Places Discussed


*London. Capital of Great Britain in which the novel opens with several chapters satirizing the city’s domestic and literary worlds. Except for chance encounters in the streets, all the novel’s scenes are set in middle-class living rooms. Maugham’s London is a completely known world, in which original vision is impossible because everyone knows how they are supposed to behave, and, for the most part, do. Even the threats of the world—dullness, sarcastic insults, infidelity—are known, and may be dealt with. When Charles Strickland decides that he wants to paint and abandons his London home to do so, it is a scandal. Strickland goes to Paris, and the narrator is dispatched to bring him back, and to get rid of the supposed “other woman” his wife insists must have led him astray.

Strickland home

Strickland home. London home of Charles Strickland and his first wife, Amy, who attempts to advance her own ambitions as a hostess who supports the arts by hosting luncheon and dinner parties for rising writers. When the narrator visits Strickland’s home, he finds it “chaste, artistic, and dull” and reflects that there must be five hundred homes in London decorated exactly the same.


*Paris. Capital of France where Strickland settles in the Hôtel des Belges, a flophouse in which he lives in squalor. This place shows Strickland’s contradictory character. Although he spends his hours painting, seeking beauty, he does not care if he lives in filth. It is as if all settings are the same to him, because he sees the world differently. Nevertheless, Strickland’s Paris is recognizably romantic compared to London. Strickland and the narrator meet in cheap hotels, sidewalk cafés, and bars frequented by prostitutes, and here Strickland’s work first receives attention from other painters and gallery owners.

Strickland would not even enter a recognizable domestic space if he did not fall ill, a sign that for him these domestic spaces are for the weak. When Strickland is sick, another painter and his wife (Dirk and Blanche Stroeve) take him into their home to nurse him to health. Strickland destroys their home, and, as he recovers, he literally drives Stroeve from his own studio. When Stroeve finally asks him to leave, his wife Blanche says that she loves Strickland and wants to leave with him. Stroeve then abandons his studio to...

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Literary Techniques

Maugham relies on his customary device of the narrator who has some contact with the primary character(s) of the story but who also depends...

(The entire section is 279 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

Probably the first step in initiating a fruitful discussion would be to review the life and career of Paul Gauguin, with an eye to learning...

(The entire section is 636 words.)

Social Concerns

The social aspects of this novel are such as should be of great interest to current readers. Perhaps the most striking one, the place of the...

(The entire section is 1067 words.)

Literary Precedents

The roman a clef, the novel using real people as bases for characters with different names (and sometimes different qualities), is an...

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Related Titles

Of Human Bondage, The Moon and Sixpence, and Cakes and Ale (1930; see separate entry) are considered by several critics and...

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An opera based on the novel was produced by Sadler Wells in London in 1958. The libretto was written by Patrick Terry, manager of the Covent...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Brander, Laurence. Somerset Maugham: A Guide. Edinburgh, Scotland: Oliver and Boyd, 1963. A chapter devoted to The Moon and Sixpence analyzes the novel as an effort to portray genius. It concludes Maugham achieved only a qualified success because his primary talent was in comedy.

Burt, Forrest D. W. Somerset Maugham. Boston: Twayne, 1985. This highly accessible book provides a comprehensive introductory critical survey and biography. Treats The Moon and Sixpence as one of Maugham’s major novels.

Cordell, Richard A. Somerset Maugham: A Biographical and Critical Study. Bloomington:...

(The entire section is 174 words.)