THE MOON AND SIXPENCE Topic: The theme revealed in the novel “The moon and sixpence” Outline: I. Summary about writer and the novel “ The moon and sixpence” II. Two themes revealed in the novel “The moon and sixpence” 1. The revolt of an individual against the well- established conventions of bourgeois society 2. No rooms for trivial and ordinary pleasures of life in Great Art III. Conclusion Summary about the writer and the novel “ The moon and sixpence” 1. William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) W. S.
Maugham is famous English writer, well-known as a novelist, playwright and shortstory writer. In his writings he kept to the principles of Realism, but his method of writing was also influenced by Naturalism, Neo-romanticism and Modernism. W. S. Maugham was born in Paris where his father worked as solicitor for the English Embassy. At the age of 10, Maugham was orphaned and sent to England to live with his uncle, thevicar of Whitstable. Before becoming a writer he was educated at King’s School, Canterbury, and Heidelberg University, Maugham then studied six years medicine in London.
William worked in a hospital of Saint Thomas, which placed in a poor block of London the experience found its reflection in the 1st novel. During World War, Maugham volunteered for the Red Cross, and was stationed in France for a period. There he met Gerald Haxton (1892-1944), an American, who became his companion. Disguising himself as a reporter, Maugham served as an espionage agent for British Secret Intelligence Service in Russia in 1916-17, but his stuttering and poor health hindered his career in this field. In 1917 he married Syrie Barnardo, an interior decorator; they were ivorced in 1927-8. On his return from Russia, he spent a year in a sanatoriumin Scotland. Maugham then set off with Haxton on a series of travels to eastern Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Mexico. In many novels the surroundings also are international. Maugham’s most famous story such as “Ashenden: or the British agent ’’Maugham died in Nice, a small French town from pneumonia on December 16, 1965. During the war, Maugham’s best-known novel, Of Human Bondage(1915) was published. This wasfollowed by another successful book,The Moon and Sixpence(1919).
Maugham also developed areputation as a fine short-story writer, one story,Rain, which appeared in The Trembling of a Leaf (1921), was also turned into a successful feature film. Popular plays written by Maugham include The Circle(1921),East of Sue(1922), The Constant Wife1926) and the anti-war play,For Services Rendered (1932). In his later years Maugham wrote his autobiography,Summing Up (1938) and works of fiction such as The Razor’s Edge (1945),Catalina (1948) and Quartet (1949). After the 1930s Maugham’s reputation abroad was greater than in England.
Maugham once said,”Most people cannot see anything, but I can se what is in front of my nose with extreme clearness;the greatest writers can see through a brick wall. My vision is not so penetrating. ” His literaryexperiences Maugham collected in The Summing Up, which has been used as a guidebook for creative writing. William Somerset Maugham died in 1965 in a small French town from pneumonia. “I have never pretended to be anything but a story teller. It has amused me to tell stories and I have told a great many.
It is a misfortune for me that the telling of a story just for the sake of the story is not an activity that is in favor with theintelligentsia. In endeavor to bear my misfortunes with fortitude. ” (from Creatures of Circumstance, 1947) The novel “The moon and sixpence” Charles Strickland, a good, dull, holiest, plain man who is a conventional stockbroker. He is probably a worthy member of society, a good husband and father, an honest broker, but he abandoned his wife and two nice looking and healthy children, a boy and a girl. A supposition is putforth: Charles walks out upon his wife to run after some woman.
A friend of Strickland is sent to Paris to find out who the woman is and if possible to persuade him to come back to his wife. After a long talk with Strickland, the man understands that the real reason that inspires him to run away is not woman. He decided to be a painter. Living in Paris, Strickland comes into contact with a Dutch painter, Dirk Strove . Strove is presented as an antipode to Strickland. Strove is a kind hearted man but a bad painter. He is the first to discover the real talent of Strickland. When Strickland falls seriously ill, it is Strove who comes to help.
Strove persuades his wife to let him bring the artist home to look after him. To his surprise, his wife falls inlove with Strickland who she holds in disgust. Later his wife, a housemaid rescued by Strove, kills herself by drinking acid after Strickland leaves her. What Strickland wants from Blanche is not sexual relation but the nude picture of her beautiful figure. Leaving France for Tahiti, Strickland is in search of a world of his own. In Tahiti, he marries a native girl Ata and he has about three years of happiness. He has two children. Strickland contracts leprosy and later becomes blind.
