The story represents the life of artists. It is full of creativity and
emotions. Fowles throws classical and modern schools together. But reading the
story we realize that classical doesn’t mean conservative. As well as modern is
not a synonym to free and unrestricted. The author opposes Henry, a
representative of the old school painting, to David, a journalist and young
The young man visits Henry to learn and to sink into his creative world,
but falls in the abyss of sin. But is it really so? The old painter lives with
two women in his own house. He is not limited by anything. He loves his women.
And what about them? They are far from the worldly vanity. They feel
comfortable under the wing of the old Henry. The two women can be called the
fans of the old painter. But such life and ideology contradicts David’s ideas
of good and evil. He is a modern artist, but he is actually conservative in his
life. He has his wife and his child. His life is calm.
I can also say that David possesses some innocence. And here we see an
allusion to the Bible. David represents Adam the first man. Mouse is Eve. And
old Henry and Freak composes the old Serpent. But the story of Fowles is
changed a bit. Here Mouse and David fall at the same time influenced by the
atmosphere created by Henry and seeds of sin being seeded by Freak. The
emotional world of the old writer absorbs David. But he finally comes back to
his life and to his beloved wife. He has fallen to temptation, but managed it. And
Henry is a cruel and sinful person. Really?
Let’s take another look at the essence of the story.
Henry lives in a very beautiful place. It really looks like the Garden
of Eden. It is seems to be far from the corporeal world. The old painter
managed to create his own world with his own principles. Mouse and Freak live
with their beloved Henry. Can we regard him as their husband? I think, no. He
seems to be their father, and if we take his age into account, he really can be
their father. And here their love to him is beyond passion. Mouse says that
they don’t have sex, she calls it "a contact”.
David falls into this world of sin where Henry seems to be the old
Serpent seducing his women and David. The modern painter sees this strange love
When they are having a walk on the lake the women are absolutely naked.
They don’t feel ashamed. And here the question arises whether Henry’s world is
Hell or the Garden of Eden.
The young women aren’t ashamed of their natural beauty and their nude.
They have pure feelings and emotions. Their love to Henry achieves apotheosis. They
deify him. So is Henry a God? Can his home, forest and lake be the Garden of
In this place a man has a unique possibility to live pure life with pure
emotions and feelings. And even passion here is pure. Pure passion means that
it is free of lust. And who is the sinner then?
Henry and his two well-wishers or David? The young painter comes into
this almost divine world being under the stereotypes of the other world. And he
falls to temptation. But who can be blamed for this? Henry or Mouse? I think
that’s only David’s fault. He falls into the lust because of his mind being
filled with stereotypes.
We have the Garden of Eden and first innocent people in it. These are
Mouse and Freak. But where the God is? Can it be Henry? It is he who has
created this world. And it is he who rules in it.
Who is David then? He is a sinner, because he is just the descendant of
Adam and Eve. And he has a right to enter the Garden of Eden. But why? To compare
it with the Earth? To get a chance to stay there in the everlasting divine
goodness? Or just to test himself?
At the end of the story David says "I survived”. His adventure in
Henry’s house was indeed a test for him, for his will and weakness and for his
life principles. And I think he’s passed it. But what is the cost of this exam?
Only God and David knows this.
"The Ebony Tower” is a story about three days from the
life of a journalist David Williams, who goes to France in order to take an
interview and write a book about an old artist Henry Breasley. But besides him,
David meets two students, two girls who seem to be absolutely different. Diana,
or Mouse, as Henry calls her is naïve but has her own principles which make her
life as it is. She lives with the old man because she believes that he needs someone
who can take care of him. She sticks to Henry because she seems him not just as
an old man but as a great artist, who thinks his own way and who can replace
all other people in her life, including men.
Anna, or Freak, as Henry calls her is a very impulsive
girl. From the very beginning it is clear that she is not an ordinary one,
judging by the way she looks, dresses, behaves. She stays at Henry’s house only
because of Mouse.
