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:

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