novel gets involved with varied issues such class distinction, capitalist society, poetry, the suffrage movement, but most engagingly Fowles explores the issue of woman's marginalized existence in a constraining patriarchal Victorian England. Understandably therefore, the overarching focus of the novel is on the issue of woman's sexuality--its repression and expression.

In 1981, director Karel Reisz and writer Harold Pinter adapted the novel as a film with the same title. Starring Meryl Streep, the film offers an artistic fusion of the strands of the Victorian and the postmodern times. Now regarded as the first major eighties film about a woman's quest for emancipation amidst circumscribing patriarchal world order, the film went on to bag prestigious awards including nomination to the Oscar, Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards for Meryl Streep and Harold Pinter. Adapted brilliantly by Karel Reisz, and written for screen by Nobel Laureate, Harold Pinter the movie offers an intellectual feast in its technical nuances, philosophical genus and scopophilic delight.

Despite the phenomenal success of the film, a section of critics continues to believe that the film fails to rise above the mundaneness of the love affair between Anna and Mike. Prisca is one such observer. Prsica (2009) seems to be lamenting the depth and intensity of the movie in pointing out that unfortunately, the film adaptation lacks the depth provided by the text and falls short of thrusting the focus beyond parallel love affairs. The comment appears to be suggestive of an amateurish approach while dealing with the intellectual conundrum that Pinter's works usually throw up as a challenge to the audience. Endeavoring to explore such textual and sub-textual maneuvers, the purpose of this study is to establish that Pinter's screenplay for the movie, empowered by Karel Reisz's imaginative direction, acquires a structure that demands an oblique approach.

Another critical view holds that Anna and Sarah have nothing in common. Shoshana Knapp is one such critic who believes that "they have nothing to say to each other, even when they appear to speak the same language" (Knapp, 1988). For some other critics, the modern element in the story focusing on Anna-Mike affair is just repetitive and offers nothing else except irritating interruptions. For instance, Knapp in the same article, again ridicules Anna's statement "They'll fire me for immortality. They'll think I'm a whore," and hastens to add "Sarah's tragic gesture becomes Anna's comic jest, but the juxtaposition illuminates neither." Knapp however tends to overlook that the expressions used in a Pinteresque text does not "reflect the emotions that stand in front but an adjacent one. …

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