METAFICTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS IN CHAPTER 13 OF
“THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN” BY JOHN FOWLES
In order to analyze metafictional characteristics in Chapter 13 of “The French Lieutenant's Woman” by John Fowles, it is necessary to define two important concepts: Postmodernism and Metaficion. Postmodernism, is a movement that emerged in the 1960’s whose main ideas were related to the rejection of boundaries between high and low forms of art, the rejection of genre distinctions, an emphasis on pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness. Lyotard adds to this idea the fact that, during modernity all aspects of modern societies, including science, depended on these grand narratives. Postmodernism then is the critique of grand narratives, the awareness that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities that are inherent to any social organization or practice. As a consequence, minorities emerged showing a situational, provisional, and temporary, truth, reason, or stability giving birth to many genres within Postmodernism, among which we can find Metafiction. Patricia Waugh provides the following definition of the term: "fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality". Metafictional works, she says, are those that "explore a theory of writing fiction through the practice of writing fiction".
Chapter 13 begins "I do not know. This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my mind”. In this short passage we can cleraly see one of the metafictional characteristics throguh which the author challenges the traditionl roles of the author and the reader. This is related to the authorial intimacy that the author posses, he intrudes comments in order to destroy the illusion of reality and blur the lines between fiction and reality. Another characteristict Fowles uses is the dramatization of the reader. He addresses the reader so as to make him / her aware of his / her role as player in his novel. For instance, when he says “You may think novelists always have fixed plans...” his addressing directly the reader. Furthermore, he also says “If you think that, hypocrite lecteur, I can only smile...” playing not only with the idea of addressing the reader but also with the idea of intertextuality ("The Flowers of Evil" by Jean Baudelaire-1857).
On the one hand, John Fowles considers himself a Victorian 'omniscient narrator', but he intrudes in his fiction and gives characters restricted freedom since he also gives them commands like: “When Charles left Sarah on her cliff edge, I ordered him to walk straight back to Lyme Regis”. He also uses parody when writing in the manner of Victorian writers did. He re-visits the past and shows himself like “god” writer like in Victorian times but he ends up giving freedom to his novel: “The novelist is still a god, since he creates (...) What has changed is that we are no longer the Gods of the Victorian image, omniscient and decreeing...”. On the other hand, he keeps an epigraph on each of his chapters as Victorian writers did. In Chapter 13, Fowles also talks about Postmodernism and Lyotard’s idea of the fall of the grand narratives and the idea that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities of past dicourses: “So if you think all this unlucky digression has nothing to do with your Time, Progress, Society, Evolution and all those capitalized ghosts...”.
All in all, in Chapter 13 of “The French Lieutenant's Woman” by John Fowles, we can clearly see how the autor had employed all the resources and techniques that Postmodernism offered. He questioned the relationship between fiction and reality, he challenged the tradicional roles of autor ad reader, he had also payed homage to some of the techniques used by Victorian writers by employing them in his novel. Finally, he has invited the reader to play the role of a detective, to make him or her part of his fiction.