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The Ebony Tower

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 modern artist.

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 triangle.

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 Eden?

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.

(by Seagull)

"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 emotions.

(by Luck)

"The Ebony Tower”: the Search for Authenticity

The story 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.  

(by MissJane)

"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 Freak).

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 journey.

(by Asya)


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 isolated society.

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 outer world.

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”.

(by Rina)

All roads lead to art

The story "Ebony tower” is about a young artist and writer David, who comes to France to meet a very famous and talented painter Henry Briesly. After having read the story I’ve come to certain conclusions about it. At first, the story is a about a decent family man who has certain understanding of art who comes into the atmosphere of easy life full of sins. Exactly this life is led by old Henry.  But together with David we understand that this very lifestyle creates wonderful conditions for creativity. Though, David can’t agree. Instead he argues with Henry about major points on painting, and doesn’t approve of Henry’s life. Under such conditions he falls in love with Mouse, a girl who lives with old man, helps him in his workshop and has a kind of relationships with him. David forgets about his family and his principles, and the rackety way of living grips him. Apart of the discussions about art, about two generations of artists, I may single out the topic of creative atmosphere that is necessary you create. It doesn’t matter form what point of view we look at the novel, we in either case come to art. This is what the author investigates in his novel, and this is what he wants us to think of while reading. 

The author chooses two representatives from two generations of artists. At first, David represents a new trend in painting – abstractionism. Henry on the contrary represents old school and sticks to classical methods of expressing his artistic self. Fowls puts these characters into struggle making David think that man and painter are two different things. It diverges with his usual understanding of things. Henry is a great, talented painter, but as a man he’s not that decent – he drinks much, enjoys two young girls, and behaves rudely and conceitedly. The trip to France turned out to be a real testing for David. His principles were tested for strength. His mentality was even tested. It is obvious that David falls in love with Mouse, and the motive of love is of great significance here. The seduction of the atmosphere where he spent 3 days defeated David. He was ready to give up his principles. Mouse found comfort in art after having a very painful relationship with a young man.  Ironically, she saved David from betraying his inner strength while rejecting his wish to spend a night with her. David survived this experience.

(by 8davids8)

It’s not easy to single out the main idea of the story. To my mind it contains several key ideas and conflicts. One of them is confrontation of different kinds of art, a classic and a modern one, but it is most likely a kind of allusion. An allusion to the antagonism of the two men, the two generations, and what is the most important two different life philosophies. Henry is an old waster – he does what he want – pants his pictures, drinks a lot, makes siestas, lives with two young women and denies himself nothing. David is on the contrary a well-mannered family guy who is true to his wife and his principles. These two different characters and these two different life positions collide with each other in the story, and the relationships, which occur between David and Mouse, only aggravate the atmosphere. Henry doesn’t comprehend David’s way of life and his opinion towards painting. Freak also says that for a one single night he could have neglect his principles and be with Mouse, because it was obvious, that she found him attractive as a man, and he liked her too. David seems just a stone's throw from dipping into this life of leisure and abuse but he survived. The author uses this very word to give mouth to David’s feelings at the end of the story. This underlines one more time that the temptation was amazingly strong for David, and it is small wonder, because frankly speaking, everybody had ever dreamed of living like in a paradise, without any rules and problems, but unfortunately, a life of joy, without any troubles is a utopia. David managed to recover himself and not to fall from grace. This means, he survived, but not physically. First of all, his soul survived in his own eyes and in the eyes of God.

(by alex.makh)

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