The interpretation "The Escape"  by W. Somerset Maugham


I would like to interpret the text which is called “The Escape” written by W. Somerset Maugham. He was a famous English novelist, playwright and short-story writer of the end of the nineteenth and of the twentieth centuries. His first novels were not successful. But gradually he gained a success, he became internationally celebrated, his plays were performed all over the world. Among his famous work are “Lady Frederic”, “Moon and Sixpence”, “Ashenden”, “Cakes and Ale” and many others. Thanks to his work he became known as a master of human soul, a wise man who not only knows how to depict, the hypocrisy and brutality of bourgeois society, but also has the ability to portray different characters in clear and natural Manner.
The text under interpretation is the story about a woman who made up her mind to marry to a man who tried to avoid it and to extricate himself at any price. This ironic story discloses the problem of nature of relations between men and women.
The main characters of the text are the narrator, his friend Roger Charing and Ruth Barlow.
In the first person narration the narrator tells that there is no way for a man to escape from a woman who decided to marry him at any price but instant flight. One of his friend seeing the inevitable loom menacingly before him was so conscious of the danger to be married that he took the first ship and went away for twelve months it the hope of being forgotten by the woman. But he was never to extricate himself and avoid the meeting with that woman. After his returning the first person he saw was that little lady gaily waving to him from the quay. But the narrator knew only one man who managed to extricate himself in such situation. That was Roger Charing. Here is the exposition written in the ironic tone. Such epithets as instant flight, inevitable loom, the narrator’s note “with a tooth brush for all his luggage, so conscious was he of his danger and the necessity for immediate action” make this effect. The exposition is very interesting to my mind and I makes us eager to know what is going to happen further.
Later with the help of mixed type of character drawing we meet the main characters. So Roger Charing was no longer young man. He was strong hefty wise and prudent man with plenty of money who fell in love with Mrs. Barlow. He went down like a row of ninepins. Mrs. Barlow was twice a widow. She had splendid dark eyes the most moving that narrator saw. The seemed to be ever on the point of filling with tears. They were so pathetic that anyone could felt that poor dear’s sufferings had been more than anyone should be asked to bear. And any man looking at her eyes could not help saying to himself: I must stand between the hazards of life and this helpless little thing or how wonderful it would be to take the sadness out of those big and lovely eyes. From Roger’s words the narrator gathered that everyone treated Ruth badly. She was unfortunate person. If she married a husband beat her, if she employed a broker he cheated her, if she engaged a cook she drank. She never had a little lamb but it was sure to die. The author’s language in this extract is acute precise. At first sight we should sorry for this poor woman, be in sympathy with her and admire Roger’s whole-hearted love. . But here we come across such devices as periphrasises “poor dear”, “little thing”, the modal verb must, exclamatory sentence, epithet “big and lovely eyes”, parallel constructions “if she married a husband beat her, if she employed a broker he cheated her, if she engaged a cook she drank”, such bright similar “he went down like a row of ninepins”, such phrase as “She never had a little lamb but it was sure to die”. All of these make a humorous effect. And while reading I ‘m not in sympathy I’m not admiring, I’m smiling. And this humorous effect suggests to my mind that everything is not so sweet and sincere in this story.
Further on the narrator told that his belief was that Ruth was scheming and she was as hard as nails. He told that the first time he met her they had played bridge together. When she was his partner she trumped his best card. Moreover she never returned her gambling-debt. The narrator thought if the tears were going to well up into anybody’s eyes they should be his but not hers and he should have worn a pathetic expression but not she . But Roger felt so dreadfully sorry for her. And when Roger told that he had last persuaded her to marry him, the narrator couldn’t do anything than wish him joy. Roger introduced her to his friends. He gave her lovely jewels. He took her here, there and everywhere. Here the idiom “she was as hard as nails” the verb ”scheme” such adverbs as “here, there, everywhere” show the narrator’s negative attitude to this woman and display her not being such an innocuous lamb like Roger thought. Here we can think that she may be was a cunning person using her big lovely eyes to get a man to marry her.
Then the narrator informed that Roger fell out of love suddenly. Being in possession of his senses he saw the sort of woman he had deal with. He became conscious that Ruth had made up her mind to marry him. And he in his term gave a solemn oath never to marry Ruth Barlow. But he was in quandary. He realized that if he abandoned her she would assess her wounded feelings at an immoderately high figure. Besides it was awkward for a man to jilt a woman. If he did it people would think his behavior badly. That is why he thought over one scheme. He kept his own counsel. He continued to be attentive to Ruth, to all her wishes, he took her to dine at restaurants, he sent her flowers, he was sympathetic and charming. These parallel constructions show how Roger endeavoured to keep his own counsel, not to fail. They had up their minds that they would be married as soon as they found a house that suited them. Then the house-hunting began. They visited a number of houses, the climbed thousands of stairs, they inspected innumerable kitchens. But nothing suited. Then the most interesting and humorous moment of the text begins. Sometimes houses were too large and sometimes they were too small, sometimes they were too far from the center sometimes they were too close, sometimes they were too stuffy and sometimes they were too airy. These parallel constructions and the word “house-hunting” of course give ironic and humorous tone of the text. I could not but laughing. But on the other hand I was sorry for Ruth. Roger behaved dishonestly, he cheated her. It was obvious that he was trying her patience he was waiting for her to be the first to break their relations. But he had loved her. It was he who made a proposal to her. I don’t understand why he did so.
Further on the narrator told that Ruth lost her patience gradually. Her pathetic beautiful eyes acquired an expression that was almost sullen. She said that if Roger did not find a house soon she would have to reconsider her position. But Roger beseeched her to have patience and wait for a little time. Mrs. Barlow behaved like an angel but at last she revolted. She said that she couldn’t bear it any more. In spite of unaccustomed hardness in her voice Roger remained a gentle man. He said that that would married the very moment thy find a house. Ruth did not watch the houses any more, she took to her bed. Roger continued to be assiduous and gallant. Every day he wrote and told her that he had heard of another and another house. He could not bear to ask his dear Ruth to live in any but the perfect house. This irony reinforce to my mind that Roger was also dishonest. Being a woman I can not help being filled with indignation at Roger’s behaviour. My soul longs to protect Ruth, but I understand that they make a pair. Ruth had a scheme to marry him. Roger had a scheme to break.
At the end the narrator gave us two letters. Ruth wrote to Roger that she found a man who was anxious to care of her and they are going to marry.
Roger did not betray his secret. He wrote that such news shuttered him, but of course her happiness must have been his first consideration. That is why he sent a list with new houses for Ruth and her husband to find a suitable house.
It is a very funny and very sad story to my mind. We see dishonest relations between man and woman based on the trickery, scheming from the very beginning. But I don’t want to think that all relations are like these, where everybody think only about himself or how to come off clear without any care of close people, of their feelings.