He wants to leave the family but Ata doesn’t let him do it. His eyesight gets worse but he continues painting. Ata couldn’t go to the town and buy canvases; he uses the walls of his house. Strickland gets rid of some strong irresistible obsession imprisoning his soul with the help of those paintings. He has achieved what he longs for on this land. He has painted his masterpiece. Knowing that he is going to die, he makes his wife promise to burn down his masterpiece after his death in fear that it will be contaminated by the commercial world of money.
Two themes revealed in the novel “The moon and sixpence” 1. The revolt of an individual against the well- established conventions of bourgeois society In many of his stories, Maugham reveals to us the unhappy life and the revolt against the set social order. The Moon and Sixpence was written in this line. It is a story of the conflict between the artist and the conventional society based on the life of a painter. The revolt of an individual against the well-established conventions of bourgeois society was shown in the following two aspects: 1. 1. Money worship society
The bourgeois society with its vices such as: snobbishness money worship, pretense, self-interest…made their profit of the frailties of mankind. To them, money was a useful tool to dominate both economics and politics. Money also helped the bourgeois maintain their regal life and it connected the members in family, on the other hand, husband had obligated to support his wife and children for whole his life. Therefore, the last generations of the bourgeois forced the young generation to continue their domination. It was mentioned in the conversation betweenStrickland and his friend. I rather wanted to be a painter when I was a boy, but my father made me go into business because he said there was no money in art”. In this society, art was non-profitable. Therefore, it must be looked down upon. In their point of view, art was nothing more than just a job to earn money. They did not see the beautiful things that art brings. When Strickland decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, his dream and aspiration were hidden on the bottom of his heart. After working hard for ages, he became a prosperous stockbroker. He is probably a worthy member of society.
However, there is in streets of the poor quarters a thronging vitality which excites the blood and prepares the soul for the unexpected. It was actually happened in Paris, because Strickland gave up the luxury life and got acquainted with hard life just only wanted to fulfill a long-cherished dream. He had to give up his dream to follow his father’s wishes. “I want to paint. ”“I’ve got to paint. ” The brief answer expressed his willingness to get out of ideology ties which were imposed by his father. And his hand and mind would express his big dream by painting masterpieces. I couldn’t get what I wanted in London. Perhaps I can here. ”“I tell you I’ve got to paint. ” The author said that “I seemed to feel in him some vehement power that was struggling within him, it gave me the sensation of something very strong, overmastering, that held him” And Strickland cannot have a comfortable life any more. “I haven’t any money. I’ve got about a hundred pounds. ” We could probably see it through Strickland’s appearance when he came to Paris. “Sitting there in his old Norfolk jacket and his unnourished bowler, his trousers were baggy, ishands were not clean; and his face, with the red stubble of the unshaved chin, the little eyes, and the large, aggressive nose, was uncouth and coarse. ” 1. 2 Family and social responsibilities Painting is not only a ‘dreamy moon’ of Strickland but also of many progressive people in bourgeois society. According to bourgeois concepts, all the men have to be responsible for hisfamily and children. He’s forced to have a strong connection with what is considered to belong tohim. Strickland’s life is tied tightly down to family’s contract. However, all that sort of thingsmeans nothing at all to him.
