Analysis of the text “Red”.


William Somerset Maugham was born and spent his childhood in Paris. W.S. Maugham’s mastership as a short story writer is universally acknowledged. His skill in creating original human characters is combined with beauty and refinement of style and language. Yet, Maugham’s outlook is limited. His attitude towards what he describes is that of a detached observer. His best books are certainly marked by social significance, but the fact can hardly be ascribed to any conscious effort of the author who always insisted that he had no other aim in view but entertain his reader.

Maugham said that many of his short stories presented themselves to him in the stories he heard during his travels. Due to this, he had a very easy writing style and all his stories go fast.

The short story “Red” is a piece of fiction referring to the literature of interpretation, because the story is written to broaden and deepen and sharpen our awareness of life. This story is also a psychological one because the author investigates human characters and essence of love. There are several central problems: the first one is the role of indifference in people’s relations, the second one is the problem of choosing the way of life and the third one is the problem of personal degradation.

In this story we can see several conflicts. It deals with mental conflict (man against man). The author investigates two conflicts: emotional (man against himself) – i.e. the skipper against himself/Neilson also against himself. So we can say that the story has a multiple conflict. Attitude to love is the main theme.

The plot of the story consists of many episodes. The story begins when the skipper comes to the island. There he meets Neilson and they got acquainted. Neilson starts to tell the skipper a beautiful love story. The main heroes in this story are Red and Sally. They are in love with each other, but their love lasts not for a long time. When Red sails to turn tobacco into the fruits, Sally waits him, but her lover does not return. After that Neilson meets Sally and falls in love with her, but she recollects Red in a blue moon. The skipper listens to Neilson’s story attentively but with a sneer, because that Red is him, but in other shape. 

The main characters in this story are: the skipper, Neilson, Sally and Red.

This story is the third person narration, because the author doesn’t show his personal attitude to the story (he doesn’t express himself directly). Geographical place in which the story happens, daily routine and customs of the characters provides a realistic background, evokes the necessary atmosphere and helps to describe the characters indirectly.

The composition of the story is close because it has all the five elements, such as: the exposition, the complication, the climax, the downfall, the outcome.

The exposition of the story is the description of the scenery and introduction of the main character - the skipper. The opening passage of it deals with the author’s description of the skipper’s appearance. The skipper is a seaman, who knows the root of sailing quite well. Describing the skipper’s appearance the author involves such stylistic devices as the epithets: “fat and heavy”, “portly”, (these epithets show us that Wilson is a simple seaman, who did not have any unusual traits); metaphors: “panted a little in the heat of the night”, “thrust with difficulty” “clambered down the companion”. To show the skipper’s low level of education the author introduces the slang words: “bottle of booze”, “What the hell”, “I am dead sure”. This language shows the skipper’s rude manner of speech: “You are no more use than a dead dog” (about the Kanaka), it also can be concluded that the skipper is jealous to the beauty of the Kanaka; “chink” (about the Chinese cook).

The ship (“a seventy-ton schooner”) is described with the help of the epithets: “bedraggled”, “dirty, dingy”. These epithets show us the speaker’s careless attitude to the place, where he practically lives. It also adds to the image of the sailor.

To show the seaman’s life and sea atmosphere of the place the author inserts special terms: skipper, knots, cargo, steersman, paraffin auxiliary, copra, mast, bunk. To keep up the air of romance the author involves the depiction of the coconut trees, which the skipper sees on the island. The author resorts the personification: “trees came down to the water edge”; the simile: “like a ballet sprinters”; the epithets: “bygone age”, “elderly but flippant”, “simpering graces”.

The passage, when the seaman visits the island is given by the logical incongruity of the epithets: “sauntered idly”, “tortuous way” (it is the acquaintance of the skipper with the place). The author uses the antithesis to show us the pure atmosphere of the island: “Deep down among the coral rocks you saw little colored fish swim”. The author makes the description true to life.

