William Somerset Maugham is a rare author whose major short stories are the best examples of first-person narration. That means readers can find a narrator who narrates the entire story in the first person. The Lotus Eater is one such short story where the first-person narrator Maugham narrates the entire story.
A first-person narration means the narrator is an integral part of the specific story. Furthermore, he appears as a participant, active in his action in the whole story. He creates the required environment, introduces the necessary impact, and tells the tale. And, all these are true regarding Somerset Maugham’s famous short story The Lotus Eater. Here the author, Maugham, himself appears as the first-person narrator to tell the story. He describes the nature and mood of every character and thereby creates the required emotional impact finally.
Some people take The Lotus Eater as a personal narrative of the author. The reason behind this logic says that the story uncovers the author’s own experience regarding the appraisement of an exceptional queer character. However, after studying the whole narrative, it is clear that it can’t be taken as an autobiographical piece because some parts look more imaginary than real.
It is undeniable that the short story appears as a first-person narrative that discloses a three-fold significance. First, the narrator has a vital role in all the proceedings of the said story. And, secondly, he plays the role of an interpreter and describes the main character, Thomas Wilson, and his condition minutely. Third, he creates the required emotional response to the keynote of the tale. In reality, the first-person narrator Maugham, the author, looks more omniscient here.
It is undeniable that Thomas Wilson is the actual hero of The Lotus Eater. Yet, the narrator is instrumental in shaping the story of Wilson’s life. Readers can notice three phases of Wilson’s life here. The first phase shows the routine-bound life of the hero as a bank manager. In addition, the second phase unfolds his uninterrupted happy living in plenty of pleasure and leisure at Capri. Finally, the third phase displays his humiliation, suffering, and demise in dire distress. Now, these three phases are made known through the effort of the author-narrator.
The narrator’s determination and strong insistency to known the strangeness of Wilson’s choice from the hero’s mouth constructs the plinth of the tale. Also, the narrator’s persistent and patient attempt to establish an intimacy with Wilson and bring out the secret behind his resolution reinforces the plot structure. And, lastly, it is the sympathetic interest of the author-narrator in the hero’s ultimate destiny that finally shapes and molds the end and the emotional appeal of the narrative. It s true that the determining role of the first-person narrator Maugham is undeniable in the said short story. Moreover, without Maugham, there would be no story in The Lotus Eater.
Another vital part that Maugham plays is a first-person narrator. He helps in bringing out the exceptional, extraordinary nature of an ordinary man, Thomas Wilson. Undoubtedly, it is a striking element that gives a rare narrative touch to The Lotus Eater. He even helps to unfold the mind of that ordinary man with patience.
Also, he acts as the interpreter of Wilson’s character and condition. On the one hand, he appreciates the hero’s courage to engage in a rare and bold adventure. On the other hand, however, he doesn’t remain deaf and blind to his loopholes while doing this. Maugham even feels worried about what consequences the hero will face after the end of twenty-five years. He is very much concerned to think about his pleasure life of complete happiness after that period. The narrator’s queries about the hero’s later life help him detect the flaw in Wilson’s plan.
As the first-person narrator, Maugham expresses his feelings of compassion for Wilson’s sufferings. In a word, he adds a tragic grandeur to the tale of an ordinary man who bears a strange choice and tends to follow a rare adventure in life. The author even draws one consolation for that unfortunate person in his quiet demise amid the moonlit beauty and serenity in his dearest spot. Somerset Maugham’s words, “Perhaps he died of the beauty of that sight,” indicate his consolation towards the tragic hero.
Finally, something explicitly personal is present in the author, which comes out in the narrator. The first person narrator Maugham describes his fondness for all those who are bold and have strangeness in their choice. A personal, sympathetic nature also resides inside the author’s mind. Along with solace for the agonizing humanity, his human feeling is crystal clear in The Lotus Eater.