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Charles Strickland

The main character of the novel, Charles Strickland, is a prosperous stockbroker. At the beginning of the book the reader sees him through the eyes of a young writer, the narrator of the novel: a very dull, quiet man, not in the least interested in literature or the arts(34), a typical broker. Then he was a man of forty, not good-looking, and yet not ugly, for his features were rather good, but they were all a little larger than life-size and the effect was ungainly. He was broad and heavy, with large hands and feet, and he wore his evening clothes clumsily. He was clean shaven, and hi large face looked uncomfortably naked. His hair was reddish, cut very short, and his eyes were small, blue or grey. He looked commonplace. (38) he had no social gifts, he had no eccentricity, he was just a good, dull, honest, plain man. He was null. He was probably a worthy member of society, a good husband and father, an honest broker, but there was no reason to waste one's time over him. (39) It was an average family in the middle class - a rather dull man, doing his duty in that state of life in which a merciful Providence had placed him. (41) The rest of the book shows how wrong the narrator's first impression was and the reader' s attitude towards Strickland's character changes as the novel progresses. When the author meets him for the second time in a small room of a dark airless hotel, Strickland looked ill at ease, untidy and kept, he looked perfectly at home there. (56), he made replies to the narrator's questions with callousness and scorn. Some vehement power was struggling within him and it gave the sensation of something very strong and overmastering that held him almost against his will. He seemed to be possessed of a devil. Yet he looked ordinary enough. He was sitting in his unbrushed bowler, his trousers were baggy, his hands were not clean, his unshaved face was uncouth and coarse. Strickland was not a fluent talker, he expressed himself with difficulty, using hackneyed phrases, slang and vague, unfinished gestures. It was probably the sincerity of his personality that prevented him from being dull. Strickland was blind to everything but to some disturbing vision in his soul.(57-64) The creative instinct seized upon this dull broker and some deep-rooted instinct of creation took possession of his whole being. He had the directness of the fanatic and the ferocity of the apostle. Strickland was independent of the opinion of his fellows and convention had no hold of him, no one could get a grip on him and it gave him a freedom which was an outrage. The only aim of Stickland's life was to create beauty. Not long before his terrible death of leprosy, far from his native land, on the remote island of Tahiti, Strickland realised his lifelong dream. The pictures on the walls of his dilapidated house were his masterpiece. In them Strickland had finally put the whole expression of himself. W. S. Maugham tries to be impartial to his characters. They are neither all good nor all bad: "There is not much to choose between men. They are all a hotchpotch of greatness and littleness, of virtue and vice, of nobility and baseness..." The reader depicts Strickland as a human being as he is selfish, cruel, pitiless and cynical. But, on the other hand, the reader worships him as a talented artist, a creator of beauty. His passionate devotion to art arouses our admiration.

Strickland as a character

Charles Strickland lived obscurely. He made enemies rather than friends. (23) There was much in his life which was strange and terrible, in his character something outrageous, and in his fate not a little that was pathetic. (24) It is obvious that there was much in the commonly received account of Strickland’s life to embarrass a respectable family. (24) Mr Strickland has drawn the portrait of an excellent husband and father, a man of kindly temper, industrious habits and moral...
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