The distinction between the ship’s company and the shipmaster is accentuated by the description of the dance of the crew. The skipper is a very lonely man. He constructs some wall between other people and himself. Members of the crew dance native dance and sing folk songs that are characterized with the epithets: “barbaric, savage, primeval”, “animal, direct, weird without mystery, natural and short, childlike”. The author uses also the repetition of sounds [s] and [sh]: “sensual, even sexual … but sexual without passion” (the author reproduces the rhythm of the quick movements of the dancing people). And at the same time the author draws the parallel between the dance and Sally and Red’s love, saying that it is “real love”, that is “the love that draws the beasts to one another and the Gods”, “they were children” and also he names the dance “childlike”.

The bridge is not only as a construction of wood that goes over the river, but also as a symbol of connection between past and present, a youth and an old age. This perception is supported by such epithets as “walk gingerly”, “watch his feet carefully”, “difficult crossing” (these epithets characterize it to be problematic thing to a person to move along it).

When the author colorfully portrays the morning of the next day, the pressing starts increasing, because the skipper meets Neilson, therefore this passages possible to be considered as the complication. The passage is rich in syntactical and lexical stylistic devices, such as the epithets: “grateful and cool air”, “tranquil sea” (it is shows us a true to life picture of the calm morning sea); the metaphors: “crept over the sea” (it is about the morning), “eluded” (is about the opening to the lagoon) The author also uses the hyperbole: “not a ripple”; the comparison: “a silence as though the nature was at rest”; and the synonymic repetition: “silence”, “at rest”, “lazy and well at ease” (these devices intensify the impact of the utterance and make the reader ready for the following romantic narration).

The conversation between Neilson and the skipper begins in rather a significant way: Neilson watching the skipper crossing the bridge warns him not to fall down into the water. The author gives us the description of the skipper through Neilson’s eyes. Their conversation takes place in Neilson’s house – “little bungalow”. The author show’s us Neilson’s way of life “a grand piano littered with music”, “shelves reached from floor to ceiling on all four walls…”, “large table on which books and magazines lay in disorder”. When skipper notes the number of books on the shelves, Neilson’s remark sounds rather ironical: “They do no harm”. It was Neilson who gives the readers more vivid portrait of the captain. By the antithesis the author contrasts Neilson’s place of living with the skipper’s low level of education. From Neilson’s words, we get to know that he came to this island because of bad health. He explains his choice as he “wanted to enjoy all the loveliness of the world in the short time allotted” to him before he “passed into darkness”.

Neilson’s meditations reveal him as a really romantic person. His reflections about the island serve to portray him indirectly; to achieve this aim the author introduces the epithets: “unearthly loveliness”, “beautiful passion”, “spiritual significance”; the metaphors: “fragrance of passion”, “faint aroma”; personification: “hovered over”, “love folded his tired wings”; the simile: “like a migrant bird”, “like a fragrance of hawthorn in may”.

The love story seems a legend or a fairy-tale, because the author uses such expressions as: “one day”, “that day”, “they say”. The development of the relations between Sally and Red is given from Neilson’s point of view; he doesn’t know this story for sure: “I can speak of Red only from hearsay”.

The author uses the reiteration of the conjunction “and” in the descriptions: “They went up into the hills together and gathered…, and they picked plantains… and coconuts… and breadfruits…; of the allusion: “Garden of Eden”, “magic garden”; the writer also introduces the epithets: “to beautiful to be real”, “exquisite”; similes: “large eyes like pools of still water under the palm trees”, “skin like a field”.

The moment when Sally, Red’s ex-lover and present wife of Neilson enters the house is the climax because this is the highest point in this short story.

Sally doesn’t recognize the man she fells in love with being a young girl.

In the downfall the reader is shown the unwinding of the story. In this passage we can see the harsh difference between the skipper and Red.

In the outcome Neilson exhausted. He decides to abandon Sally, but not to do that. And we may conclude that Neilson is dynamic person, because his attitude to Sally is changeable. At the beginning of the story he loves her harsh, but at the end his love died.

As a result we can say that Sally is static person, because her principals of life didn’t change. The skipper and Red are partly static persons; because when skipper was young he doesn’t love her and then his feelings to Sally are not change. But his appearance change lots.

The title of this story has the content-making function. The title is symbolic because the main hero’s name in this short story is Red.

At the end we may conclude that the writer’s special ironicalness and sharp observation create the special style doing his stories the unique. The story has a deep emotional appeal. It is intended to provoke thoughts.