The conflict of the story can be seen at the moment
when David realizes that he has some feelings towards Mouse. He begins spending
more time with her, he likes talking to her, touching upon the most interesting
themes for him, and at the same time learning the life position of the girl.
And though Freak considers her as a "stupid” girl, David realizes that only
Mouse can make his life really happy, she is the one whom he has been seeking
for all his life and has finally found. Diana feels the same towards him but
she is not ready to give up everything she has, that is why she just tries to
suppress her feelings, devoting her time to painting mainly.
Probably if they both have been more insistent and
could have had more time to spend together, there would have been another
end. But the fact is that David was
scared to change anything. Somewhere inside him there was a fight between his
mind and soul, his doubts and beliefs, his future and his past.
David comes back to his family. He meets his wife and
seeing her makes him forget those three days. They definitely changed his views
greatly but they did not change his personality, that is why at the end of the
book David admits that he managed to "survive”, without following passion and
"The Ebony Tower”:
the Search for Authenticity
represents a thorough investigation of a person’s identity when it happens to
withstand a new way of world perception. The main character David had to test
his own life vision turning out to be an odd thing in the strange idyll of the
union between the elderly painter and his two apprentices, Ann and Diana, who
seem to be spellbound with the unhurried life among forests and lakes.
"The Ebony Tower” is a bold attempt to understand the principles
that hold up the existence of man. It is also a means to express the battle
inside the main character, his doubts and regrets, his unspoken desires and
unfulfilled strivings. The place where he happened to stay brought about an
unquenchable fire inside his soul and mind. His views on art and ways of individual
expression were seriously tested, then twisted and crumbled. The place appeared
to stand for the serpent tempting and driving out of senses. The stillness and
enchantment of the life these three people were leading seems to hide more than
appears to be on the surface. The reader is left with a feeling of total
astonishment after one has observed the irrevocable changes a few days managed
to cause in the main hero. We nevertheless start asking ourselves about the
laws and tenets the philosophy of our lives is based upon.
The title of the
story is definitely the hint that helps to get a full understanding of the
author’s message. It is most explicitly rendered in the following extract:
'What on earth did the last thing he said mean?'
'Oh'. She smiled. 'Nothing. Just one of the bats in his belfry.' She tilted
her head, 'What he thinks has taken the place of the ivory tower?'
She shook her head. 'Anything he doesn't like about modern art. That he thinks
is obscure because the artist is scared to be clear... you know.'
The logic of the
author’s argumentations consists in showing the rapid and unexpected collision
of the two opposite ideologies – compliance to common sense and compliance to
the rules of honesty. The ‘ebony tower’ symbolizes the state of obscuration of
one’s integrity. "The artist is scared to be clear” just as any ordinary
person is often afraid of presenting the world with his real identity. However,
there is another possible interpretation of the allusive nature of the title.
The critics claim that "ebony tower" also
evokes another dark tower, that of the sixteenth card in the major arcana of
the Tarot, "the Tower," described by Alfred Douglas as a "sturdy
tower, erected on a grassy rise [and] struck by lightning. The lightning-flash
is a symbol of the overpowering light of truth in which all falsehood, and
ultimately all duality, is destroyed. It is the flash of inner illumination
which brings the freedom of enlightenment. . . . The devastating impact of this
fire can free the mind from its fetters and open the way that leads to the
centre; but if the conscious mind is not prepared, not strongly built on firm
foundations, it may end in catastrophe.”
Thus the story poses a detailed research in the spirit
of the philosophy of existentialism. In other words, it is considered to be one
of the explanations of the "philosophy of crisis”. The main idea consists
in the following: in order to stand fast in this world, one should first of all
examine one’s inner world, assess one’s potential and abilities. The problem of
man is put forward. And "The Ebony Tower” empowers the reader to look for
the solution to this problem. No variant is stainless but feasible as long as a
person is true to himself.
