Somerset Maugham’s The Lotus Eater deals with an exceptional storyline. It unfolds the bitter consequence related to the miscalculated pursuit of life. In short, Maugham’s short story contains a distinct theme focusing on the exceptional and rare human experience.
The author presents a man, Thomas Wilson, who adopts an outlandish outlook towards the conventional estimation of life. Maugham narrates here the ultimate tragic destiny of Wilson, who prefers to shun his well-paid bank manager job. Instead, he chooses a life of leisure in Capri, Italy.
Now, the writer selects the mesmerizing natural beauty in Capri to build the said plot of uninterrupted leisure. The main character, Wilson, wishes to live here to cherish the serenity and beauty of nature. He wants to enjoy a life free from earthly woes and mundane worries. Because, as a bank manager, Wilson had to spend a monotonous life for an incessantly long eighteen years before settling in Capri. And during this period, he lost his wife and daughter. In reality, he had no choice but to lead a life of toil patiently.
The truth is the association with working life was not at all enjoyable for Wilson. In short, he got no option but to bear an unexciting life. However, he tasted the sweetness in his tedious livelihood for the first time when he visited Capri to relish the summer holidays. The charming moon, sky, sea, and two rocks in Capri captivated his senses. The beauty of the island and the allurement of the Bay of Naples surrounding it appeared hard for him to reject. The scenery and serenity of the whole surrounding haunted his passion. It was nearly impossible for him to deny the beckoning impact of nature.
In a word, the natural beauty possessed his mind and heart so robustly that he decided to reside there forever. The attraction was so strong that Wilson didn’t even hesitate to quit his lucrative profession. In short, his aim to spend the rest of his life in the bosom of nature’s exquisite beauty emerged with priority. It seemed to him that his search for ultimate happiness and peace was over. However, from here arises the most significant question whether Wilson took the right decision. Or he failed to detect the undercurrent of the miscalculated pursuit of life.
Maugham’s narration about his hero and his choice indeed raises a vital question. As a normal human being, Wilson has rightly gone for an easy, leisurely living. Like other folks, he also possesses the willingness to have an anxiety-free life. But, his resolution to arrange an annuity for a period of twenty-five years only to live at Capri creates some cross-questions.
The first query is related to a flaw in his resolution. His major mistake was not to apprehend the future outcome lurking after the end of twenty-five years. He didn’t understand that nobody on this earth can measure the timespan of survival. And, here lies the biggest blunder in Wilson’s decision.
After the lapse of the stipulated period, Maugham’s hero remained alive. However, he possessed no means of livelihood as the arrangement of annuity had already expired. Moreover, he didn’t have the courage and intent to end his life by committing suicide, especially after spending a long period of happiness. The story has clarified how a failed attempt to finish his own life finally made him mentally unstable. And the rest of his life only contained unwanted humiliation.
Even the situation became so worse that he had no choice but to live in his cottage in a miserable condition depending on a meager help provided by his previous maid. His survival in such an unbalanced condition unfolds how Thomas Wilson’s miscalculated pursuit of life made his living sorrowful. The only exceptional beauty was Wilson’s undaunting urge and passion for his favored Capri. He breathed his last while cherishing the elegance of the place.
It is undeniable that death, at last, came as ultimate relief to the prolonged six-year pain. The author has portrayed how the main character of the story dies in peace in the bosom of natural beauty.
Now, here lies the tragedy of a man who chose a living in the lap of nature. His only aim was to enjoy tranquillity and happiness forever, although the end came with suffering and misery. It is indeed true that Wilson himself is responsible for his painful destiny. He is the architect of all his pains and humiliation. And the reasons behind these unwanted circumstances are his miscalculation and flaw in the decision. His indiscreet resolve made his living dejected.
It is undeniably true that as per the storyline, Thomas Wilson never possessed the passion for an extraordinary living. As an ordinary human being, he only cared for his happiness. From a neutral point of view, he might own selfish nature. But, that did not mold his destiny. His selfishness is the same as the common conventional point of view of other humans. His craving for a peaceful, leisurely life is natural.
Also, he was genuine towards his feelings. From an expert’s viewpoint, his mistakes may emerge as the outcome of an idiotic nature. However, as a human true to his choice, Maugham’s hero was a self-satisfied person. He might have suffered a lot in his last days, but he enjoyed his life with utmost satisfaction for twenty-five years at a stretch.
Wilson could not succeed in measuring his life. But he was successful in acquiring aesthetic gratification. His demise on the mountainside made him successful in relishing his feelings for his best choice. Wilson’s exit was not a miserable one; instead, it was a good farewell with no regret at all, although the entire setting can’t escape his miscalculated pursuit of life.