Free The Razors Edge by W Somerset Maugham Essay Sample
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W. Somerset Maugham was a French writer born in 1874 in Paris to English parents. His father worked as a legal secretary in the British embassy, in Paris. Somerset attended the Kings school but felt pressured and abandoned schooling at sixteen years. He then enrolled for philosophy and literature at the University of Heidelberg in Germany (Robertson 11).
He later enrolled to study medicine at the same university but eventually quit studying medicine and concentrated on writing after the success of his first novel. During the Second World War, Maugham immigrated to the United States and lived there until the Second World War was over. After the Second World War, Maugham then returned to Britain. In 1946, he went back to France and remained there until he died in 1965 (Robertson 13).
Maugham Somerset loved to write in his own style. His skeptical tone of writing and the intriguing characters he created in stories made him a favorite writer among his readers in the past to the present. Although the author has his critics, He enjoyed huge success as a writer (Jeffrey, 21). In this paper, I evaluate the themes, the style of writing, the lessons learned from the characters in the Maugham novel' the razors edge.
The razors edge is regarded as the masterpiece of novels by Somerset. The novel chronicles the physical and the spiritual sojourn of the main character in the story: Larry. This young American man refuses to conform to the social norms of the American society. Larry instead of choosing to live in an affluent America and marrying an affluent woman decided to travel the world to understand the meaning of existence and spirituality. (Janet 34).
Larry travels through France, India and Germany in his journey and finally finds his answers to the meaning of life in the eastern region of Europe from spiritual men. During this time, his long time fiancé marries another man for money rather than love. When Larry and Isabel meet again in Paris later, Larry is at peace having satisfied his desires while Isabel goes back to America and marries another affluent man but lives an affluent lifestyle with little regard for spiritual aspects of life (Gale 99).
Maugham portrays these contrasts in spiritual fulfillment of Isabel and Larry and other characters in the novel. By the end of the novel, Maugham is able to deliver a powerful story that answers the question of the desires of life and attaining fulfillment in life through the life of the characters in the novel.
The setting of the novel is in Paris city after the Second World War. The novel chronicles the life of a young man from Chicago man, Larry who refuses a promising career as a banker and sets out to Paris where he lives a simple lifestyle and later travels other countries in search of meaning in life (Philip 15).
The novel starts in the year 1919, and the narrator of the story Somerset Maugham is still in Chicago. An old friend of Somerset called Elliot Templeton; American living in France had travelled back to the United States and invited Somerset for lunch together within His sister. In this luncheon, the narrator, also a meets Isabel and a friend called Laurence Darrell. After this diner, Maugham meets Isabel again with her friends gray Maturin and Sophie. The triple is all concerned about the future of Larry since he was a veteran of war just out of war who had no college qualification (Philip 17).
Gray Maturin made a plan with his father about the possibility of Larry working in a stock broking firm, but Larry refuses to take this job. Isabel fell in love with Larry and then considers waiting for several years for Larry to travel to France to fulfill his desires. Maugham then recounts the experiences he had during the world war like watching many of his friends maimed and killed from injuries during the Second World War (Robertson 24).
In part, two of the book, Maugham narrates how Larry does not want any of the plans that his friend Eliot Templeton had for him. Larry lives a hard life in France, and when Isabel realizes how lowly Larry lives in Paris, she breaks off her engagement. However, both Isabel and Larry continue seeing each other often (Robertson 26).
When Isabel's brother realizes that her sister was not letting Larry go, he planned to take Isabel to London to improve her prospects of marrying other boys. Larry tries to play around with Isabel to make her believe that she is working on his spiritual life. Isabel admits that she seduced Larry to trick her into marrying her. There is no doubt in this part that Isabel loves Larry but does not understand him (Robertson 28).
In part, three of the book, Larry decides to rest from books and decides to work in the coalmines in Klens France. Larry then fell in love with an explosion army officer who decides to become the spiritual guide to Larry. They embark on a journey from France to Germany and Belgian then Larry decides to travel to Bonn alone. The narrator, Maugham learns of this journey ten years after (Philip 35).
At this stage in the novel, Isabel decides to move on and marry Maturin Gray from Chicago because of his affluence rather than love. The standing of Elliot in the Paris society begins to decline after the stock mart crash. Isabel and Gray then decide to sell their properties at Riviera in the United States to respond to the crisis. Eliot then travels with Gray and Isabel to Paris after his father dies. In this part of the novel, Somerset uses imagery in this piece of writing by describing the life that Larry lives as living like pigs (45).
The next part of the book describes how Larry gray and Maugham embarked on a journey around Paris in the tough area s of Paris where they recount on their lifestyles culminating in each settling in different areas each with his own destiny. For Larry, it is mental happiness, for Elliot it was imminence social influence and for Isabel a reassured position of her life in wealth (Janet 55).
The literary style of Somerton is very different from that of other authors. The plot of the story is not very diverse. The story revolves around the life of the character: Larry and his journey in search of understand the world and the consequences of his actions. Larry instead of going through what his peers wanted like getting a nice job, house and marrying opted to do things his own way and do what his heart desired.
Isabel on the other has a steel will she understands that they are incompatible with Larry but her determination makes her accommodate all the hard circumstances they go through together. She closely monitors what Larry is going through. The writing style used by Somerset in writing the novel is very captivating since it is set in a way that makes the reader to think that they are just in a chat with him.
Some of the things that the character tells Maugham in the narration are very personal. For example, Larry observes that he likes doing manual labor because whenever he is waterlogged while doing manual labor, he always finds the experience spiritually invigorating (Somerset 142). Larry also explains that there is nothing permanent in this world and, it is foolishness to expect all things to be permanent. He also observes that change is the central essence of humans' existence; it is essential to make changes the premise that defines our philosophy (Somerset 277).
