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COMMENTARY. 1. To them he was no more than a beach-comber






1. To them he was no more than a beach-comber... They remembered then that they could have bought for a song canvases which now were worth large sums...

S. Maugham selects his words with great precision. The use of the slang expression "beach-comber" and the colloquial expression "buy for a song", more fit for casual discourse than for the author's narration, turn the passage from an unemotional account of facts into a vividly drawn picture. The lines are suggestive of the disappointment of those who had known Strickland, might have got his pictures but failed to do it. The author subtly shows that they regretted not the loss of a work of art, but the loss of money.

2. He was a little old Frenchman, with soft kind eyes and a pleas­ant smile, half trader and half seaman, who owned a cutter in which he wandered boldly among the Paumotus and the Marquesas, taking out trade goods and bringing back copra, shell and pearls.

The words "copra", "shell", "pearls" and some others give an idea of the occupation of the people of the island. These words as well as the proper names "the Paumotus" and "the Marquesas" help create a local colour, the atmosphere of the place that was the setting for the events described.

3. We don't get many painters in the islands...

The place had got hold of him by then, and he wanted to get away into the bush.

...he'd get money out of someone or other...

Maugham's vocabulary is highly colloquial, which means alongside with other things a repetitive use of a small number of words conveying different meanings. To these belong such words as "get", "fix", "do", "go", "thing", "business", "jolly", "lovely", "nice", etc.

The selection under study is illustrative of the use of the verb "get".

4. I knew he was starving, but I offered him good wages.

The use of the conjunction "but", which contrasts one statement with another, is of interest here. It seems that "and" would be more logical. However, "but" here is expressive of the psychology of a bourgeois who takes it for granted that if his fellow-citizen is in need, he should be exploited and not helped.

5. The place had got hold of him by then... I could not make head or tail of it. I was so taken aback that I lost my head, etc.

An abundant use of colloquial expressions and idioms is a feature of Maugham's style, They serve to make the dialogue "natural" and [106] the characters "living" as the author himself put it. Maugham is consid­ered to be a perfect storyteller who usually has a firm grip on the reader's interest. This is partly achieved through the language, which is lively and emotional.



The narration assumes the character of an informal talk between the writer and the reader. The phraseological combinations lend an additional expressiveness to the language since they are usually more emotional than a mere stating of facts in plain terms.

6. It appears that he was a genius...

Note a matter-of-fact tone in which the statement is made. It would be more appropriate to a statement of a different kind — some­thing like "It appears he was an Englishman"; "It appears he was a doctor".

As it is, it subtly underlines Maugham's amusement with the ways of the world, his irony at the way talent is regarded,



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