In his evocation of the naturalness of life in Tahiti as contrasted with the seemingly artificial, pointless life led by many in Chicago, Maugham takes the side of his character Edward. Any doubt about this can be eliminated by consulting Maugham’s reflections on his life and career, The Summing Up (1938). In section fifty-three, Maugham writes of his experience in the South Seas, saying that his encounter with the East supplied him with ‘‘a new self.’’ He had been accustomed to thinking that the most important things in life were art and culture (rather like Isabel in...
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