The French Lieutenant's Woman Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The French Lieutenant's Woman: Chapters 25-27

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In Chapter Twenty Five, Charles plans to get Sam to take a note to Doctor Grogan to find out about Sarah. However, he receives a third shock of the day when he enters his room. There is a note with no signature asking him to meet him. The sender (Sarah) says she will wait this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Charles asks Sam to find out who brought the note. In a flash, Charles sees evolution as horizontal rather than vertical and thinks time is the ‘great fallacy’ and ‘existence was without history, was always now’.
Sam brings an ostler to the room and he tells Charles a boy brought the note at 10:00 am that morning. The ostler leaves and returns shortly after with another note from the boy (given to him again, it is implied, by the French Lieutenant’s Woman). Charles asks Sam to tell no one about these notes and informs him he is trying to help an unfortunate woman. The second one is in French and it begs him to come to see her. Charles feels he must bare his soul to somebody and rushes out.
Chapter Twenty Six shifts to Sam and how he loves Mary and imagines her behind the counter of a gentleman’s shop in London whilst he is at the till. He is aware this is just a dream as he is short of money.
The narrative deviates to explain the origins of the term ‘black mail’ as Sam considers its meaning. He has guessed correctly who has sent the notes; he taps his nose as a man does who ‘smells a rat masquerading as a race horse’: ‘But the rat here, I am afraid, was Sam – and what he smelt was a sinking ship.’ At Winsyatt, Sam has also heard from the other servants of how Charles has been usurped by Mrs. Tomkins and feels his own hopes of working there for Charles have been dashed
The narrative moves back to Charles’s conversation with his uncle when he is told of his uncle’s forthcoming marriage. Charles felt ‘whipped and humiliated’ and his only defence was to take the news calmly. His uncle offered him the Little House for as long as Charles lives (as a wedding gift). Pride buoyed him up during their talk, but he felt the land slip through his fingers as he drove away. He also feels that he is now in ‘a very displeasing position of inferiority as regards Ernestina’ as he would now become her financial dependent.
Chapter Twenty Seven returns to the present with Charles talking to Doctor Grogan. Before Charles explains why he has come to see him, Grogan tells him he has offered a £5 reward for the man who finds Sarah, or Sarah’s body. Charles tells her she is alive and has received word from her. Before the doctor’s look of amazement, Charles begins to tell him the truth (apart from his secret feelings). Grogan suspects deceit, but lets him talk to the end.
After calling off the search party, he advises Charles to have nothing further to do with Sarah as he cannot risk further compromise. Charles says he is in his hands and Grogan lays his hand on The Origin of Species (as an equivalent to the Bible) and promises nothing said in that room will be repeated outside of it.
Grogan then tries to imagine what Sarah has been thinking and sees she has only the one ‘weapon’ – that she can inspire pity in Charles. He sees that she has invited her own dismissal and thinks she showed herself to Mrs Fairley knowing full well what would happen. Charles now believes he has been ‘led by the nose’, but Grogan defends Sarah by saying she has a deranged mind. He thinks she lives day to day and is not a criminal. Charles cannot believe she is deranged and Grogan argues that this is because he is half in love with her. Charles refutes this and starts to leave, but Grogan stops him and tells him to ‘know thyself’. He asks Grogan for advice and Grogan says he will meet Sarah instead and Charles must go away.
Charles agrees to this as he is visiting London on business anyway and then asks Grogan what will become of her. Grogan suggests she may have to go to a private asylum and Charles agrees to a certain amount of expense. He also thinks ‘anything to be rid of her – without harm to her’. Before Charles leaves, Grogan gives him a book with a marked passage which he wishes him to read. It is medical evidence brought by the defence in a trial.
Analysis – Chapters Twenty Five, Twenty Six and Twenty Seven
Charles is seen to demonstrate his desire for self-preservation in Chapter Twenty Seven as he panics about the possibility of his liaisons with Sarah being discovered. This is highlighted when Grogan suggests she may be placed in a private asylum and he agrees. Propriety and the thought of being discovered are seen to outweigh his feelings for Sarah at this point and, consequently, his hypocrisy and fear of loss of status are emphasized. It is of note that both Charles and Grogan demonstrate a distinct strand of misogyny that runs through their thought processes as both are willing to see Sarah as a problem (rather than criticizing the wider society that she and they live in).
By contrast, Sam also considers his position and the narrative makes strong hints that he is considering blackmailing Charles to avoid remaining on this sinking ship. If Charles falls further, Sam’s livelihood and happiness are threatened and he is apparently preparing to take control by any means necessary.


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