"The Ebony Tower” is a world-famous novel written by John Fowles. It
is dedicated to various themes, both daily routine and so-to-say high
materials. The question and the problem of modern art is raised and dealt with
in it. The title of the work "The Ebony Tower” is explained in the novel
itself. The main character, Henry Breasley, an artist, denigrates contemporary
artists who work with abstraction because they are too afraid to be clear. So,
the ebony tower is where you dump things you are too old to appreciate.
As far as the main characters are concerned, there are four of them. David
Williams is an English art critic and color-field painter. He arrives in
northern France to interview an old painter named Henry Breasley. But when
David arrives there, he realizes that the house is inhabited not only by the
great painter, but also by two young art students: Diana (Mouse) and Ann (the
So, one of the major conflicts is the one concerning art. How should we
treat modern art? What role does art play in our lives? Is it only about
aesthetic pleasure and beauty? Or is there something more, something deeper
that makes the artist create? Why do artists produce masterpieces? What for? Do
the artists of different movements intend to evoke the same response? Do they
simply care about it?
These questions are just a few examples that are touched upon in the novel.
They remain unanswered. But they make readers think. They make us investigate,
analyze and draw conclusions.
Another theme that is also quite explicit is the theme of love and
responsibility. David Williams has a wife and a daughter. But nevertheless he
falls in love with Diana. That is against his life principles. He does not want
to continue living with his wife. On his way home he is thinking whether it
could be possible to solve the situation somehow. And he is dreaming how
wonderful it would be if his wife got into a car accident and crashed or if
Diana were his wife. But he is driving home. And it is quite clear that he will
continue leading the way of life he is already used to.
Hence, the last sentence of the story is "I survived”. I suppose it
means that David managed to resist the temptation. But that journey did
influence him. Three days were enough to change his attitude to numerous life
phenomena. At least, he got such experience that we realize quite clearly that
no matter how David behaves he will never be the man he used to be before the
The story "The Ebony Tower” written by John
Fowles is rather complicated though it may seem to be just another
story about people relationships and art. Its message doesn't lie on
the surface. Being a representative of post-modernism, the author
attempts to interfuse different aspects of human life within one
context. Therefore his novel alludes to the realia of modern life
and life perception, contemporary art trends and critiques. The
novel stands for the representation of modern life shown from the
perspective of artistic position and human relationships within one
The main question here is: "What is the story
about?” Is it about an artist's life? Is it about the perception
of the world through creation and art? Or is it just a problem of
one's choice shown through the lenses of artistic life? To my mind
the story can't be subdivided into several themes but should be
viewed as something whole as there's no border between art and life
in the story and man's abilities and desires are not limited by
David, the main character of the story visits
an old artist in order to learn about his life and finally write a
book about him. He is an art critic and a painter, he is a married
man who loves his wife and his daughter. He is an ordinary
representative of other art critics and journalists, men and
fathers. So, this rather undistinguished man is supposed to spend
three days in the countryside with an elderly artist. But he
actually finds himself in an isolated place where standard life
stereotypes seem to be forgotten for good. He meets an extravagant
old painter who explains to him that real life is far beyond scholar
theories. He meets an eccentric girl called Freak who shows him that
the power of art can revive a corrupt and lost soul. He meets a
naïve, kind-hearted and talented girl called Mouse who lets him
understand what he wants and what he feels. These three people just
break down David's stereotypical nature and that's how the author's
idea manifests itself: in order to achieve real freedom to cognize
art and create masterpieces one should get rid of limitations
imposed on him by habits, moral and social rules. But is one strong
enough to do it?
So, what is the story about? It is a story about a man whose
perception changes being influenced by pure art. It is a story about
a man who dived into the very depth of artistic and even
surrealistic being, who experienced the feelings he'd never come
across before, who finally came to certain understanding of his own
desires but who finally managed to leave it. "He surrenders to
what is left: to abstraction. I've survived”.