Fowles “The Magus”

Ryan Lynch

ENGL 223

Dr. Hoag

TR 13:30-14:45

John Fowles “The Magus”

“The Magus” is a postmodern novel written in 1965 by British author John Fowles.  “The Magus” was the first novel that Fowles had written, he started writing it in the 1950s and it took him around twelve years to finish the novel.  It was also loosely based off of his own experiences in the Mediterranean islands of Greece.  The plot follows the story of this young Oxford graduate and poet, Nicholas Urfe, after a short time of working as a teacher Nicholas becomes bored with his life and decides that’s its best if he leaves England.  He eventually finds himself on the Greek Island of Phraxos, and he finds a position teaching English at the Lord Byron school on the island.  Unfortunately, he is unable to find solace on this island either, as he becomes bored, tired, and frustrated with the island.  Nicholas struggles through some tough and dark times as he is very lonely on the island, and even contemplates suicide.   One day however, while he was casually wandering the island he stumbled upon this very impressive estate, that was previously unknown to him.  He is able to quickly meet the owner of the estate, Maurice Conchis, who is a very wealthy Greek recluse.  Due to their similar situations and where they find themselves in life, because of this they are able to develop a weird bond and friendship.  It is quite clear that Conchis is a very eclectic, quirky, and odd human being.  Conchs even alludes to the possibility that he colluded with the Nazis during World War II.  Despite his oddities and questionable past, Nicholas is till slowly but surely dragged into Conchis’s psychological games, and murky persona.  Conchis’s “game” is this weird psychodrama about humanities such as love and responsibility.  It’s a play in which Nicholas is not only the audience, but Conchis also makes him participate in it as well.  The play slowly begins to become less of an illusion, and more about his real-life experiences, Nicholas is confused and worried, as begins to question himself his morals, actions, and his self-image, he questions his desires, and his past actions, as he becomes more and more fearful of his powerlessness when compared to the evil forces around him.  It is revealed that Conchis who is also known as the “Magus” is called the doctor by native islanders.

This is a very interesting story from an ethical perspective, as there are many different angles that one could take when trying to tackle it.  Its interesting because you can put yourself in Nicholas’s shoes, and wonder how you would react, and how that would affect you.  In several ways the character of Nicholas represents humanity, and the mistakes we’ve made and how we can be reflective of those mistakes.  For example, he is forced to question his actions towards women, and how he uses them fill a void inside, of him and fulfill his desires.  An existentialist point of view is probably the most popular take on the story, as Nicholas is forced to consider his own existence, and how he views his own being.

In response to Victoria Miro’s essay “Sartre’s Makropulos”.  The short story Makropulos is about what people would do if they had found a way to live for 300 years, and brings up questions of immortality, moral values, and what is better for you personally.  She brings up good points across the board in her analysis.  She presents valid situations and thought processes for how people would react and feel about it, and the consequences of their actions and decisions of their choices.  However, a major or singular interpretation from a philosophers point of view is not presented in the essay.

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