Study Guide

The Moon and Sixpence

by W. Somerset Maugham

The Moon and Sixpence Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Charles Strickland, a dull stockbroker, lives in England with his wife and two children. Mrs. Strickland is a model mother, but her husband seems bored with her and with his children. To everyone else, it is Strickland who seems commonplace. The family spends the summer at the seashore, and Strickland returns ahead of his wife. When she writes him that she is coming home, he answers from Paris, simply stating that he is not going to live with her anymore. With singleness of intention, Mrs. Strickland dispatches a friend to Paris to bring back her husband.

Strickland is living in a shabby hotel; his room is filthy, but he appears to be living alone. Much to the discomfort of the friend, he candidly admits his beastly treatment of his wife, but there is no emotion in his statements concerning her and her future welfare. When asked about the woman with whom he had allegedly run away, he laughs, explaining to Mrs. Strickland’s emissary that he had really run off to paint. He knows he can paint if he seriously tries. The situation is incredible to Mrs. Strickland’s friend. Strickland says he does not care what people think of him.

Stubbornly, Strickland begins to take art lessons. Although his teacher laughs at his work, he merely shrugs his shoulders and continues to paint in his own way. Back in England, the friend tries to explain to Mrs. Strickland the utter hopelessness of trying to reconcile her husband. She cannot realize her defeat at first. If Strickland had gone off with a woman, she could have understood him. Mrs. Strickland, however, is not able to cope with his having left her for an idea.

Dirk Stroeve, a very poor painter with a delicate feeling for art, marries an Englishwoman and settles in Paris. Impossible as it seems, Dirk, who has become acquainted with Strickland, thinks the redheaded Englishman a great painter. Strickland, however, does not want anyone’s opinion. Indifferent to physical discomfort, he has not tried to sell his paintings so that he can eat. When he needs money, he finds odd jobs in and around Paris.

It is apparent that the Stroeves are very much in love. A buffoon and a fool, Dirk is constantly berating himself, but Blanche seems to hold him in high esteem. When Strickland becomes very ill, Dirk rushes home to Blanche and pleads with her to nurse the sick artist back to health. She bitterly professes her hatred of the man who had laughed at her husband’s paintings, and she tearfully begs Stroeve not to bring the monster near her. Dirk is nevertheless able to persuade her to allow Strickland to come to their home.

Although she and Strickland rarely speak to each other, Blanche proves a capable nurse. There seems to be something electrifying in the air when they are together in the same room. Strickland recovers. Dirk admires Strickland’s work, and so is anxious that Strickland stay and work in...

(The entire section is 1181 words.)