Tag Archives: Simulacra

The Simulator

14 May

What if everyone in the world made his or her own moral code? Would all the terrifying tragedies of the world suddenly be okay? Reading The Collector you are stuck within that question as John Fowles tells the tale of a Mr. Frederick Clegg and his victim Miranda. The story begins with a depiction of Frederick’s life, who he is and what he likes to do. He is a collector of butterflies. He captures helpless creatures and then kills them off to be stored in his jars, only to be seen by him. As a reader of this novel you are not so quick to judge that he captures Miranda to be a victim in that same way.

In the beginning he narrates that he has had his eyes on Miranda for quite some time and explains that he is planning to capture her. He then kidnaps Miranda and keeps her in a small room downstairs all by herself. He visits her and gives her all that she needs to be healthy and comfortable. Throughout the story, Clegg tries to offer to us that what he is doing is okay by creating his own sense of reality (with it’s own moral code). Frederick Clegg first narrates the plot and then Miranda tells the very same story through her journals. When Miranda has told the story in her way, Frederick then finishes the book and plot. After months of keeping Miranda locked up she finally gets sick and because Clegg does not want to risk others knowing about the situation he neglects to take care of her. She reaches her ultimate doom through death. The problem with the ending is that we very well know is it possible for Clegg to start the process all over again with a new woman.

Unfortunately Frederick Clegg is fulfilling the seeker archetype. He desires Miranda, someone he can control. He wants to assert his ambition and he wants total power. He obtains power by locking Miranda up. Constantly working towards an unattainable goal, he longs for Miranda’s love. He will never get her love…let’s be real, he kidnapped her. His biggest pitfalls are loneliness and alienation, which spring forth from the loss of his parents. His unconscious self desires an alternate reality.

Frederick Clegg designed a reality that made it okay for him to collect Miranda. Since he crafted his own reality, his capturing of Miranda seems okay to the audience (that is until they see the story from her point of view). His personal reality starts with the fact that he collects and kills butterflies and does not feel emotion through that. Before understanding his desires and how they change the way we view the plot, we have to understand what the collector character is comprised of.

The collector, Frederick Clegg, is not caring. He thinks that he wants to give Miranda what he feels is the best for the both of them but he obviously doesn’t want what is truly best for her. Real love cannot come from that. He keeps everything to himself and does not want anyone to know what he is up to. He has many battles within his mind of whether he should care for his victim or keep others from knowing the truth. In the end, he picks his own safety versus his “love”.

A large part of his character is the planning mentality. He goes through a lot of trouble to make sure that he plans everything out smoothly. He doesn’t want anything to go wrong. With that, he puts a lot of effort into implementing that which he has planned. Often times, though, he has to change his plans for his own safety. His ultimate goal is total control over Miranda and in that process he has to do what he can to make sure that he stays in power. He has a need for control. In the end, we understand that he goes far beyond his original plan when he decides to kill Miranda for his own well-being.

Through his character and actions he created his own set of morals that fit his desires. Rather than living by the rules of the society, Clegg changes the reality of the situation so he can make what he is doing with Miranda seem acceptable. He disregards the norms, which in any western society express that kidnapping is a deplorable act. He created a world where all his desires could be met and committed something that was truly selfish (and all about his wants).

In his reality it is okay to kidnap, it is okay to lock someone in a room all alone, and it is okay to act like all he wants is someone to love him. What he does not understand is that the situation he created is not the same as meeting someone and falling in love. On page 51 of The Collector Frederick Clegg says, “You think I’m mad because of what I’ve done. I’m not mad. It is just, well, I’ve got no one else. There’s never been anyone but you I’ve ever wanted to know.” He assumed he was going to get Miranda to love him back by the way he loved her but she could never honestly love the person who took her life away from her.

Clegg imagines that the world he creates will operate just as he plans. The reality that he crafts for himself leads us to understanding the idea of simulacra and how it plays a role in this plot.

Since he constructs his reality, the situation becomes fine to us. This is possible because of idea of simulacra. As a concept, a simulacrum is replacing the real with a representation of the real. In situations of simulacra our minds are able to believe that which is not real is actually real. This notion is formed and examined by Jean Baudrillard and other theorists. We tend to feel that we understand what is real in life and what is just a simulation. Like, for example, the shows on television. We know them to simply be representations of real life. Baudrillard thinks otherwise. He believes that simulation becomes a reality to us through the simulacra effect.

One of Baudrillard’s biggest studies of simulacra is Disneyland. It is the perfect hyperreality and imaginary place that entangles many simulations into one. Disneyland and Disney in general harbor a reality that is not real outside of the park gates. Being in Disneyland, though, we are able to believe that the reality we are in is true (i.e. Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Toontown).

Another example of simulacra (as a frame of understanding) is sports stores such as Cabela’s. Stores like this simulate real nature inside of a building. The store, though, is merely a place to buy outdoor sporting gear. Turning a store into the great outdoors makes the gear more appealing because the customers do not even have to go outside to find nature.

Thus, this idea of a simulacrum is what allows us to accept Frederick Clegg’s morals as right. It allows us to sympathize with him. It lets us see the situation as conventional.

In the text we can see that Frederick does everything he can to make Miranda’s room homey. He buys her clothing, nice furniture, entertainment (i.e. music and books), and purchases her an endless supply of food. He is trying to simulate to Miranda that he just wants her to be happy and comfortable. He really just wants his own desires to be fulfilled, so he goes out of his way to make her happy. Generally his tricks do not work because Miranda continually tries to escape and reject his food (to become unhealthy). She also tries to give him what she thinks he wants by way of sexual desires. She later learns that it does not get her anywhere because he does not solely desire that. On page 107 of The Collector Clegg says (to explain his feelings), “I’d be holding you, I said. That’s all. We would be sleeping side by side with the wind and rain outside or something.” The reality that Clegg makes for Miranda is one that she doesn’t fall for, but as the readers we do. Knowing that he has created his own reality by buying his way to Miranda we will, once again, believe that what he does to her is okay.
One aspect of this novel that allows the simulacra effect to work even more deeply in our minds is the archetypes. There are a few archetypes produced by Clegg’s narration. The way the novel is written makes Miranda into the temptress while Clegg is the hero and the victim of the tempting. This also changes our vision of Frederick Clegg and what he is doing to Miranda.

In today’s society, many people change their own reality so they can get away with morally wrong actions. For instance when a minor drinks alcohol, somewhere deep down they know it is morally wrong to do so but they change the reality of the situation to make their morals fit their desires. In cases such as that, the person makes it seem okay which allows others to believe that it is acceptable.

Understanding the importance of the simulacra effect is crucial. Through it we learn how our minds can travel to places we wouldn’t want to go. It is not in our nature to believe simulations are real but through the effect of them we will imagine them to be true. As the narrator of the novel, Frederick Clegg creates a reality for his audience that is completely absurd. Everything he does is so twisted and sick. We do not fully comprehend that until we take time to realize what he has done to his victim. When the story shifts into Miranda’s point of view, we see the horror of his actions. Before that point of the novel the reader is merely caught up in the world Clegg has produced. He has masked the storyline we see by his own reality.

The simulacrum changes our view of his nature.  His personal set of rules, and morals that he chooses to follow, allow it to be okay for him to kidnap Miranda and do the things he did to her. We now need to examine our minds…how many times have people in our lives or in our society done things that are morally wrong? Did we think it was okay?



Fowles, John. The Collector. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963. Print.