The moon and sixpence
Somerset Maugham is one of the most prolific and financially successful writers of his era. He conquered the world by his unadorned but elegant style of writing. As a child, S. Maugham lost his parents and was brought up by his emotionally cold uncle, at school the future writer was teased for his bad English and non-athletic build. Such a difficult childhood resulted in stammer but taught him how to make wounding remarks towards offenders. This ability had a positive impact on Maugham’s fiction that is heavy with satire. In his works, the well-known writer attacks the most common vices of men: hypocrisy, greediness, money-worship, etc.
The text under analysis is taken from the novel “The Moon and Sixpence” belonging to the pen of the famous writer Somerset Maugham. The extract depicts strange relations between a wife and a husband. Even the author whose presence is evident in every sentence (“I should think”, “I felt sure”), has no idea why these entirely different people are still together. From the first sentence we get stuck by such an unusual definition of a person as a “married bachelor”, the usage of oxymoron gives us the idea that this is a fictitious marriage or somebody forgot to ask the character if he wanted to have a wife or not. When we learn that Mr.
Nichols is a captain or used to be a captain, even more questions appear. Have you ever met a person with more unsuitable way of life for close relationships? As the extract opens, it becomes clear that the author feels sympathy to the captain. Somerset Maugham depicts his character using the word “melancholy”, showing that Mr. Nichols does not seem to be happy or at least satisfied with his life. What sorrow could break the strong and brave captain? As the story unfolds, the writer gives us a hint that something is wrong with the character’s marriage, using anadiplosis “…captain Nichols had married her, and having married her”.
Maybe he used to be carefree, independent and confident like a typical bachelor. How did his marital status influence him? Should we blame his wife for so radical changes? The writer depicts the captain’s wife directly, starting with her appearance that is far from being pleasant. All we know that appearances are deceitful…but not in this case. The usage of different stylistic devices such as repetition “tight” and simile “inexorable as fate, remorseless as conscience” reveals the author’s negative attitude to thisnwoman.
She gives us an impression of a powerful tyrant, a kind of imperturbable robot, implementation of her strict father. Her excess of “tightness” makes our flesh creep. As the story unfolds, we do not manage to find any positive characteristics of Mrs. Nichols, she is not attractive, her personality repels if not frightens. It is nearly impossible to find a single pretext for their marriage. The author puts emphasis on their incompatibility, showing that they belong to different classes. Maybe Mrs.
Nichols is proud of her father who is “an efficient policeman”, but the author cannot suppress his irony “…well-defined class, of late become vocal, which is known as the lower-middle”. While the captain is never worried about a chance of becoming a hobo. The spouses have nothing in common to have heart-to-heart talks. What’s more, Mr. Nichols is “frightened to death” of his wife, the usage of hyperbole helps the author to accentuate the woman’s extreme control of her husband. The narrator highlights the absurd of their union, using parallel construction “I do not know what her hold was on the Captain, but I do not think it was love”.
Maugham emphasizes the captain’s hopeless position with the help of simile “He could as little escape her as the cause can escape the effect”. But what stopped him? Her father-policeman with a gun? Actually, this is the captain, who is guilty for his melancholy. If he does not rule his wife, how can he rule his life? The message, the author wanted to convey to the reader, penetrates the whole extract. I would express it in the following words – it is up to you what to choose: to collect your strength and change your life for the better or just to go with the stream.