Somerset Maugham’s Salvatore

Somerset Maugham’s short story Salvatore is an example of how a writer uses craft to suceed in the art not only of story telling but of make-belief as well. The story is well structured and each element of  story such as theme, characters, settings, plot and tone are well chosen after much deliberation.

Rather than a plot what we have here is an understatement of a plot. There is no widning plot as such and the events are more or less insignificant though they are given in detail.

The theme as is given out at the end is the exuberance of goodness in an orndianry person. Even when his fate is out to get him, Salvatore shows stoicism and mettle to keep it at bay.

The plot is kep simple. While serving in the military in China, Salvatore falls ill. Consequently, the woman he wants to marry refuses to marry him because she is afraid he will not be strong enough to work. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Salvatore agrees to marry Assunta, a woman he claims is “as ugly as the devil,” and he then faces life with determination and “the most beautiful manners I [the author] had ever seen in my life.” Though he does not live the life he imagined, Salvatore comports himself with goodwill and makes the most of his marriage, his job as a fisherman, and his children.

Among more than half a dozen characters, Salvatore, the protagonist stands out as a round character who is chiselled to perfection by life’s experiences. Even thouugh he appears to be a weakling in the beginning, we eventually find that his weakness is only apparent. His power is the power of flowing water and he himself is in the flow of life. He takes life as it comes. If at all a plan, fails he waits for the next turn to show up.

There is not much in the way of settings or dialogure and the linear narration flows like that of a fairy tale. The writer narrates the story from the third person point of view, as life is experienced by Salvatore. However, at times the author takes the points of view of the minor characters. This cannto be considered the ominscient point of view because we don’t get to know much about what happens in the mind of the characters other than what the express through their actions.

The style is rather detached to the point of being journalistic. The form, multiple view point linear narration with no flashback is made use of so effectively. We are made to feel that the writer is only reporting a real life event. Even when a writer does so, we can only afford to consider it as a creative attempt. It does not matter much if he tale really happened. For the writer it is a created story, so to speak. This has a really huge impact on the reader even if it is a famous part of history. Playing on this advantage, Maughm relates the story as if it had happened as such.

In this story, from the very first sentence to the last paragraph in which the writer gives us the idea that the story is about the goodness in the central character, we are made to believe that the  writer is only a reporter and he has not altered the even much at all. Details which are not absolutely necessary are splashed all over the story, right from what the characters are wearing, to the random comment of the foreigners about the fishermen being lazy, the story is made to sound not just realistic but naturalistic as well.

The end effect is that, instead of the  readers dismissing the ideal of absolute goodness which can happen only in sentimetal fiction and popular movies, the readers are made to think that it is a possible ideal followed by someone who is physically weak and has had a tragedy in his younger days. This is a challenge posed by the writer to make the readers consider living such a life and that is where the story succeeds. The writes gets to make the reader fall for his magic of story telling

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