William Somerset Maugham The Vessel of Wrath
1. Author’s name: William Somerset Maugham
2. Notes on the author, his life and time:
British novelist, playwright, short-story writer, highest paid author in the world in the 1930s. Despite his popularity, Maugham did not gain serious recognition. Maugham's skill in handling plot has been compared by critics in the manner of Guy de Maupassant. In many novels the surroundings are international and the stories are told in clear, economical style with cynical or resigned undertone. W. Somerset Maugham was born in Paris as the sixth and youngest son of the solicitor to the British embassy. He learned French as his native tongue. At the age of 10 Maugham was orphaned and sent to England to live with his uncle.Educated at King's School, Canterbury, and Heidelberg University, Maugham then studied six years medicine in London. He qualified in 1897 as doctor from St. Thomas' medical school but abandoned medicine after the success of his first novels and plays. Maugham lived in Paris for ten years as a struggling young author. Disguising as a reporter, Maugham worked for British Intelligence in Russia during the Russian Revolution in 1917, but his stuttering and poor health hindered his career in this field. He then set off with a friend on a series of travels to eastern Asia, the Pacific Islands and Mexico. In the 1928 he settled in Cape Ferrat in France. His plays were performed in Europe and in the United States. A number of Maugham's short stories have been filmed. As an agent and writer Maugham was a link in a long tradition from Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson and Daniel Defoe to the modern day writers Graham Greene, John Le Carré, John Dickson Carr, Alec Waugh and Ted Allbeury. It is said that the modern spy story began with Maugham's ASHENDEN; OR THE BRIRISH AGENT (1928). It was partly based on the author's own experiences in the secret service. Maugham believed that there is a true harmony in the contradictions of mankind and that the the normal is in reality the abnormal. Although he became world famous he was never knighted and his relationship with Gerald Haxton, his secretary, have been subject to speculations. Maugham died in Nice on December 16, 1965. It is said that as he lay dying he asked Sir Alfred Ayer visit him and reassure him that there was no life after death.
3. Title: The vessel of wrath
4. Published by:
Number of pages: 33, paperback
Part of series of matching novels: no
Structure of the work
a) division into: none
social setting: -
geographical setting: Baru, Alas Islands, Dutch New Guinea
historical setting: not determinable
c) initial incident:
Ginger Ted is often drunk bad scamp. Miss Jones doesn’t like him and problem begins, when she has to travel by launch with him.
The story culminates, when miss Jones falls asleep and the next morning she realises that Ginger Ted didn’t do anything bad to her, as she expected. He turns out to be good.
7. Account for the title and/or subtitle and their relevance to the work:
I don’t know, so fucking what.
8. Themes of the work:
- change of a bad man
- misjudgement of people, that look possibly bad
- life in the small villages on the islands
Change of Ginger Ted from ever drunk scamp to good husband.
a) Mention the main characters and describe them briefly:
Mr Gruyter (Contrôleur):
He is the most respected person in the islands. He is judge. He becomes between the few white persons there. He is very racional. But he likes humor likes to laugh. He likes drinking with friends.
Mr Jones (Reverend Owen Jones):
The missionary. He is on the islands to spread the belief among the pagans. He converts them to Christianity. He is also the only doctor there. According to Mr Gruyter he was narrow-minded and dogmatic, but honest, zealous and good.
Miss Jones (Martha Jones):
Sister of Mr Jones. She is missionary too. She is nurse, helps her brother. She was very conscientious, quick, resourceful and competent. She didn’t look as she was forty. She looked young. She was tall, and very flimsy. According to Mr Gruyter she had no sense of humour.
Ginger Ted (Edward Wilson):
He drinks a lot and whe he is drunk he does trouble. He likes women and for unknown reason women like him. But he just use them for fun. He hasn’t permanent one. Many people hate him. In their eyes he is bad scamp. He is very strong, and doesn’t problem to fight against more than one man. He doesn’t work. Every month, he gets a letter with money that somebody sends him for not being in his presence (remittance money).
b) Mention the important minor characters and describe them briefly:
11. The way the story is told: third person narration
12. Types of language used:
author: informal language
dialogues of the characters: slang, dialect, everyday language
I liked this story very much. I didn’t do any special selections while choosing the short story to read. But I am very satisfied. It was very nice story. I would like to see the film which was made according to it. I didn’t know the author before. It was hard to find something about him on the internet.
There are very few documents about him. And I didn’t find anything about this short-story. I just found out that it was filmed. I liked Maugham’s style of writing. It is very economic, not boring you with tones of descriptions, rather concentrating on the point. I also liked his sense of humour. My only problem was just to determine account for title of the story. I thought that I would just quickly read it and then work out some text. But finally I liked it quite a lot.
