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Vintage English
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!

The story

In this issue inaugural issue of Vintage English, a story by Somerset Maugham is being given. It must be said that it is not necessary that the story in an issue would be from the same author who had been discussed in that issue.

This story was a fantastic one for me, in more than one way. For one thing, this story pointed to the fact that Maugham could very well understand the inner core of cultural misfit between feudal language systems and English.

There are other things also that got my attention. However, they go beyond the parameters of the current subject matter.

As to the general theme, it is about an English young man who was deputed to a Samoa island to manage a British bank. He sees a half-caste girl (a girl born to a European father and a local woman). This girl is at home in the local language, and is part of the local social stream, even though she is good in English.

Somehow, he is enraptured by her form and demeanour, and marries her, without taking heed of all advice not to do it. He could have had her as a keep, but being very honourable in aims and perfectly in love, he goes ahead and marries her.

I can discern the power of the strings in the local language, that more or less encased the girl in a powerful web. It is a web, which puts her in the direct command path of her native family members. Each word, spoken or written, carries unbelievable forces. The most horrible factor is that these strings remain non-tangible from English and to an English observer.

There is horror for the English young man, as he sees himself powerless as his wife literally becomes another person when she is in enwrapped in this web. The change is uncanny, yet real. The man tries to get his children learn English and become English, but the other side is unbelievably powerful. He learnt too late of forces that remain unfathomable for him.

Even the native attire that his wife wears to snub him has a tremendous effect in enwrapping her in native social hierarchies.

Beyond all this, this story also does give a hint to the powerful position that wives do stand in a married life. When silly persons with frivolous intellect occupy such positions and start swaying to the pull of the feudal/hierarchical words and commands, the endeavouring husband’s aims and programmes literally gets disarrayed. If the husband is of frivolous disposition, then it creates no problems, beyond what he himself is floundering in.

This story is actually a treasure trove for the English policy makers. However, I fear that they may not discern the invaluable inputs, until it is too late. Also, there is much for persons who exists with their two legs in different worlds, to learn from this story. But will they discern it?

Beyond all this, it may be said the theme is not really that of a competition or dispute between White and non-White, or between educated and non-educated, but between the codes in English social structure and that of other social structures which are starkly opposite. It also shows the inability of those who discern the difference between to convey this understanding to people in either side. It is not a story from Samoa, but from anywhere in the world.

Book profile



Author: Somerset Maugham

The Story

Folk songs:

On the banks of Allen Water,

On the banks of Clyde

Excerpt: Magnus in The Apple Cart

English Colonial History:

Emancipation of slaves

Scientist: Sir. Isaac Newton

Geo discoverers: Captain James Cook

Film: The bridge on River Kwai

Actress: Vivien Leigh

Battle: Jameson Raid

Incidence: Nelson’s death



Popular songs: Jingle Bells

Place: Rocks of Gibraltar

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