"Perhaps he died of the beauty of the sight ."-explain the line from Somerset Maugham's "The Lotus- Eater"

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concluding sentences of "The Lotus Eater" read as follows:

Wilson had died in the moonlight. He died looking out over the beautiful bay of Naples that he loved so much.

It would be far too romantic to contend that the beauty of the setting was what killed poor Wilson. It seems more likely that he felt he was dying and wanted to do so from a favorite vantage point where he could enjoy the vision of the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background by moonlight.

Wilson must have been extremely susceptible to the beauty of nature and to visual beauty generally. He became captivated by Capri when he visited the island for a few days and decided he had to spend the rest of his life there. He tells Maugham, the narrator of the story:

"This is the most beautiful place in the world. I fell in love with this island the first moment I saw it."

Is it possible to fall in love with a beautiful geographical setting? Wilson was thirty-five when this happened to him. He did not seem to care about loving a woman. What Maugham seems to be suggesting here is that a place, like the island of the lotus eaters in Homer's Odyssey, can exert the same kind of spell on some men as beautiful women can exert on others. It might be said that Capri and the bay actually did destroy Wilson through their hypnotic beauty.

Maybe Wilson is to be envied and not pitied. At least he had twenty-five years of blissful romance with the object of his affection. And his death scene "looking out over the beautiful bay of Naples that he loved so much" suggests that his life was not unhappy or tragic.

Maugham's story makes the reader want to visit the Isle of Capri and at the same time feel a little bit afraid of being either captivated like Wilson or else cruelly disappointed.


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The Lotus Eater

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