Did Conchis Do the Morally Correct Thing at the End of Chapter 53?
The Context John Fowles’s novel, The Magus, is in my top five list of “Best Novels EVER!” It’s a powerful book whose images and themes still haunt me. Your term paper assignment is based around chapter 53 of this novel. Some preliminary information: Nicholas Urfe, after having a failed romance, moves to a Greek island to teach at an all boy’s high school. The high school is on an Island that is divided roughly in half. Slightly less than one-half of the Island is occupied by the small town, the villagers and the high school. Slightly more than one-half of the island is owned by a very rich philanthropist named Conchis.
On the other hand, Alison, the Australian lady that Nicholas understands he loves, portrays truth and truth. These two characters are extremely essential in Nicholas’ life but they are opposites of each other in the way they communicate with Nicholas. Conchis plays a video game with Nicholas in which whatever goes as intended and Alison is a woman which has an irregular relationship with Nicholas that does not evolve the way he wishes. First of all, when Nicholas arrives on the island of Bourami and satisfies Maurice Conchis, he has no concept that he is enrolling himself into a game that is done each year to a various English instructor. He totally thinks whatever about this man who appears to be an expert, a mystical master of all philosophical questions. When Nicholas is in Phraxos, it is nearly like he remains in a dream; his conferences with Conchis leave him in a sort of satisfying daze. He is never injured by anything, he likes listening and getting lost in the stories he is told by Conchis. As Maurice chats with Urfe, he senses, “A strong sensation continued, when I swung my feet off the ground and lay back, that something was attempting to slip between me and truth”. Here we perceive that Nicholas is starting to fall in the god video game and that his mind is slowly wandering away from reality. The post “An Allegory of Self-Realization” by Barry N. Olshen states at one point that “The journey from London to Phraxos and back to London, then, is at once a physical truth and a metaphor for a non-physical truth”. Here we comprehend that when Nicholas returns to Phraxos, which is considerably connected with Conchis, it is as if he remained in a non-physical world, a paradise for the mind where he generally never experiences meaningful troubles. Consequently we can conclude that Conchis represents fiction. Moreover, the Greek island, which is closely linked to Conchis, is so beautiful and strange at the same time that it almost seems unreal to Nicholas. “It took my breath away when I first saw it, floating under Venus like a majestic black whale in an amethyst evening sea, and it still takes my breath away when I shut my eyes now and remember it” at this point, Fowles wants the reader to grasp that Nicholas’ perception of Phraxos is almost like heaven, which is another factor that tells us that when he is on the Island, or with Conchis, he totally escapes from reality.
The Magus is actually the first novel Fowles wrote, though he published The Collector first, in 1963, and The Aristos, his "self-portrait in ideas," second, in 1964. He began working on The Magus in the early 1950's as a result of his experiences on the Greek Island, Spetsai, where he was teaching English. Fowles continued to work on his recalcitrant novel for many years, finally allowing it to be published in 1965, after his literary confidence was secured by the great success of The Collector (Smith, Frederik N). But Fowles continued to be disturbed by the flaws and excesses in his novel, and he persevered with its revision over the next twelve years. In 1977 he published "A Revised Version" of The Magus with which, he says, he is pleased. The new version is not substantially different from the first, though the prose is cleaner, the dialogue less cumbersome, and the supernatural element virtually effaced.Nicholas's ordeal begins when, after abandoning his girlfriend, Alison, he accepts a teaching position on the Greek Island, Phraxos. There he falls in with the magus, Conchis, who involves Nicholas in an extraordinary "godgame" designed to teach the irresponsible young man about the consequences of his dissolute past. Conchis disorients his pupil by entangling him in a real-life masque and manipulating his affections with siren-like twin sisters. After Nicholas succumbs completely to the magic of the game, the magus abruptly abandons him, leaving him to put his life back together (Tatham, Michael, 1971). When Nicholas slaps Alison at the end of The Magus the masque is finally over. He has been changed from the "débauchi de profession" to the man on his knees, enjoying the possibility that tomorrow he may (and probably will) know love. We may rightfully wonder how the bizarre events manufactured by Conchis have produced this change in him. Does Nicholas understand?
Definitely, "The Refusal of the Return" discusses, in both mythical and psychological terms, the special problems of the individual who has completed initiation and faces the most difficult task of all—the re—entry into his former society. The reasons for the difficulty of the return, and the consequences of refusal, not only for those who refuse, but for their forsaken societies as well, are touched on here. The goal at the end of the journey is for the hero to return to us with a boon that reconstitutes the world. It is we who stand to lose most, then, when his return with this precious gift is aborted.
Smith, Frederik N. "Revision and Style of Revision in The French Lieutenant's Woman." Modern Fiction Studies 31.1
Tatham, Michael. "Two Novels: Notes on the Works of John Fowles." New Blackfriars 52 (1971): 404-411.
Wade, Cory. "Mystery Enough at Noon: John Fowles's Revision of The Magus." Southern Review 15 (1979): 717-723.