What is the analysis of the static character Miss Sadie Thompson in Somerset Maugham's short story called "Rain"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sadie actually goes through two dramatic changes in "Rain," so it can easily be argued that she is not a static character, but rather a dynamic one. First, she changes from being coarse and obnoxiously loud to being humbled and tearful. Then she changes from being humbled to being hateful and coarse. Her second change to her third gives the appearance of reverting to her former state as though there were no changes in her at all, which might mark her as a static character, but in fact, she has undergone a great change and has a new hatred and brutality in her last state of being. This is what Dr. Macphail sees when he gasped and understood.

No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the contemptuous hatred she put into her answer. ... Dr. Macphail gasped. He understood.

Her last change was prompted by Davidson who, like all of Sadie's other men, finally succumbed to the lures of her body and had used her, which is why he slit his throat and, at the same time, metaphorically slit (destroyed) her change to humility, repentance, and, ostensibly, salvation. Since hatred has now entered her character in her third phase, even though she wears the same clothes and plays the same gramophone, it is fair to argue she is not a static character but rather a dynamic one that undergoes changes (though the last is a negative one).

  • Static Character: One who is essentially (within the essence of the character) the same at the end of the narrative as at the beginning. One who has no insights, no revelations, no epiphanies, no new understanding of self or life or other people. (Lyman Baker, Kansas State University)
  • Dynamic Character: One who is essentially (within the essence of the character) different at the end of the narrative from what the are at the beginning. One who has revelations, flashes of insight, epiphanies, new understanding. One who undergoes inner change in values, understanding of life, understanding of self, in insight, in commitment, in perception. (Lyman Baker, Kansas State University)

If you are required to analyze Sadie as a static character, then you would argue that her middle phase of humility was a sham, hypocritically induced by (1) fear of imprisonment and through (2) unrelenting coercion from Davidson's importuning behavior (with the additional argument that Davidson was egregiously trespassing on her humanity under the banner of "missionary"). You would then argue that Davidson's death released Sadie from the spell of his coercion and freed her to return to her suppressed state of being, one which had in fact never altered toward humility and repentance but had only been temporarily disguised by ulterior motives hoping for a chance to avoid returning to San Francisco.

You would then argue that the contemptuousness and hatred that showed itself in her third phase was always already part of Sadie's psyche and that she had hidden it under her persona in order to advance her business. You would argue that her anger was not new but was newly released, newly apparent, because her level of anger made it impossible for her to keep it hidden. In this way you might argue that Sadie is a static character, with a "tag" description of "loud," who never undergoes character change or development.

Sadie Thompson:
Miss Thompson, loud-voiced and garrulous
her voice too, hoarse and loud.
Miss Thompson`s, loud and shrill,
[her] gramophone ... playing, playing ragtime loud and harsh.
she broke into a loud, jeering laugh

Asserting that Sadie is a static character, though, seems a difficult position to maintain in light of (1) the text and (2) the psychological nature of the character studies Maugham offers in "Rain."

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