The French Lieutenant's Woman As Victorian Realistic Novel

1822 words - 7 pages

The French Lieutenant's Woman as Victorian Realistic Novel

   Although The French Lieutenant's Woman was written and cinematized in the 20th century and is based on a modern film production of a piece of 19th century fiction, the stories and plots themselves have contextual elements of a Victorian Realistic Novel. Despite the inability to accurately and directly compare it with that of true Victorian literature, many of the same elements can be found and parallel one another. Some of the elements of present day contemporary novels still bear a resemblance to their Victorian predecessors.


The French Lieutenant's Woman can be considered a Realistic novel because its subjects are of people living in society and their relationships; more specifically, love, courtship, money, marriage, infidelity, and social problems of the time (Agatucci, 2001). This can be contrasted to heroic, fantastic idealized or sensationalized plots of a Romance (Agatucci, 2001). In this case, realistic category fits for both past and present versions of the plot . In addition, the plot itself runs a course determined by cause and effect logic and determinism, as opposed being influenced by the divine or supernatural and be predetermined (Agatucci, 2001). The characters and conflicts can be hazy as to who is the "hero" and "villain", their qualities are a mix of both good and bad, strong and weak, and they are not idealized like that of a classical hero (Agatucci, 2001). For example, we wish for the main characters in The French Lieutenant's Woman to find love and happiness with each other, but their affairs are elicit and they are betraying others. Yet the characters do not possess the extreme elements of the Byronic hero, which is mostly a part of the romantic genre. Realism's elements of the ordinary and imperfect draw the audience into a suspension of disbelief in the story being a work of fiction.


The entire piece is a love story with multiple plots that intersect with, and mirror each other. "The Victorian segment offers the main plot action, featuring the love triangle among Sarah Woodruff, Charles Smithson, and Ernestina Freeman; and a secondary, (downplayed in the film), love plot involving Sam Farrow and Mary. The 20th century love plot, centered on Anna and Mike, constitutes a third plot which "frames" the Victorian double plot" (Agatucci, 2001). This is an example of a frame-tale and was popular with Victorian audiences for its depth and complexity. Furthermore, if the modern aspect was removed and replaced with a Victorian substitute, the story would be hard to distinguish from authentic works from the era.


However, having also the modern plot component, The French Lieutenant's Woman both transcends the boundaries of time by drawing on parallels and congruence of the nature of relationships and love in general, and interchanges this by contrasting it with the differences in the contexts of time. We are allowed, through this...

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