Monday, December 31, 2018

The Fall of Edward Barnard by William Somerset Maugham Review

The short story 'The Fall of  Edward Barnard' is written by the British author William Somerset Maugham. The language of this work is rich and very understandable. As many of Maugham's works, the story includes a strong moral message hidden beneath the actions in the plot.

The story began with thoughts of a young man, Bateman, who was coming back to Chicago from the Pacific island of Tahiti where his friend, Edward, lived. He needed to tell Edward's fiancee, Isabel, about something that happened on the island. The writer disclosed it only in the second part of the story.

The characters in the first part of the story behaved according to the rules and moral principles of the upper class. Edward and Bateman are in love with Isabel. Seeing Isabel's attitude toward Edward, Bateman accepted their love. "He would never marry. He would be godfather to the children of Edward and Isabel, and many years later when they were both dead he would tell Isabel's daughter how long, long ago he had loved her mother. Bateman's eyes were veiled with tears when he pictured this scene to himself."

Soon after Isabel and Edward’s engagement, Edward's father lost his fortune and committed suicide. As a means to support Edward, the friend of his father offered Edward a position with his firm in Tahiti. Edward accepted it in the hope of setting the basis for their future life. Before he left Chicago, Isabel's father talked with him about Isabel's uncle, Arnold Jackson, who lives in Tahiti.  Isabel's father said to Edward, "My advice to you is to give him a wide berth, but if you do hear anything about him Mrs. Longstaffe and I would be very glad if you'd let us know."

Arnold left the US. He wrote a letter to Isabel every month, twenty-four letters for two years, but he never mentioned when he was going come back to Chicago. Once Bateman had a conversation with the owner of the company where Arnold worked. He knew that Edward left his job nearly a year ago. The management of the company concluded that he was 'lazy and incompetent'. Neither Bateman nor Isabel could believe in the company’s judgment of Edward, Bateman admitted. ‘He seems to have lost that high seriousness which I admired so much in him.' Bateman decided to visit Tahiti on the way from New Zealand (where his father had an agency) to Chicago.

Bateman came to Tahiti. Maugham included many details in the story, among these were the negative features of Bateman's character, which remained latent early on. During the conversation with local people, Bateman discovered an element of his personality which he wasn’t aware of before, "A touch of hauteur involuntarily entered into his manner."

He met his friend Edward in the shop, where he worked as a shop assistant. Edward established a good relationship with Isabel's uncle Arnold. Bateman was invited to Mr. Arnold’s mansion for a dinner with his family. Bateman felt humiliated being in the presence of these people (Edward, Mr. Arnold, his wife, and daughter).  Everything that he saw while in Tahiti (Edward as a shop assistant, the impudence of Arnold Jackson who dared to invite him for dinner, etc.) was beyond the bounds of his understanding.

Edward, Arnold Jackson, and Mr. Arnold’s daughter greeted Bateman with sincere kindliness. Edward said to him, “Don't be grieved, old friend, I haven't failed. I've succeeded.” Once Edward became serious, they spoke about Isabel. Edward said that he loved Isabel, but his life was undergoing changes that would make it difficult for them to maintain their relationship. Therefore, he would prefer to end their engagement.

After Bateman told Isabel about his trip to Tahiti, she said:
"Poor Edward, he's nobody's enemy but his own. He was a dear, nice fellow, but there was something lacking in him, I suppose it was backbone. I hope he'll be happy.' She slipped the ring off her finger and placed it on the table."

Eventually, Bateman made a proposal for Isabel to marry him. "She gave him her lovely lips to kiss. And as he held her in his arms he had a vision of the works of the Hunter Motor Traction and Automobile Company growing in size ... And she ... sighed with happiness, for she thought of the exquisite house she would have, ... ‘Poor Edward,' she sighed. "

Maugham didn't express his attitude to the choices of Bateman and Edward directly, but the irony of the name of the story is clear. Sincere feelings of people can't be connected with money. The easy-going character of Edward seems to lead him in the right direction where people meet their happiness.

This is a link to the text of the story:

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Riddle by Thomas McGuane Review

The short story Riddle by Thomas McGuane was published in the respectable magazine The New Yorker. The audio of the story was recorded for the rubric 'The Writer's Voice'.  

