An Analysis of "The Appointment in Samarra"

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An Analysis of "The Appointment in Samarra"

By | November 2010
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Death
Death speaks: There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

In “The Appointment in Samarra” W. Somerset Maugham delivers a message about the harsh reality of death. In this tale Death is personified as a woman who is very matter-of-fact about her work, which, more specifically, involves keeping an appointment with a certain servant. In the first sentence we read that the servant was terrified as a result of being “jostled”(pg. 4) by death. Maugham illustrates the fear of dying that is such a natural part of our human nature by stating that the servant was “white and trembling”(pg. 4) as a result of this encounter. In an attempt to take destiny into his own hands, the servant borrows a horse from his master in order to get away “as fast as the horse could gallop”(pg. 4) to a place called Samarra, for it is there that the servant believes that “Death will not find me”(pg. 4). To the servant it was evident that Death was there for him because he believed she had “made a threatening gesture”(pg. 4) towards him, but he could not...
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