Narrative Technique in The French Lieutenant's Woman

As a brilliant piece of meta-fiction, The French Lieutenant's Woman cannot use one narrative mode without depending upon another. A writer of fiction cannot wholly and comfortably use an impersonal mode of narrative because it is restrictive and coercive. Nor can he use the mode of omniscience because the relation between the creator and the created has undergone a drastic change.

John Fowles (1926-2005)

The foremost technique John Fowles has used in The French Lieutenant’s Woman is the technique of recreating the Victorian novel with a critical and a sense of parody. He has recreated a Victorian novel with an ironic sense and mockery. To recreate the Victorian novel John Fowles does not namely use Victorian conventions. He used Victorian convention, but with a decent portion of parodic skepticism. He sets his novel in Victorian time. He portrays all characters except Sarah in the light of Victorianism.

The second, equally important technique Fowles used in this novel is the technique of putting epigraph on the head of each chapter. To make readers skeptically aware of multiplicity of Victorian voices, John Fowles has made use of the technique of adding epigraph. Fowles makes use of the technique of epigraph to give every impression of being devoted to recreating Victorian novel.

Since The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a meta-fiction, the author certainly intrudes into the narrative structure. In chapter thirteen and elsewhere John Fowles has entered into the narrative structure. This intrusion into the narrative structure gave him ample opportunity to comment upon the Victorian convention.

The fourth experimentally important technique is the technique of giving multiple endings to the novel. For the traditional reader is given a happy ending resulting from Sarah's accepting Charles Smithson. For the Victorian readers are given the successful completion of Ernestina and Charles engagement. For the modern readers the tragic separation between Sarah and Charles is given. This multiple endings enable John Fowles to hint at his abandonment of literary omniscience.

The last unusual techniques is the technique of the novelist becoming a character. The novelist enters into the structure of the narrative and talks to other characters, discusses their problem and fixes a course of action for them. The intrusive novelist seems like a character.