The Force of Circumstance

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The Force of Circumstance by W. Somerset Maugham

Brief summary
Guy, an administrator of a small British colonial outpost, has lived there for ten years.
When he was on holiday in England he met Doris. They married and she returned to the station with him. At first they are very happy but then Doris notices a young Malay woman with three half-caste children hanging around the bungalow and annoying Guy very much.
Finally Guy confesses that he had a relationship with the woman and that the children are his.
Doris needs time to consider this shattering news, in the meantime they continue to live as before but Doris refuses to share her bedroom with her husband and the atmosphere is strained.
Eventually Doris returns to England although she knows that Guy loves her and understands that he acted out of loneliness. But she cannot overcome her prejudices and cannot accept the idea that her white husband has had an intimate relationship with a native.
Guy, unhappy and lonely, allows the Malay woman and their children to come back.

Structure of the plot
The story is carefully constructed like a five-act drama with tension rising to the climax of Guy’s disclosure speech.
1. exposition ---- introduction to the exotic scenery and the harmonious couple
2. rising conflict --- the confrontation of characters
3. climax ---- Guy’s monologue and Doris’s reaction
4. falling action ---- Doris’s long suffering and period of indecision
5. denouement ---- Doris’s leaving and the restoration of the former circumstances
There are hints at the beginning which foreshadow the crisis and you will probably guess from the first mention of the half-caste boys what the conflict in the story is about.
What creates the tension is the desire to know how Doris will cope with this situation.
• Doris says that she’s thankful Guy never had a Malay woman (p. 43 , ls. 1-2)

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