He doesn’t let those reasons impact on his way chasing his passion any longer. It can be obviously proved through the conversation between two men, Strickland and the author, in chapter II of the novel. ‘Hang it all, one can’t leave a woman without a bob. ’ ‘Why not? ’ ‘How is she going to live? ’ ‘I’ve supported her for seventeen years. Why shouldn’t she support herself for a change? ’ ‘Let her try. ’ ‘Don’t you care for her anymore? ’ ‘Not a bit’ When Strickland talks about his children, his attitude is revealed to be heartlessly scornful. ‘They’ve had a good many years of comfort. It’s much more than the majority of children have. Dirk Stroeve was one of those unlucky persons whose most sincere emotions are ridiculous. ” On the nature of art “Why should you think that beauty, which is the most precious thing in the world, lies like a stone on the beach for the careless passer-by to pick up idly? Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the torment of his soul. And when he has made it, it is not given to all to know it. To recognize it you must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a melody he sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination. Besides, somebody will look after them. When it comes to the point, the Mac Andrews will pay for their schooling. ’ ‘I like them all right when they were kids, but now they’ve growing up I haven’t got any particular feeling for them. ’ He totally gives up on his own family, children and thinks that they could live by themselves without his care. Even if they can’t make arrangement for their life, his relatives might come to help. Strickland also doesn’t mind what people loathe and despise him. ‘Everyone will think you a perfect swine. ’ ‘Let them. ’ ‘Won’t it mean anything to you that people loathe and despise you? ‘No’ ‘You don’t care if people think you an utter black-guard? ’ ‘Not a damn. ’ He really doesn’t care any longer. ‘You won’t go back to your wife? ’ ‘Never’ ‘You don’t care if she and your children have to beg their bread? ’ ‘Not a damn. ’ He does everything: abandoned wife and children; left his successful career behind just because he totally hates that gloomy society and its old customs. Only by a short conversation between two men, the author already describes the strongly reactive mind of Strickland, a man who dares to stand up and fight over the old customs of that boring society and bourgeois.
Regarding to Strickland’s point of view, his escape is the only decision; it’s also the solution to release his imprisoning mind. He doesn’t regret or be ashamed of what he’s done. He accepts the eyes of society because he doesn’t care. Actually, it’s never ever meant anything to him. The only thing that he really cares is his mind right now freely to follow anddo everything he ever dreams of in his own ‘dreamy moon’. 2. No rooms for trivial and ordinary pleasures of life in Great Art 2. 1 Sacrifice everything to be an artist. At the beginning, the stockbroker Strickland had a stable life with happy family.
However,when he started to chase his path as an artist, he had to experience a poor situation. Moreover, he was willing to get rid of everything to be an artist. Great art don’t depend on age as long as you have real passion. Even though at the age of forty“the chances are a million to one”, Stricklandstill wants to be a painter. “I can learn quicker than I could when I was eighteen”, said he. He wanted to be a painter when he was a boy but his father didn’t allow him. His father consumed that there was money in art. Therefore, he had to give up his passion for such a long time. However, his fire for art wasn’t stamped out.
And this was the perfect time for him to implement his dream again. On his way chasing that dream, he had to sacrifice everything. He passed by the material and the sensual to fulfill spiritual needs. He got rid of a happy family with acomfortable life to go to Paris and lived in destitute life there Although he knew that his family needed him and they had to suffer difficulties in life without him, he didn’t intend to change his mind and he accepted to be considered as a selfish man. He understood that his action weren’t highly appreciated; however, he still wanted to pursue art in his own way.
Strickland accepted to live in a bad condition, without money, job, food and at last he found a Shelter at a hotel. Afterward, despite the fact that he got a serious disease and became blinded; he still tried to fulfill his masterpiece on the walls of his house. During the first daysstaying in Paris, he only found a cheap hotel to live. He appeared with such a miserable, untidy image. “He sat there in his old Norfolk jacket and his unnourished bowler, his trousers werebaggy, his hands were not clean; and his face, with the red stubble of the unshaved chin, the littleeyes, and the large, aggressive nose, was uncouth and coarse.
His mouth was large; his lips wereheavy and sensual. ”He desired to paint. He repeated his speech many times when answering his friend. “I want to paint. ”“I’ve got to paint”“I tell you I have to paint”. 2. 2. Strickland protects Beauty and Art. Art is very pure. It can not be measured by the value of money or sexual relation. Stricklandstruggled to abandon his appetence for art. “Let me tell you. I imagine that for months the matter never comes into your head, and you’re ableto persuade yourself that you’ve finished with it for good and all.
You rejoice in your freedom, and you feel that at last you can call your soul your own. You seem to walk with your head among the stars. And then, all of a sudden you can’t stand it any more, and you notice that all the time your feet have been walking in the mud. And you want to roll yourself in it. And you find some woman,coarse and low and vulgar, some beastly creature in whom all the horror of sex is blatant, and you fall upon her like a wild animal. You drink till you’re blind with rage. ” He assumed that as an artist he shouldn’t have trivial fun such as desire of women.
