(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator, a successful middle-aged novelist, tells the story from his point of view in episodes that span about three years. He reminisces about his long-standing acquaintance with Ferdy Rabenstein, a cultured and affluent Jewish bachelor of London who moves in the best social circles. From Ferdy, the narrator learns that the Blands, who have invited him to Tilby, their estate in Sussex, are Ferdy’s relatives, Sir Adolphus Bland being his nephew. Unlike Ferdy, they have concealed their Jewish identity and have led the lives of English country gentry.

Eminently successful, Sir Adolphus, a conservative member of Parliament, served as minister of munitions during World War I. Muriel, his wife, has converted to Catholicism. Their two sons, who bear the quintessentially English names George and Henry, are enrolled in elite educational institutions. Henry attends Eton, and George, the elder son, has just been sent down from Oxford, where he wasted his time and his father’s money. Family ties with Ferdy have been broken, in part because he would not change his name during World War I and also because the Blands want no association with unassimilated Jews.

Because George will inherit the estate, his father wants him to follow a suitable profession, such as the diplomatic service. George has other ideas. He asks permission to go to Munich to study languages and prepare for an Oxford examination, a request his family reluctantly grants.

A few days after his return from the Blands, the narrator sees Ferdy in London and is invited to dinner. At the dinner he finds George present, a surprising turn because George’s parents have rejected Ferdy’s invitation, sent through the narrator himself. Ferdy has interceded with his sister, Lady Hannah Bland, George’s grandmother, who arranged the meeting. However, the dinner is not a success because Ferdy embarrasses George, whom he has just met for the first time, by telling humorous Jewish stories.

When the narrator next sees Muriel, he learns that...

(The entire section is 834 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“The Alien Corn” is included in Maugham’s short-story collection, Six Stories Written in the First Person Singular (1931), and is a telling story in terms of what it reveals about the author’s values and concerns. The story was adapted for film in 1949 as one of the four parts of Quartet (1949).

The story has to do with a Jewish family trying hard not to appear Jewish. Sir Adolphus Bland, who calls himself Freddy and whose name was originally Alphonse Bleikogel, is the nephew of Ferdy Rabenstein, a flamboyant patron of the arts. Ferdy owns a period mansion in Sussex and has acquired the trappings of elegance. His son, George, is the apple of his eye.

George, unlike his younger brother, does not look Jewish, but ironically, he does not want to pass as a Gentile and cherishes his Jewish heritage. His brother, who does not want to appear Jewish, looks Jewish. George has just finished his studies at Oxford, and it is assumed that he will return to Sussex and live the life of a gentleman, standing for election to Parliament in a race he would likely win.

George, however, wants to be a concert pianist and announces that he plans to go to Munich to study music. He quarrels animatedly with his father over dinner and finally, breaking down in tears, moves the rest of the family to tears.

George’s grandmother, the sister of Ferdy, volunteers to give George five pounds a week to enable him to study...

(The entire section is 510 words.)