The title 'Riddle' is very suitable for this story. The idea of this narration is not clear. The author described a sequence of events which occurred to him. He recollected the time of being in a small  American town. The narrator witnessed there a scene of meeting the old man and the boy when the boy called out to the old man “Jack! Hey, Jack!,”. The author wrote, "I don't know if I can put my finger on it after all this time, but the excitement or joy, or whatever it was that these two experienced when they saw each other, has never left me.".

Next part of the story took place in that town many years later. The narrator saw an arguing man and woman. He went out from his car, his car was stolen, and another woman drove him to town. He had a conversation with this woman and in the police station. Ooh! So many actions which were not coherent!

After reading this story, I tried to find on the Internet the comments about the plot of this story. Other readers appreciated the literary style but they also faced the riddle of the main idea of this story. The vivid descriptions of everyday routine and the mystery of vague meaning made this story quite memorable.

This is the link to the story.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

War by Luigi Pirandello Review

The short story 'War' was written by an Italian dramatist, novelist, poet and short story writer Luigi Pirandello. He was awarded in 1934 the Nobel Prize in Literature for his contribution to the genre of drama.

The story represents also this genre. Basically, the author expressed the feelings of parents who lost their sons in the war. The plot of the story was built on conversations passengers (the parents of the soldiers) on the train had.

They argued about the attitude of children towards parents and of parents towards children. One passenger expressed his vision of relationships:

"We belong to them but they never belong to us.  And when they reach twenty they are exactly what we were at their age.  We too had a father and mother, but there were so many other things as well...girls, cigarettes, illusions, new ties...and the Country ..."

The story has a dramatic, tragic ending when the woman, who was desperately worried about her son, asked the man, who expressed patriotic ideas,"... is your son really dead?". The last sentence of the story revealed his sincere feelings, "His face contracted, became horribly distorted, then he snatched in haste a handkerchief from his pocket and, to the amazement of everyone, broke into harrowing, heart-breaking, uncontrollable sobs."

This is a link to the text of the story:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Cecilia Awakened by Tessa Hadley Review

The short story 'Cecilia Awakened' by Tessa Hadley represents the idea of changes which occur at the moment between idealistic past and how the present is.

According to the plot, the family (mother, father and their fifteen-year-old daughter Cecilia) from the UK was visiting Florence during their summer vacation. They loved the arts, they enjoyed walking to museums. That time was different. It is noticeable that during all days of being there Cecilia was in tension.

Cecilia realized that local people don't like them.  This dislike may be directed to British tourists or tourists in general). Local people communicate with them but they do it because it is their business. It spoilt for Cecilia the atmosphere of the beautiful Italian province.

In the introduction, the author described the attitude of this family toward social life. They are introverts, they prefer to stay home, their circle of communication is restricted. The climax of the story, the moment of realizing the reality, reflected the controversy between the inner and external life of the person.

Looking back at the middle of the story, we can see that Cecilia exaggerated her hostile attitude toward people. There are no reasons for local people to have a special, warm feeling for tourists, they could intrude somebody's privacy, they have different customs.

Some readers commenting on this story made remarks about a not completed ending. The narration was interrupted without precisely written conclusion. Perhaps the writer finished the story without summarizing the main idea deliberately. The right to interpret the story left readers with mixed feelings.

Here is the link to the text of the story:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Gun by Mark Haddon Review

The short story 'The Gun' by Mark Haddon was included in the collection of stories under the title ‘The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014.' The works of O. Henry were selected by the publisher because of their clear plots with simple characters and humor.

The origins of this award were when O'Henry’s friends gathered together after his death. In honor of his memory, they decided to regularly select the most remarkable short stories. During this time, there were nine editors of these series.

'The Gun' is a story about two boys who had a dangerous and criminal adventure. One boy found the gun. They were not able to cope with the intense emotions that overwhelmed them. The boys were excited by the power that they gained. Mark Haddon has an impressive ability to involve reader into tense, dynamic events which occurred in the story. It seems that two boys were together only by chance, they are together and they are apart of each other. The author brought the characters so close to each other that the actions of the story seem to have happened with us.

Here we can find the text of the story (after making a trial subscription to the magazine):