For Strickland, woman is like an invisible rope tightening his life. It is very hard to escape from them. Therefore, he tried to avoid it. He was willing to give her up as well as his unsatisfactory painting. He did everything to be a true artist even though it made him become acruel man. Finally, he achieved what he wanted. He created a masterpiece. It was worth what he’d spent. He devoted all his life to pursue art. As an artist, he didn’t care about fame or wealth. He painted pictures only to satisfy his love to art. He never sold his pictures to get money.
He did not toaccept his masterpiece to be contaminated by the commercial world of money. His dream was very beautiful III. Conclusion Based on the life of Paul Gauguin, “The Moon and Sixpence”is W. Somerset Maugham’sode to the powerful forces behind creative genius. Charles Strickland is a staid banker, a man of wealth and privilege. He is also a man possessed of an unquenchable desire to create art. As Strickland pursues his artistic vision, he leaves London for Paris and Tahiti, and in his quest makes sacrifices that leave the lives of those closest to him in tatters.
Through Maugham’s sympathetic eye Strickland’s tortured and cruel soul becomes a symbol of the blessing and the curse of transcendent artistic genius, and the cost in human’s lives it sometimes demands. Topic 2: Impression of characteristic THE ANALYSIS OF STRICKLAND CHARACTER 1. Strickland as an ordinary man 1. 1 Strickland is irresponsible inconsiderate toward his wife Strickland used be a good husband to his wife. Actually, he owns a happy family and goodeconomic condition. For many people, Strickland is good businessman and has good status insociety.
However, he suddenly abandoned his wife and went another place. Strickland leaved his wife and children behind without a word. His leaving makes her very miserable and she had asuspicion that he run away with other women. His wife- Army is a pleasant hospital woman. Strickland can’t find any reasons which belong to Arm to leave her. When Army sends himmany letters to persuade him to come back, Strickland doesn’t read any letters from her. It meansthat he doesn’t concern anything related to his wife. When making conservation with friend sent to persuade him, Strickland expresses a coollyattitude to his wife. I can not describe the extraordinary callousness with which he made this reply”Although Strickland acknowledged his action, he still does like that. Has she deserved that you should treat her like that? NoThen, isn’t it monstrous to leave her in this fashion after seventeen years of married life withouta fault to find with her Monstrous”Abandoning wonderful wife is faulty. However, letting a woman without a bob is more pitiless. He also knows before that his wife and children will have to suffer difficulties in life withouthim. But he still leaves them to pursue his aim. Hang it all, one can’t leave a woman without a bobWhy not? Don’t you care for her any more? Not a bit”Strickland does not try thinking whether a weak woman can live without support from man;especially she has to nurse two children. They don’t know what they should do in order to support their life and what will wait for them in the future. He supposed that he no longer haveany responsibility to his family and all things that he did before be enough. 1. 2 Strickland is irresponsible selfish father Strickland does not want to take any responsibility to his children. His children are very youngand innocent.
They have never done any harm to Strickland. “Damn it all. There are your children to think of. They’ve never done you any harm. They didnot ask to be bought in to the world. If you chuck everything like this, they’ll be thrown on thestreet. They have had a good many years of comfort. It’s much more than the majority of childrenhave. Besides, somebody will look after them. When it comes to the point, the Mac Andrewswill pay for their schooling”. How can children live without support from their father? He did not care about his children anymore, even though they could be thrown out in the street.
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For many people, rearing children isvery holly duty and happiness. For children, father is the material and spiritual favor. It is very poor for children when he entrusts them to the care of Mac Andrews. Especially, Strickland thought that he did not have any special feeling to his children. For many men, children are always very special and take really important part in their emotional life. Strickland only had special feeling to his children when they were small. When they grow up, heno longer loves them. It seems that the nature of a father in Strickland has disappeared. He became an unemotional father. 1. Strickland is ungrateful to his friend Dirk Strove is a very kind- hearted person. Dirk Strove is the person who recognizes the talentof Strickland and helps him everything in bad days. When Strickland falls seriously ill, it isStrove who comes to help. Strove persuades his wife to let him bring the artist home to look after. Strickland must have gratitude all the things that Strove had done for him. On the other hand, Strickland has an adulterous affair with his best friend’s wife. Moreover, Strickland justwants to take use of her body for the nude picture and causes the death of Strove. 2. Strickland as an artist . 1 Strickland is a really passionate painter .He compares his passion to paint is like the desire to breath. He abandoned his wife andchildren to pursuit his dream of painting. He gives up a happy life to go strange place to learn painting. He gets divorced with his wife without any reasons and lets his children alone to devotefor art. “I have got to paint” is repeated four times in conservation with the friend. It means thatthe desire to paint is full of in his head all the time. When family’s friend is sent to persuade Strickland, he used all the tactics and arguments tochange Strickland’s decision.
