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Could you explain the term lameduck in this passage? Are the words patronize, compassion or help similar or different in this context?

Does lameduck have an opposite meaning (negative verb) as lame?

Violence and force are wrong. If I use violence I descend to his level. It means that I have no real belief in the power of reason, and sympathy and humanity. That I lameduck people only because it flatters me, not because I believe they need my sympathy. I’ve been thinking back to Ladymont, to people I lameducked there. Sally Margison. I lameducked her just to show the Vestal Virgins that I was cleverer than they. That I could get her to do things for me that she wouldn’t do for them. Donald and Piers (because I’ve lameducked him in a sense, too) — but they’re both attractive young men. There were probably hundreds of other people who needed lameducking, my sympathy, far more than those two. And anyway, most girls would have jumped at the chance of lameducking them.

From John Fowles, The Collector, p. 139.

  • What is the definition of "lame duck"? – Hot Licks Aug 17 '18 at 10:35
  • @HotLicks "a person or thing that is disabled or ineffectual" – RubioRic Aug 17 '18 at 10:40
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    Bear in mind that this is nonstandard usage. I had to read that passage twice to figure out what the author meant. If you were to use that expression, I doubt anyone would understand what you meant. – Mike Harris Aug 17 '18 at 13:49
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It seems to only be used this way in this book. But it is just a coined word taken from the noun "lame duck" and turned into a verb.

As a noun, a "lame duck" is literally an injured duck who cannot walk (waddle) or walks poorly because it is hurt and in pain.

When seeing a "lame duck" or any injured small animal in the wild, we normally feel pity or sympathy and want to care for it. We feel a desire to claim the animal, take it into our home, and treat it very well, but not let it go until it heals. Maybe we secretly hope that it learns to trust us and love us and stay as a pet.

This is exactly what Fowles means when he writes to "lameduck" something. It's what the main character is doing by kidnapping the girl Miranda. And Miranda uses it to understand why he is doing this to her because she has done it to others. The hints are in each time Miranda uses the word.

pg.90 - "He keeps me absolutely prisoner. But in everything else I am mistress. ... The same thing happened when I was lameducking Donald last spring. I began to feel he was mine, ..."

This use shows the meaning of lameducking to be about taking away someone or something's freedom but also providing well for it, and having a feeling of ownership. (Imagine caring for an injured duck.)

pg. 131 - "I shall say I feel differently towards him, that I want to be his friend and lameduck him in London. It won’t be altogether a lie, I feel a responsibility towards him that I don’t really understand. I so often hate him, I think I ought to forever hate him. Yet I don’t always. My pity wins, and I do want to help him."

This time it shows the meaning of lameducking to be about "a feeling of responsibility" and "pity" and a "wanting to help". (Again, imagine caring for an injured duck.)

pg. 139 - "If I use violence I descend to his level. It means that I have no real belief in the power of reason, and sympathy and humanity. That I lameduck people only because it flatters me, not because I believe they need my sympathy."

This shows that she thinks of lameducking as giving sympathy and thinks that she does it sincerely, not selfishly, because others need her sympathy.

pg. 139 - "Sally Margison. I lameducked her just to show the Vestal Virgins that I was cleverer than they. That I could get her to do things for me that she wouldn’t do for them."

This shows the power of lameducking when the person you are caring for and being sympathetic to does start to like and trust you enough to do what you want. So lameducking can create a power of control over others. (Imagine caring for an injured duck and hoping it becomes your pet, following you and listening to you.)

So lameducking refers to treating other people as if we are caring for an injured animal. Both the positive (sympathy, compassion, caring) and the negative (claiming, controlling, keeping prisoner).

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Following on Jay A. Little's excellent definition of lameduck in the answer above.

As a noun, a "lame duck" is literally an injured duck who cannot walk (waddle) or walks poorly because it is hurt and in pain.

When seeing a "lame duck" or any injured small animal in the wild, we normally feel pity or sympathy and want to care for it. We feel a desire to claim the animal, take it into our home, and treat it very well, but not let it go until it heals. Maybe we secretly hope that it learns to trust us and love us and stay as a pet.

I found a reference to lameduck and the John Fowles' book The Collector in Something and Nothingness: The Fiction of John Updike & John Fowles By John Neary

See last four lines.

The Collector

Perhaps Fowles used artistic licence with his character Miranda?

Grammarist defines lameduck as:

A lame duck is a politician who has been voted out of office but whose term is not yet up, or a politician who is still in office but cannot run for reelection.

Lame duck as applied to a politician is a North American term, though it is gaining usage across the globe.

The first American president referred to as a lame duck was Calvin Coolidge.

The phrase lame duck may also be used to describe an ineffectual person.

Lame duck originated on the London Stock Market in the 1700s to describe an investor who is unable to cover his debts, the plural form is lame ducks.

Lame duck is spelled with a hyphen as in lame-duck when used as an adjective before a noun about half the time.

Merriam-Webster's second definition for the word is:

chiefly British : a person, company, etc., that is weak or unsuccessful and needs help

In the story Miranda Grey is kept captive by the protagonist Frederick Clegg. He is from a lower social class than Miranda, perhaps lameducking is the act of putting someone down in the context of the quote in OPs question?

A contributor to New Casebook Series:John Fowles edited by James Acheson seems to confirm this interpretation

The Collector 2

From this essay on the book

He admits that he made a mistake setting his sights on Miranda as she was of a higher social class than he: “… she’s only an ordinary common shop-girl, but that was my mistake before, aiming too high” (Fowles 282) and so if he were to have a new guest, it would be someone who would respect him and who would learn from him, instead of the other way round as it was between Frederick and Miranda: “I ought to have got someone who would respect me more. Someone ordinary I could teach” (Fowles 282). This is a conclusion he comes to after he has read Miranda’s diary and finds out that she never really loved him and felt superior to him.

and this analysis

Miranda feels sorry for him, but at the same time, she has the feeling that she should not

Here is the Guardian book review of The Collector and Goodreads & Dutch Readers' takes on the book

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From my point of view the general meaning of Lameducking is - forced restriction of free will.

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