Art is… quintessentially, the most profound way of expressing human creativity. As difficult as it is to define, just as difficult it is to assess it, given that each and every artist makes their own rules.
However, one can fearlessly state that art is the result of the choice of an environment, perhaps of a set of rules, which determine what deserves to be expressed in order to spark emotion, an idea, a sensation or a different kind of feeling. Through its method of manifestation, art can be regarded as a form of knowledge. John Fowles realistically describes how not only we label anyone but also the artists:
“I hate scientists who collect things; who classify and name them and later forget about them completely. The same goes for art. They label a painter as being an impressionist, cubist or something else, they place them inside some drawer and they no longer think of them as being a human being who is painting.” Young Frederick Cleg, an antisocial introvert working as a city hall clerk, is enthusiastically captivated by collecting butterflies. Thus, his small hobby along with a sum of money won at the lottery ends up taking most of his time and materializing his blameworthy wishes in a reality that is cruel for another being, Miranda Grey.
Miranda is a granted student at Slade University and a supporter in theory of equality between social classes, meanwhile Fred is frustrated by his origins, misery and lack of culture, the pair originating from the two completely different sides of the same English society.
This story is written from the perspectives of the main characters, the book being divided in three parts: the first and third parts are narrated by Fred and the second one is a rather sketched journal, narrated by Miranda who was in captivity.
Fowles does more than a parallel to Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Not only should the name of the heroine make you think, but also identifying the name of Frederick with Ferdinand; the characters themselves being reminiscent of the ones from the famous play. Fowles’ ability to build the characters.
I was determined to read and re-read this book thanks to Fowles’ ability to construct the characters, particularly their psychological profiles as well as creating an atmosphere so immersive, that it feels as if I were part of the story. It is so alive and captivating. The reader can be close to calling themselves “Miranda” and shedding tears because of the freedom they lost.
The ending, on the other hand, made me value my freedom and my passion for art more. We are free, but we’re deliberately locking ourselves in a box, then another side of us will dry our wings up carefully and will stick us in an album labeled “Who am I?”
Am I an artist? An ignorant? I have no idea and it doesn’t matter. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my identity in some other place though.