The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Razor’s Edge, while it purports to be a philosophical novel that deals with significant ideas, is largely a novel of character. Maugham’s gift for depicting characters and playing them out in contrast to one another reached its peak in this book.

Larry Darrell and Isabel Bradley represent two drastically different worlds, even though Larry was a part of Isabel’s world before he went to war. Isabel wants only to live well and to have children for whom she and her husband will provide all the perquisites of their class. Larry, on the other hand, is disaffected with the world he left when he went to war. He seeks spiritual nurture and growth, shunning all the material trappings that Isabel considers indispensable for survival.

Elliot Templeton is a comfortably fixed snob, who has fled his native United States largely because of its vulgarity. He complains that on a return visit, a taxicab driver called him “brother.” Elliot is an inveterate party-goer and sets great store in being invited to every party worth attending.

Elliot’s whole reason for living is knowing the right people and being accepted by them, or at least being included in their social events. Indeed, Elliot is a more memorable character than is the protagonist, Larry Darrell, although Larry is vital in setting up the philosophical framework within which the story must fit.

Even on his deathbed, Elliot’s social concerns are...

(The entire section is 442 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Larry Darrell

Larry Darrell, a young American who flew with the Canadian Air Force in World War I. He is twenty years old at the beginning of the novel and in his forties by the end of it. Experiencing the horrors of war changes Larry: He becomes solemn and introspective, restlessly seeking answers to the ultimate age-old questions about life, death, God, and the nature of evil. Turning down the offer of a lucrative job, Larry spends several years in Paris reading anything he hopes may contain an answer to his questions. He works in a mine in France and a farm in Germany, lives in an ashram in India, and enters a Benedictine monastery in Bonn. At the end of the novel, he gives away all of his money and sails to New York to become a taxi driver.

Isabel Bradley Maturin

Isabel Bradley Maturin, who is engaged to Larry Darrell at the beginning of the novel. She marries Gray Maturin when Larry refuses to return with her to Chicago. She is nineteen years old when the novel opens. She genuinely loves Larry but cannot think of marrying a man who will not work for a living. She has been brought up in luxury and has no intention of living without it. She adapts well to losing her fortune in the stock market crash, but that is easy to do, because she spends the Depression in her uncle Elliott Templeton’s fashionable Paris apartment. Selfish and materialistic, she contributes to Sophie Macdonald’s suicide by offering her liquor, knowing that Sophie is a recovering alcoholic.

Gray Maturin

Gray Maturin, a rising young stockbroker, Isabel’s husband, twenty years old at the start of the novel. His father started him at the bottom of his brokerage firm, but by the end of the novel, Gray is running it. Like his father, Gray takes pride in looking out for his clients...

(The entire section is 750 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Razor's Edge incorporates a varied group of characters, largely American, some of them based upon people Maugham knew. Elliott...

(The entire section is 171 words.)