Carissa L. Staszeski
23 April 2018
There are times when individuals leave you pondering unsolved questions that you may have had throughout a novel. John Fowles expressed this in the character Frederick Clegg, an anti-hero who is not humane, left no explanation for his behavior. This leads you to come up with your own conclusions. In the book “The Collector” written by John Fowles the main character, Frederick Clegg, shows many personality traits similar to a sociopath.
What is a sociopath? A sociopath falls under antisocial personality disorder. “Antisocial personality disorder is a personality disorder in which the person (usually a man) exhibits a lack of conscience for wrongdoing, even toward friends and family members. May be aggressive and ruthless or a clever con artist”(Myers 596).
People with these disorders have a hard time making relationships so they tend to have abnormal bonds with others. This explains the odd relations Frederick Clegg had with Miranda Grey in the beginning of the book. Clegg watched her from afar and eventually fell in love with Miranda. The reason this relation is odd is because Clegg had never actually had a conversation with Miranda; therefore, she didn’t even know of his existence. Leading up to, and after, Miranda’s kidnaping almost all of the conversations exchanged between the two of them come off quite awkward and uncomfortable.
Sociopaths are emotionally unstable and highly impulsive.”I still say I didn’t go down there with the intention of seeing whether there was anywhere to have a secret guest. I can’t really say what intention I had. I just don’t know. What you do blurs over what you did before” (Fowles 20). Not only does this quote show that Clegg has a personality disorder but it expresses the impulse he can’t control. This urge sociopaths have often leads them to be unpredictable, by performing actions based on their compulsion. On top of their there erratic behavior they also tend to lack patience. A lack of patience can be dangerous for a sociopath, it leaves them with really no choice but to give in to their impulses. A mix of these things can be explained by their disorganization as they will not have detailed plans. There are multiple incidents throughout the novel where this type of mixed behavior is shown. We know this to be true because of Clegg’s narration. Nothing he does is planned, everything that happens is just a coincidence. The first thing that really stands out is the kidnapping of Miranda Grey. The first thing to happens to Clegg is he wins the pools, which is pure luck. This enables him to buy a house perfect for the atrocious crime. Clegg would have dreams about capturing Miranda and she would eventually fall in love with him. Although he did prepare all the means necessary to kidnap Miranda, he had no actual plan thought out. He sees Miranda walking home one day and he gives in to his urge and captures her.
The stereotype is that all sociopaths are all violent. This is a common misconception. There are people we see and talk to in our everyday lives that could be a sociopath, but you would never know because they do not and will not ever express signs of aggression. For most of Frederick Clegg’s life this was true. In some cases sociopaths have a turnabout in behavior based
on what they want and the response of the other person in the situation. There are two main types of behaviors that can occur. Sociopaths can be extremely charming or violent. In “The Collector” Frederick Clegg is looking for Miranda to fall in love with him. At times Clegg shows delightful gestures like making a nice dinner or when he goes into town to buy her whatever she pleases. His kind gestures towards her show up based on Miranda’s response. When she chooses to be kind Clegg open her up to a bit more freedom, when Miranda chooses to be disobedient Clegg’s personality changes drastically. He will start to make extreme threats or even begin to be violent. An example of this is when Miranda tries to escape, Clegg becomes a bit violent in keeping her from getting away. He also often makes threats towards her freedom. In one case Miranda kicked a burning log out of the fireplace and tried to make a run for it. That night Clegg used chloroform to sedate her and then removed her clothing to photograph Miranda against her will. The reason for this type of behavior, besides getting what he wants, is to show that he is the dominate one.
Sociopaths are also compulsive liars, and they tend to just lie to exaggerate on the truth. Frederick Clegg would constantly make up lies to tell Miranda. Clegg would lie to Miranda over little things, for example, he would lie to her about sending letters to her parents stating that she was all right. There were also times when Clegg would lie about things that were a bit more important. Like when the two of them made an agreement that Miranda would be released on November 11th although he had no intentions of ever letting her go.
Aside from all of these other traits that make up a sociopath, a big one that really determines the disorder it that they express a lack of conscience. “A sociopath basically doesn’t have any kind of conscience, they are not aware of other people’s distress or their action is
causing other people’s distress” (O’Keefe). What this means is that their actions are not necessarily intended to harm someone, let alone find pleasure in harming them. They do, however, have personality traits where they lack care and the ability to understand feelings for what is happening to others around them. The whole novel is basically an example of this. Frederick Clegg is not aware of the distress he is putting Miranda through. When she tries to escape or does something displeasing to him, Clegg acts out in a harmful manner. Whether it is emotionally or physically harmful Frederick is in deep regret and sorry for the actions he made at a prior time.This just shows us that he never intended to hurt Miranda.
Because of this lack of understanding, sociopaths don’t feel or take responsibility for their actions. Clegg does not feel responsible for the heinous acts he has committed. He feels innocent and that he has acted correctly according to his own principles. Although he begins to feel remorse for Miranda’s death he tries to justify his actions (Romero Jódar). “What I am trying to say is that it all came unexpected. I know what I did next day was a mistake, but up to that day I thought I was acting for the best and within my rights” (Fowles 120). After Clegg attempts to justify his actions he then tries to seek sympathy from the readers. He does this by stating: “I was acting as if I killed her, but she died, after all. A doctor probably could have done little good, in my opinion” (Fowles 303). He victimizes himself and is now blaming her for the problems that follow Miranda’s death.
Odd relationships, being emotionally unstable, high impulses, mood changes, compulsive lying, and the most important; a lack of conscience are all symptoms that make up a sociopath.
Although it is unclear in the novel, Clegg may have been born a sociopath or made to be one through his experiences, he still has all the personality traits that make up a sociopath.