Themes (6)

Evelyne Richard

Hi readers!

Here is an analysis of the main themes presented in Part 6 of the novel, which is a long conversation between Maugham and Larry, who does most of the talking. Thus, the themes I chose, although they are present throughout the book, will focus on Larry.  


During his long speech, Larry retells his adventures from the past years. Before it all started, he had the chance to settle down and to marry Isabel, but he drifted away from this possibility because he did not want to compromise his liberty. As he travels, he is not capable to stay at a particular place that he can call home. He goes from places to places and as soon as he is bored or that he feels that he has spent enough time there, he takes off to another destination. In this way, he can keep his liberty since he maintains no significant connection to any location. Moreover, since he is constantly going from one place to the other, he develops ephemeral relationships, such as the one he had with Suzanne Rouvier. These relationships are not of lesser significance just because of that, but the fact that they do not last prevents Larry from being strongly linked to someone to the point where his liberty would be compromised. In fact, the only person to whom he expresses the desire to build a stronger bond is Sophie Macdonald, who has a lifestyle that would not interfere with his. Furthermore, on page 252, Larry says: “I loved flying. I couldn’t describe the feeling it gave me.” His old memory of flying represents the liberty he is now seeking and preserving.


Most of what Larry talks about in Part 6 is related to faith, which is ironic since he does not seem to have any. The main reason why he does not have faith in any particular religion is because he does not believe in it. He says, “It’s as though they [founders of religion] needed your faith to have faith in themselves” (Maugham 269). Nevertheless, in his quest for purpose, he is trying to find an answer in faith. First, he tries to develop faith in God and in the Church as he spends three months with the monks. At the end of his journey, he tells the Father, “I’m afraid I’ve been a disappointment to you, Father” (Maugham 256). Larry feels that he has failed to gain faith in God, which would mean that he is not moving forward in his quest for faith. Nevertheless, the Father answers, “No,’ (…). ‘You are a deeply religious man who doesn’t believe in God. God will seek you out. You’ll come back. Whether here or elsewhere only God can tell.’” Indeed, the Father was, in a certain point of view, right to say that. Larry could not find nor develop faith in God within himself, but that does not mean that he cannot have faith in something else. Later on, during his trip to India, he sees thousands of people bathing and praying in the Ganges and he becomes fascinated by their faith in their religion. A few years later, when he is still in India, he spends time in the company of Shri Ganesha, a yogi. He explains that during his journey, he finally reaches illumination, although he never mentions the word. This experience does not give him faith in religion as much as it restores his faith in life, since he found many of the answers to his questions.


In the book, Larry has a relationship with four women that we get to know about: Isabel, Suzanne Rouvier, the Spanish young girl and Sophie Macdonald. Besides Isabel, the other three women have very similar characteristics. Indeed, they are all in a very vulnerable state when they start to go out with Larry and they live a particular lifestyle. When he meets her, Suzanne is sick, poor and miserable. Larry made it his duty to save her and he took care of her until she was better. Before he met her, she was going from painter to painter and she never had a stable life. The Spanish young girl who is discussed in Part 6 is also very vulnerable since she was kicked out from her hometown at 18 years old because she was pregnant. Only a few days after they met, Larry and her start living together, but she leaves him as soon as she has the chance to return to her boyfriend. Finally, he asks Sophie Macdonald to marry him just a few weeks after he sees her in the bar. Before he came back into her life, she was addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex. One similarity between these three relationships is that they could not last very long. Larry chooses women who, he knows, will not be capable to commit themselves to their relationship. He gets with women who will either leave him when they are done with him, like the Spanish young girl and Sophie, or whom he can leave whenever he wants to, like Suzanne.  


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