One amazing aspect of the literacy writing style used by Maugham Somerton is the use of contrast. Somerset compares the American and European societies in a clever way that makes it appeals to the reader. For example, Maugham asserts the fact that the expectations of American women of their men are much higher than the expectations of English women (45).
This comparison features very much in the story. For example, the major theme of the story is a comparison of the adventures a man in search of meaning in his life and that of his colleagues and fiancé. For example, while Larry does not care about material things, Isabella, on the other hand, sacrifices her love for better social standing and wealth.
This comparison is very captivating for the reader because it simultaneously exposes the two conflicting side in the society from the stingy streets of Paris to the luxurious life in Chicago that Isabella lived with Gray. Maugham manages to display the outcomes of the choices that one makes in their life from living a life that is not driven by ones desire. The books represent the idea that it is possible to give up material wealth for spiritual matters. The author manages to portray the fact that all human beings suffer in their own way in understanding the meaning of life and spirituality (James 112).
The theme of true love also emerges from the story. Isabel and Gray are the characters in the story that end up being married out of materialism rather than love. Not even one of the characters in the story ends up in true relationship. Maugham portrays how hard it is to find true love. For example, Isabel had the chance of living with his true love but, in the end, she forsakes her true love for money (Robertson 155).
The main character in the story Larry also fails to fall in love. He describes his need for sex as just a pleasure rather than a need. In the end, Larry's true love is exposed as the search for knowledge as she forsakes her love Isabel in search of knowledge. Larry is more devoted to search for understanding human nature and God rather than the feelings of her true love (Robertson 159).
Maugham Somerset also manages to portray the complex nature of human nature in the novel he explains that it is not possible to understand people well because there are many factors that influence human nature. These factors are the things that happen around people like the games they play, the tales they here, the food and the religion. All these factors are the ones that make people to be different and one cannot know these things through hearsay but living with people and understanding them (198).
This theme of individuality runs in the novel. For example, Maugham Somerset observes that he is just not a spirit, but he is also a body. He says that the way, his body and spirit determine his self, and this is what makes him unique. He gives examples of people who have achieved much despite having defects in their body like Byron and his clubfoot and Dostoyevsky with epilepsy (249).
Maugham also explores the question of the restless nature of the soul in a very special way. For example, he gradually leads the reader to question the direction in which their life is following, and whether it is possible to obtain human perfection, of all the characters in the story, Larry is the character who seeks spiritual fulfillment (Janet 176). It takes the reader time to understand the naivety in Larry's life. It is wonderful how Somerset uses mastery in language to make Larry a character human enough to identify with in the story.
Maugham closely wanders from the story of one character to the other in the novel as they struggle with the fate of their decisions. For Larry it is spiritual; fulfillment that he seeks for Isabel it is wealth and social standing and Eliot his friend is wealth and the good life.
One amazing writing skill used by Maugham Somerset that I admire is the ability to make himself the narrator of the story and yet a character in the main story. Through this narration, the author is able to meet the characters in the story by themselves and then through the eyes of Somerset himself.
One aspect of the writing style used by Maugham that makes this novel stand out is the way the theme of spirituality is hidden in the story until towards the end of the storyline (Jeffery 75). The novels main theme understands what can satisfy a man and his life through the character of Larry, Isabel and their colleagues.
The author manages to portray that it is possible not to have an interest in earthly possessions and still attain spiritual and life fulfillment in the end. When one meets Larry, at the beginning of the novel one note his dislike for earthly things and chooses to travel, different countries to meet people and have more knowledge. There is a gradual change in the life of Larry that by the end of the story Larry is a satisfied man who has attained what he wanted in life while the case is different for the other characters in the story because they choose earthly possessions that are not permanent.
It is for this reason that Maugham Somerset asserts the point that it is incorrect for to believe that there is anything permanent in this world. However, he approves the fact that people should delight in earthly things while they have the time. Maugham also observes that change is the essence of human existence and that it is wrong for people not to make change their premise of their living (325).
Maugham Somerset also opines in the story that, one of the surest ways of overcoming life's desire is to satisfy them. He assumes that there is no life fulfillment that can occur if we do not satisfy our desires this makes the difference in people lives because of the decisions made to fulfill these desires determines a person's destiny (339).
After reading this novel, Maugham manages to make the reader question, whether which form of life is more satisfying the pursuit for spiritual fulfillment or the pursuit for material wealth. Maugham makes Larry's belief about the pursuant of spiritual matters to be better than the pursuit of material things. He cleverly asserts this point by opining that material things are not permanent in the world. The pursuant of material wealth might make people disappointed because wealth can suddenly disappear. This theme is echoed in the story because gray and Isabel possessions vanished after the crash of the stock markets.
In conclusion, this story by Somerset presents the theme of approach to religious and social issues in a clever way that makes the story very engaging to the reader. This work by Somerton makes it easier for people to plod into their thinking and evaluate where their life is headed. Through the life of the different characters in the story, Maugham outlines the process of finding what true happiness and life fulfillment means.
Maugham presents the choices there are for people. Each character in the story embarks on a different journey whose ultimate ends makes the reader to have an idea of what true happiness really entails. True fulfillment entails the satisfying of one desire whether material or spiritual. All people seek to satisfy some form of desire in life. This journey is what makes a person unique and makes a person worth living (James 97).
Maugham promotes the ideas that life is a journey where everyone engages in the search for meaning and each journey will result in a different end for each person. This literary masterpiece is a great read for anyone who wants to answer the question fulfillment in life. Larry concludes this fact by asserting that the best that one can do to satisfy his or her desire is making the best out of the desire (305). It is clear that the quest for fulfillment of life desires drove the characters in the razors edge as they do to every human being in the journey of life.