However, Strickland still expresses a consistent attitude to allarguments. Strickland believes that his wife could take care of herself and also is ready to provide all necessary background for her to divorce. His children can grow without his support. Strickland reckons that it is the high time for him to realize his dream. For Strickland, painting is the air of life, an interest. The painting is all. He does not concernabout all the worst things people can think about him. “Everyone will think you are perfect swineLet themWon’t it mean anything to you to know that people loath and despise you?
No”Short answers contain a terrible determination. It seems that the art is the only meaningful thingto him now. The passion of painting is covering all his body and will. Behind the dull appearance, Strickland has the true passion to art. Strickland- a man with old Norfolk jacket, unnourished bowler, his trouser was bagging, his hand were not clean, his facewith red stubble of the unsaved chin, little eye, the large aggressive nose, his mount large and hislip were heavy and sensual. On the surface, he was not born for art. The rude and sensualappearance is completely contrary to deep passion on art and artist soul.
The narrator feels powerful desire to paint in his voice and vehement power. There is strong struggle between willand passion inside this man. Strickland decides to leave all his family and material values, loveand lust behind to scarify for art. Strickland accepts a poor life to devote for art and passion. From a prosperous stockbroker,Strickland became a poor man for only reason of being a painter. He can live in cheap hotel withabout hundred pounds to learn painting. When coming Tahiti, Strickland marries with a nativegirl and lives in forest far away from town. They live in misery. When there was no food to behad, he seemed capable”. It seems that he “lived a life wholly of the spirit” . All the materialvalues do not have any meaning to him. He wants to spend the rest of the life painting. He couldsuffer the poorest conditions to draw. Strickland decides to paint at the age of 40. “Do you think it is likely that a man will do any good when he starts at your age? Most people begin painting when they were eighteen. I can learn quicker than I could when I was eighteen”. The age is one of the most important barriers for Strickland to overcome. People mainly paintwhen they were eighteen.
In spite of acknowledging this, Strickland still decides to paint by allmeans. In fact, there is no limitation of age in art. However, Strickland must have had the trulystrong desire to art because it is very difficult and unusual for people to start learning painting atthis age. Strickland had dream of painting when he was very small. At his time, the values of man are measured in terms of money. His father said that there was no money in art and obligedhim to do business. Obeying his father’s speech, Strickland became a prosperous stockbroker. He owns a happy family and good social status.
Strickland does not satisfy with the current life. He feels the life is so boring and not meaningful. After 40 years, the dream of childhood stillobsesses him and wins other things. It seems that the man is cut for painting. At the age of 40,after many years of empty soul, he realizes clearly what he wants, what is important to his life. Panting is the job which he really wishes to do and succeed. 2. 2 Strickland understands the rotten society and he is very brave man who sacrifices for the real art When Strickland abandons his wife and spends all the rest of life for painting, many peoplewould think he is not usual.
His action is different from the normal people in society. In the bourgeois society, money is highly appreciated and most of people live for money. They supposethat there is no money in art and artists are not highly evaluated in social order. In contrary,Strickland can give up everything to pursue art. Strickland wishes to paint because of true passion, but not for money. He never sold a single picture and he was never satisfied with whathe had done. In the end, Strickland obliged his wife to burn all his picture and house so that allhis products are not survived for commercial purpose.
He has the great art concept and is acourageous man who devotes everything to art. With the endowed talent and passion, Strickland creates the wonderful pictures which containthe great content and perfect beauty. Strickland can go anywhere to find inspiration for his picture. He decides to move from London to Paris, after that he came to Tahiti and live in aforest. Strickland is in search of a world of his own. When he contracts leprosy, he still draws. As he becomes blind, he continues painting until he died. Strickland is worth to be great and realartist. 3. Conclusion For Strickland’s family, he is a bad father and husband.
