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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Great Fictional Characters: Frederick Clegg

Continuing with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2015

F is for Frederick Clegg, otherwise known as The Collector.

Frederick is a loner, a socially-inept, class-obsessed weirdo who becomes obsessed with a girl he sees but knows he can never have. Like the butterflies he gases and pins, he wants to possess her and enjoy her beauty. Aided by a surprise football pool win, he buys a house in the country and makes his preparations. Soon, she is his, trapped in the cellar of his isolated home, part of his "collection". And it all goes downhill from there...

I find Frederick chilling. From his opening description of how he watches her go to and from her house, his meticulous preparations for her kidnap, the disillusion that she will grow to love him and the outrage when she will not bend to his will, right up to the moment when he admits to himself that she wasn't the perfect specimen he wanted- he makes my skin crawl. Even when things are going well (for him, anyway), the way he thinks about Miranda is just creepy.

The Collector 1965

“I could sit there all night watching her, just the shape of her head and the way the hair fell from it with a special curve, so graceful it was, like the shape of a swallow-tail. It was like a veil or a cloud, it would lie like silk strands all untidy and loose but lovely over her shoulders, I wish I had words to describe it like a poet would or an artist. She had a way of throwing it back when it had fallen too much forward, it was just a simple natural movement. Sometimes I wanted to say to her, please do it again, please let your hair fall forward and toss it back. Only of course it would have been stupid. Everything she did was delicate like that. Just turning a page. Standing up or sitting down, drinking, smoking, anything. Even when she did things considered ugly, like yawning or stretching, she made it seem pretty. The truth was she couldn't do ugly things. She was too beautiful.”

Ugh. It's clear that the only way off this pedestal is down, down, down and it doesn't take long for Miranda to start fighting back. The middle section of the book is from her point of view- and it's heart-breaking.

I find it interesting that The Collector was classified by the British publication industry as a crime novel, whereas the Americans considered it more of a psychological thriller. My classification? Horror. There is nothing more horrifying than Frederick's stalking and imprisoning of Miranda, a young girl who just happened to be beautiful, and who just happened to cross paths with a nut-job; nothing more terrifying than Miranda's torment at being caged, pinned like a butterfly by a cold-hearted man who believes he loves her, when he only loves the idea of her and is afraid to set her free when he realises his mistake.

Frederick Clegg is a remarkable character, a villain where even the excellent first-person point of view elicits no sympathy at all (or at least, not from me). And his final words? They still haunt me...

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