CliffsNotes on Maugham’s Of Human Bondage

CliffsNotes on Maugham’s Of Human Bondage

CliffsNotes on Maugham’s Of Human Bondage

CliffsNotes on Maugham’s Of Human Bondage

Synopsis

Of Human Bondage sounds like a story that hardly moves at all. In the sense that a Dumas book or a paperback adventure novel moves, this is true. There is no physical action, and the plot is simply the story of one man’s struggle to find himself in a cruel world. Philip, the protagonist, who we presume is Maugham himself, is an orphan with a club-foot. But he is not badly off financially, and he has a keen mind. Maugham, so far as is known, has never completely admitted that this book is autobiographical. He says this in the introduction to one of its many editions: “At the time Of Human Bondage was written many novelists, possibly incited by the deep impression made on them by Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, were impelled to write semiautobiographical novels. I say semiautobiographical because of course they were works of fiction and it was the right of the authors to alter the facts they were dealing with as they chose. Such a book was Of Human Bondage. When I made up my mind to write it I was a popular playwright and much...

Excerpt

In Summary

Of Human Bondage sounds like a story that hardly moves at all. In the sense that a Dumas book or a paperback adventure novel moves, this is true. There is no physical action, and the plot is simply the story of one man’s struggle to find himself in a cruel world.

Philip, the protagonist, who we presume is Maugham himself, is an orphan with a club-foot. But he is not badly off financially, and he has a keen mind.

Maugham, so far as is known, has never completely admitted that this book is autobiographical. He says this in the introduction to one of its many editions:

“At the time Of Human Bondage was written many novelists, possibly incited by the deep impression made on them by Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, were impelled to write semiautobiographical novels. I say semiautobiographical because of course they were works of fiction and it was the right of the authors to alter the facts they were dealing with as they chose. Such a book was Of Human Bondage. When I made up my mind to write it I was a popular playwright and much in demand; I retired from the theater for a couple of years because I knew that by writing it I could rid myself of a great number of unhappy recollections that had not ceased to harrow me. This it did.”

From what is known of Maugham’s life, it appears that the early portions of the book are purely autobiographical, with certain changes of scene. Maugham did not have a club-foot, but he was an orphan. He spent his early years in Paris, and his English was stilted, in addition to which he stammered. Sometime during his medical education, Maugham apparently had an unhappy love affair. It must have been with some girl who resembled Mildred. Mildred is almost frighteningly too real to be a product of any writer’s imagination; she must have been drawn from real life.

Maugham admits that there may be passages and episodes in Of Human Bondage that are too personal to be of general interest. Depending on how one reacts, this may be true. It is certainly a very long story, and some critics have said that the book could have been half the length. There is a novel within a novel, and when it was adapted for the screen some years ago with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis taking the main parts, the scenario writer discarded the wrapping and kept the core. It was an outstanding motion picture.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.