In term of the normal concepts in the society, Strickland is considered to be a selfish person who can abandon all important things to pursue his own passion. Strickland is a real artist and brave man in bourgeois society. He abandons all the normal thingsincluding family, money, social status, moral values to sacrifice for the real art. With deep enthusiasms, Strickland creates the great product and paints until his the last breaths. Hesupposes that the true art should not be contaminated by the commercial world of money. He isthe typical artist who can scarify for the real art in the bourgeois society. Some comments:
This is a fictionalized account of the life of artist Paul Gaugin. It’s the best fictionalized biography I’ve ever read. From the moment I learned he’s left his wife and children to the death of his mistress, I’ve been captivated by this intense personality. I’m reminded of Steve Jobs, a heartless man obsessed by work, by a vision. But the most interesting thing so far is the art itself. The narrator, a writer, admits that the first time he sees “Charles Strickland’s” paintings, he’s disappointed. The oranges are swollen and lopsided. He doesn’t have the craftsmanship of the old masters. (And no wonder. He’s only been painting for five years. Yet he says to himself, it’s because it’s a new style. This is key. Would anything ever make it in art if it weren’t new? It goes through a couple of stages. Total rejection, then wild acclaim. The narrator is disappointed in himself for not recognizing genius. Only later, after he’s seen these works in museums, acclaimed by others, is he able to recognize the hand of a master. It brings to mind Tom Wolfe’s “The Painted Word. ” Nothing is art until a story makes it so. And yet… A major character in “The Moon and Sixpence” is a hackneyed artist who has great technical skill yet paints for the vulgar masses, making a comfortable living.
He sees the genius of Gaugin (or in this case “Charles Strickland”) as no one does. He tries to get dealers to take the works though Strickland is uninterested in selling them. This character is the polar opposite of Strickland. He thinks only of others. If it weren’t for him, Strickland would have died. Yet he gets no respect. He’s other-directed in a world where the inner-directed rule. Yet he’s a great judge of art. I can’t help concluding that nearly every new style offers something, however turned off we may be initially. But I still prefer representational work to most modern art. The Right Time
There are some books that walk into your life at an opportune time. I’m talking about the books that send a pleasant shiver down your spine laden with “Man, this is meant to be! ” as you flip through its pages cursorily. Or those that upon completion, demand an exclamation from every book-reading fibre of your body to the effect of “There couldn’t have been a better time for me to have read this book! ” Now, I come from deferred-gratification stock. So books like these, you don’t read immediately,. You let them sit there on your table for a while. You bask in the warm expectant glow of a life-altering read.
You glance at the book as you make your way to office, take pleasure in the fact that it’ll be right there on your table when you open the front-door wearily, waiting to be opened, caressed, reveled in. And when that moment of reckoning arrives, you don’t stop, you plunge yourself straight into the book, white-hot passionate. The Moon and Sixpence was just that kind of a book for me. I had just completed (and thoroughly enjoyed) a course on Modern Art in college and could rattle off the names of Impressionist painters faster than I could the Indian cricket team.
I was particularly intrigued by Paul Gauguin, a French Post-Impressionist painter, after reading one of his disturbingly direct quotes. “Civilization is what makes me sick”, he proclaimed, and huddled off to Tahiti to escape Europe and “all that is artificial and conventional”, leaving behind a wife and five children to fend for themselves, never to make contact with them again. This struck me as the ultimate expression of individuality, a resounding slap to the judgmental face of conservative society, an escapist act of repugnant selfishness that could only be justified by immeasurable artistic talent, genius, some may call it.
My imagination was tickled beyond measure and when I discovered there was a novel by W. Somerset Maugham (the author of The Razor’s Edge no less! ) based on Gauguin, my joy knew no bounds. I was in the correct frame of mind to read about the life of a stockbroker who gave up on the trivial pleasures of bourgeois life for the penury and hard life of an aspiring painter without considering him ridiculous or vain. Supplied with the appropriate proportions of awe that is due to a genius protagonist, I began reading the book. I have to admit I expected a whole lot from it.
I had a voyeuristic curiosity to delve into the head of a certified genius. I was even more curious to see how Maugham had executed it. At the same time, I was hoping that the book would raise and answer important questions concerning the nature of art and about what drives an artist to madness and greatness. The Book The book’s title is taken from a review of Of Human Bondage in which the novel’s protagonist, Philip Carey, is described as “so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet. ” I admired Maugham’s narrative voice.
