Play in the fiction of John Fowles

Date

1977

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Abstract

John Fowles demonstrates an interest in play in The Aristos and develops that interest in his fiction, where it is manifested as a tension between cosmic play ("hazard") and the concept of a god-ruled universe (the "godgame") on the one hand, and a human-oriented world pervaded by the spirit of play on the other hand. Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens clarifies the relationship between play and culture which characterizes that human-centered world. Many central characters in the fiction move toward "election"-a state of becoming in which they are increasingly capable of freeing themselves from literal or mythic external authority and of limiting the impress of hazard at the individual human level. In The Collector, Miranda's potential development toward election is subverted by the despotic Clegg. The Magus details Nicholas' initiation into the elect through participation in Conchis' godgame. In The French Lieutenant's Woman, the Victorian age itself provides an antithesis to the play spirit, subverting the chance for an authentic relationship between Charles and Sarah. Finally, the games portrayed in the stories of The Ebony Tower offer variations on the play motifs of the novels.

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Keywords

Play in literature, Fowles, John, Literary criticism and interpretation

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