Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham: Very Good Hardcover (1942) |  Randall's Books

“Of Human Bondage” aims to show the reader that once one is born, one has to go through all kinds of hardships — especially in youth — and is bound by all kinds of constraints of life, such as family, religion, school, society, love (including sex), money and so on. The novel shows the dark side of a terrifying real world. All kinds of characters in the picture, driven by the god of fate, drift in the endless dark abyss. The tone of the novel is low and the conclusion is that life has no meaning and death has no significance. Nevertheless, “Of Human Bondage” is positive in its objective effect, for Philip’s personal experience has a considerable degree of social typification.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, western capitalist society fell into a comprehensive crisis in politics, economy, culture and other aspects; market depression, social unrest and war are all at hand. Traditional religion, morality, culture and philosophy are showing the tendency of disintegration. In Britain, the false optimism of the Victorian era is long gone, and this novel presents a bleak picture of the real world full of horror. It is a scene in which many characters drift in the endless dark abyss, at the mercy of the gods of fate, neither knowing why nor whither they are to be cast.

The difference between Philip and these characters was that he still wanted to fight against fate, that he tried to throw off his chains. Here, in addition to the shackles he fought against, he also represented a large number of young people who were unwilling to go along with the tide and unable to join in the social reform movement. Although the result of his struggle is only a personal enlightenment, the enlightenment itself is also an indictment and a denial of the society, or at least an expression of a yearning for real humanity and a perfect life. In this sense, “Of Human Bondage” is not only realistic, but also makes a profound criticism of society and life from a special angle.

Philip Galli was a thoughtful, personable young man, crippled by congenital disabilities, solitary, sensitive, and obstinate. His parents died and he spent his childhood in a cold and strange environment. After going to boarding school, he was blighted by an unreasonable educational system. But when he stepped into the society, he was brutally beaten in love. The rough road of his life was full of thorns, and every step he took was tormented by pain and left a wound in his body and heart that could not be healed. All the sufferings in the world are caused by this broken-hearted society. In the novel, the protagonist Philip finally realized the truth of life, in fact, is the author’s own view of life and society after the conclusion: life is meaningless, and can not be changed into another.

It is obvious that this is why Maugham chose “Of Human Bondage” as the title of his novel. Artistically, “Of Human Bondage” fully embodies Maugham’s writing style. First of all, there is a very moving story in the novel. Although the protagonist’s experience has many twists and turns, it is written in a concentrated way without too many clues. Secondly, there is no abstract psychological description in the novel, but all descriptions are very specific. The motivations of the characters are expressed through specific behaviors, thus having a strong sensory effect. Finally, the novel’s style is lucid and unpretentious. The language of his novels aims at fluency, clarity, conciseness and harmony, so he uses colloquial language in both narrative and dialogue, which is refreshing and pleasing to the eye.

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