In his inimitable style, he flits in and out of the characters’ life as the stolid, immovable writer who is a mere observer, and nothing more. His narrator defies Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as in observing his characters, he doesn’t change their lives or nature one bit. He has a mild disdain for the ordinary life of a householder and relishes his independence. “I pictured their lives, troubled by no untoward adventure, honest, decent, and, by reason of these two upstanding, pleasant children, so obviously destined to carry on the normal traditions of their race and station, not without significance.
They would grow old insensibly; they would see their son and daughter come to years of reason, marry in due course – the one a peretty girl, future mother of healthy children; the other a handsome, manly fellow, obviously a soldier; and at last, prosperous in their dignified retirement, beloved by their descendants, after a happy, not unuseful life, in the fullness of their age they would sink into the grave. That must be the story of innumerable couples, and the patter of life it offers has a homely grace.
It reminds you of a placid rivulet, meandering smoothly through green pastures and shaded by pleasant trees, till at last it falls into the vasty sea; but the sea is so calm, so silent, so indifferent, that you are troubled suddenly by a vague uneasiness. Perhaps it is only a kink in my nature, strong in me even in those days, that I felt in such an existence, the share of the great majority, something amiss. I recognized its social value. I saw its ordered happiness, but a fever in my blood asked for a wilder course. There seemed to me something alarming in such easy delights.
In my heart was a desire to live more dangerously. I was not unprepared for jagged rocks and treacherous shoals if I could only have change – change and the excitement of the unforeseen. ” In Maugham’s hands, Gauguin becomes Charles Strickland, an unassuming British stockbroker, with a secret unquenchable lust for beauty that he is willing to take to the end of the world, first to Paris and then to remote Tahiti. He is cold, selfish and uncompromising in this quest for beauty. “The passion that held Strickland was a passion to create beauty. It gave him no peace. It urged him hither and thither.
He was eternally a pilgrim, haunted by a divine nostalgia, and the demon within him was ruthless. There are men whose desire for truth is so great that to attain it they will shatter the very foundation of their world. Of such was Strickland, only beauty with him took the place of truth. I could only feel for him a profound compassion. ” However words such as these serve to romanticize Strickland’s actions which at first glance, remain despicable. (view spoiler)Maugham paints him as a rogue loner, an unfathomable apparition, compelled to inhuman acts by the divine tyranny of art. He lived more poorly than an artisan. He worked harder. He cared nothing for those things which with most people make life gracious and beautiful. He was indifferent to money. He cared nothing about fame. You cannot praise him because he resisted the temptation to make any of those compromises with the world which most of us yield to. He had no such temptation. It never entered his head that compromise was possible. He lived in Paris more lonely than an anchorite in the deserts of Thebes. He asked nothing from his fellows except that they should leave him alone.
He was single-hearted in his aim, and to pursue it he was willing to sacrifice not only himself – many can do that – but others. He had a vision. Strickland was an odious man, but I still think he was a great one. ” In these beautiful words he describes Strickland’s strange homelessness and suggests a reason for his subsequent escape to Tahiti. “I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid strange surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not.
They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels he belongs.
Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scnes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest. ” By the end of the book, Maugham’s narrator somewhat loses his grip over the reader and I could picture him in my mind floundering around the island of Tahiti, interviewing the people who came in contact with Strickland, trying to piece together a story. He finds himself in the “position of the biologist, who has to figure out from a bone, not only a creature’s body, but also its habits. The reader is promised the ineffable, a study of genius and is only delivered an admission of its elusive nature. Also the tone of the novel tends to get slightly misogynistic in places. But I suppose that is more a failing of the protagonist rather than the author. As compensation, Maugham offers delicious crisp cookies of wisdom throughout. In simple lyrical language, he penetrates to the core of the human condition and offers invaluable advice to the aspiring writer, the hopeful lover and the wannabe genius.
For its unpretentious, sympathetic and humane portrayal of a deeply flawed protagonist, its quotable quotes and its ironic humour, this book shall rank as my one of my favourite books on the life and development of an artist in search of the unknowable. My Master Maugham I strongly believe that the adjectives one throws around are a barometer of one’s sensitivity or at the minimum, one’s desire to be accurate. Both of these qualities are indispensable to the aspiring writer because honestly, what is there to writing exceptfresh verbs, evocative adjectives, searing honesty and an unbounded imagination.
