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The Ant and the Grasshopper William Somerset Maugham

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The Ant and the Grasshopper William Somerset Maugham

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Critically examine the plot in “The Ant and the Grasshopper”: Somerset Maugham‟s short story “The Ant and the Grasshopper” bases itself on the well-known fable of La Fontaine of the same title. The exposition presents a brief summary of the fable, followed by the narrator‟s expression of bias against the ant in La Fontaine‟s story. Since in the exposition the narrator uses the fable to introduce his story of the Ramsay brothers, the reader‟s expectations from the development of the plot are already determined to a certain extent. The complication begins with the narrator meeting George Ramsay in the restaurant. From here onwards, the plot takes the form of recapitulation, where the reader is presented with a comprehensive account of the lives of the two Ramsay brothers, George and Tom, which are studies in contrast. As this part of the plot unfolds, the reader is able to match the characters of George and Tom to those of the ant and the grasshopper respectively. The narrator suspects from George‟s behaviour in the restaurant that Tom has committed the worst of his misdeeds, and wonders if he has gone to prison. The resolution however ends on a note of surprise for the narrator, and possibly the reader as well, as George‟s anger is shown to be the result of Tom having become incredibly wealthy instead of ending “in the gutter” or “in the workhouse”, as George had uncharitably hoped for. Thereby, the plot maintains the element of suspense, despite having disclosed a blueprint at the outset. What could have prepared the reader for this ending is the narrator‟s personal bias against the ant that he reveals in the introduction, but the reader‟s realization is likely to come only from hindsight. Suspense is also produced by the discontinuous or interrupted temporal flow; for instance, the narrator meets an angry George in the restaurant, but the reader along with the narrator does not find out why George is angry, till the recapitulation in flashback-mode is completed....

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