The story begins at Mr Gruyter’s home. Reverend Owen Jones comes to talk to him. He knows that he, as Judge, has authority to relegate people who often comit crime. He tries to persuade him to relegate Ginger Ted who had again some trouble with police. Mr Jones considers him to be the greatest evil on the islands. Mr Gruyner likes Ginger Ted and considers him to be one of the few normal people there. He doesn’t see any reason why he should send him away. He would lose man to drink with. But he didn’t discriminate him. He judged him equally as the others. For the trouble he made, he sentenced him to six months of hard work. Ginger Ted told him that he would kill him. A short time after this, Mr Gruyter rather avoided his presence. After month or two, Mr Gruyter had occasion to send prisoners, including Ginger to do some work on one of the outlying islands. Ginger Ted had to stay there until his punishment ends. Mr Gruyter visited Ginger Ted before he left and said that he would keep the letters for him. He invited him for beer after he gets from the island. Few days after this Mr Jones fell ill. He couldn’t go to operate some man on the other island so his sister decided to go. When she successfully ended operation she went to the wharf to wait for the launch. The launch had to arrive in the evening but was expected to reach Baru before midnight. After she boarded she noticed that she would be traveling alone. But suddenly she saw a group of men approaching. It was Ginger Ted with policeman and some natives seeing him off. His punishment was at end and he was to return with her. A while after they left the land, Ginger Ted started to drink and also offered bottle to the mechanics and the helmsman. Miss Jones told them to stop drinking but they didn’t mind her. When they were approaching some little island they had to pass by, the launch suddenly stopped. The mechanics tried to start it again but it was vibrating and too slow. The mechanics decided to land on the little island and stay there trough the night.
She objected but in vain. The launch landed and men started to put out things. She took her scalpel with her. They lighted a fire and continued to drink. She was afraid of them, mostly of Ginger Ted. She knew that he was very strong and he could do what he wanted with her. She was afraid that he would outrage her. She went away from them. But she was afraid to go too far to the forest. She sat behind the rock so they couldn’t see her and she could watch them. She watched them for very long time, until they fell asleep, but Ginger Ted was still awake. Then she suddenly fell asleep. When she woke up, she realised that she is covered by two empty sacks. A horrible thought flashed through her mind that he had outraged her in the sleep. But she realised, that it was impossible. He had spared her. When she came to the group, Ginger offered her breakfast, but she couldn’t look at him, because she felt terribly red and ashamed. She thought that she would sink into the ground with shame. That evening, having been official released, Ginger Ted went to the Contrôleur’s house. But he didn’t want to kill him anymore. Mr Gruyter offered him a glass of beer. Then he gave him the money, which he kept for him. Suddenly, Mr Jones came to Mr Gruyter’s house, shook Ginger’s hand and told to him that he thanks him that he didn’t outrage his sister, that he did a noble thing and that he misjudged him in the past. Then he left. Mr Gruyter began to laugh. At first Ginger Ted didn’t understand what to hell was the Reverend saying. Then he became terribly angry. At the end of his swearing, he told that he would never touch that ugly old cow, and that that was an terrible insult. Mr Gruyter told him that he could go and get drunk. But if he gets into mischief it will be twelve months next time. Ginger Ted then remained drunk for a week. Mr Jones came to Mr Gruyter and told him that he shouldn’t have given him all money at once, but Mr Gruyter said that it was his money and he had to give it to him. Mr Jones told him the story, what happened on the island and that his sister and he is very moved by how Ginger Ted behaved. They wanted to do something for him. Few days after, they invited him for dinner. He didn’t want to go. He said that he doesn’t have any suitable clothes. Two days later, a parcel, with some clothing and other things mysteriously arrived. After a while miss Jones asked Mr Gruyter to come to the supper and take Ginger Ted with him. She asked him to persuade Ginger to come.
Then he came to Ginger’s house and asked him if he heard from miss Jones recently. He gave him a letter, where she wrote him, that Mr Gruyter is coming too. Mr Gruyter noticed that she anticipated the truth a little. Finally, Mr Gruyter persuaded him to go. He told him that there will be alcohol too. But in the day of the visit, Ginger Ted was dead drunk and Mr Gruyter had to go alone. From this time Ginger Ted began to drink more heavily then ever. He was so troublesome that even Mr Gruyter lost his patience with him. He decided to deport him on the next boat that would touch Baru. But suddenly a great epidemic of cholera spread. Mr Gruyter had to order some instructions to eliminate it. Inhabitants of the verious villages on the islands had to be forced to take proper precautinons. It was necessary to send around people to give orders and make sure that they were carried out. Mr Jones couldn’t go because he was needed on the island. Mr Gruyter had some duties too. Miss Jones had to go, but they didn’t want to let her to go alone. She said, that she wants Ginger Ted to come with her. He can communicate with natives and he can easily force the rules. When they called him, at first, he didn’t want to go. But finally, miss Jones persuaded him. They worked for four months to eliminate cholera totally. Mr Gruyter was busy too, he had to distribude medicine and food and supervise everything. He didn’t see Ginger Ted all this time. After this period Ginger Ted came to see him. Mr Gruyter offered him a beer. Ginger said that he doesn’t want it. But Mr Gruyter was even more shocked when Ginger Ted told him, that he is going to be married with miss Jones. Mr Gruyter wasn’t very happy about it. He warned him that he would make him into missionary. Ginger told him that he became Christian. Finally, Mr Gruyter offered him a help with escaping from marriage, but Ginger didn’t want to do it. Mr Gruyter wasn’t happy, because Ginger, the drunken scamp, was his only companion at the islands and he didn’t want to lose him. Next day, he went to Mr Jones to tell him what is his sister going to do. But Mr Jones told him that he would let her do what she wants. Finally he went to see miss Jones and congratulate her. She told him that it is the God what joined them together and that they are going to honeymoon on the little island which they stayed on through the night. It was first time there, she realised how good Ginger is. Mr Gruyter was never so shocked in his life.