Also, that it’s easier said than done. In this context, there are moments when I feel utterly stupid and unimaginative. My inner monologues resemble the chatter of teenage girls in their lack of content and use of worn-out adjectives. I mean, awesome and amazing, like seriously? Bleeuurghh!! During such exasperating times, my inner world aches to devour a mouthful of good-looking words in the Queen’s English. I head to my dusty book-closet and roughly displace its contents until I find a book either by one of the barons of British literature, a W. Somerset Maugham/PG Wodehouse or a laid-back satire along the lines of Yes Minister.
The book usually serves its purpose admirably. It manages to extract me from my predicament by either making me split my sides laughing or by drowning me in a stream of sentences so beautifully constructed that I completely forget my insecurities and start shaking my head ponderously at the writer’s virtuosity instead. Coming to the topic of the writer himself, W. Somerset Maugham is one of my favourite writers in the English language. Being an aspiring writer who’s yet to find his voice myself, his novels never fail to stab me with a hopeful optimism. My premature belief, that I can write well, is reinforced when I read Maugham.
He never intimidates me or bores me, commonplace sins many writers will have to go to confession for. While reading his prose, he possesses the singular ability of making the difficult art of writing seem pretty doable. This, I’ve realized with the passing of time, is due to one simple reason. It is because W. Somerset Maugham never shows off! Never! Never does he ramble pointlessly. Never does he merely graze the point instead of hitting it fair and square because he was too busy fooling around with the language. Never! He hits bulls eye with eloquence and a kind of frugal, flowing lyricism.
There is always a single-minded purpose behind his writings. It is to spin a mighty good yarn by getting the point across without making his readers consult a dictionary. He even propounds profundity in a manner that typically makes me re-read the paragraph(and underline it) to admire the economy and ease with which the thought was expressed in words. I find the writing styles of Hemingway and Maugham similar in form, but while Hemingway’s writing is austere to the point of being skeletal, Maugham clothes his words until they can be considered passably pretty.
For his remarkable abilities, Maugham’s opinions about his own writing were always modest. He believed he stood “in the very first row of the second-raters. ” Asked about his method of writing, he simplified it to a matter of keen observation and honest reproduction. “”Most people cannot see anything,” he once said, “but I can see what is in front of my nose with extreme clearness; the greatest writers can see through a brick wall. My vision is not so penetrating. ” My favourite excerpts Advice to aspiring writers I forget who it was that recommended men for their soul’s good to do each day two things they disliked: it was a wise man, and it is a precept that I have followed scrupulously; for every day I have got up and I have gone to bed. But there is in my nature a strain of asceticism, and I have subjected my flesh each week to a more severe mortification. I have never failed to read the Literary Supplement of The Times. It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them.
What chance is there that any book will make its way among that multitude? And the successful books are but the successes of a season. Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, many of these book are well and carefully written; much thought has gone to their composition; to some even has been given the anxious labour of a lifetime.
The moral I draw is that the writer should seek his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thoughts; and indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success. ” “Until long habit has blunted the sensibility, there is something disconcerting to the writer in the instinct which causes him to take an interest in the singularities of human nature so absorbing that his moral sense is powerless against it.
He recognizes in himself an artistic satisfaction in the contemplation of evil which a little startles him but sincerity forces him to confess that the disapproval he feels for certain actions is not nearly so strong as his curiosity in their reasons. The writer is more concerned to know than to judge. ” On the ironic humour of life “Dirk Stroeve was one of those unlucky persons whose most sincere emotions are ridiculous. ” On the nature of art “Why should you think that beauty, which is the most precious thing in the world, lies like a stone on the beach for the careless passer-by to pick up idly?
Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the torment of his soul. And when he has made it, it is not given to all to know it. To recognize it you must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a melody he sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination. ” B? kh? n kh? ? nha c? a chu c? a minh va ? tru? ng, chang trai Maugham b? t d? u phat tri? n m? t cai tai kheo dua ra nh? ng nh? n xet gay t? n thuong cho nh? ng ngu? i ma c? u khong ua. Cai tai nay doi khi du? c ph? n anh trong cac nhan v? t van h? c c? a Maugham
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