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Thread: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

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  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW cmi0616's Avatar
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    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

    Pardon me for the rant. Also, this post might not even seem coherent to those who have read the novel in it's entirety, as I am only 400 pages into it and there might be information towards the end that renders these complaints moot, but in the mean time:

    I rarely complain about characters in novels. My take on it usually is that they're not real people, and if they are unlikeable little asshats it's usually because the author intended it to be that way. Fictional characters are the writer's creation and serve a distinct purpose that is typically to move the story forward or, at the very least, to make some sort of point.

    However, reading Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, Philip Carey has come to infuriate me. Because it's a roman-a-clef, one suspects that the protagonist should be a sympathetic person, and as far as I can tell, that was Maugham's intention. However, I can't help but notice that I sincerely hope Philip dies of some terrible, painful illness (along with Mildred, by the way).

    Here's my main problem: the symptoms of Philip's "love" for Mildred seem to imply that Philip hasn't the slightest clue of what love is. And when I say that, I mean it quite literally. It seems as though he would define it as some sort of dark emotion that involves a lot of hatred and condescension. After all, he repeatedly speaks of how much he dislikes her. Mildred is constantly referred to as "vulgar" or simple. He doesn't seem to find her physically attractive dwelling, for pages and pages and pages, on her pale skin and her other "anemic qualities". She is a very cold person, who almost seems averse to granting Philip any sort of happiness despite agreeing to be with him. Not only is the relationship an un-realteable one, but it would seem as though such a "romance" of any kind would be impossible in reality. The two don't actually seem to feel anything but contempt for one another at all.

    However, time and time again, Philip seems to decide that he's fallen in love with Mildred. At the same time though, he hates her. He can't stand being around her even when she agrees to enter into a relationship with him, and he throws away his healthy, happy relationship with Norah (and, may I just say, poor Norah!) for another shot at Mildred, who justly takes his money and runs off with another man.

    And then after Mildred leaves him again (and this is what really made me wish death upon Philip Carey), the kid has the balls to go back to Norah and expect her to be waiting for him.

    In my opinion, Maugham either had a deep, vehement self-loathing, or was unable to properly tell the tale of this roman-a-clef due to his homosexuality and the era the story took place in.

    Either way, Philip Carey has quickly become my least favorite character in literary history. Whatever pity I felt for him at the beginning of the book has vanished and turned into a wish for his head.

    Anyways, I hope this made some sort of sense. I also hope my violent rage hasn't scared you and you people still want to be my friends.

    Last edited by cmi0616; 01-08-2013 at 08:02 AM.
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