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MonkeyNotes-Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham
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Chapters V-IX

Summary

These chapters tell about life in Blackstable. Philip gets used to the routine at the Vicarage. Every morning he observes his uncle reading the newspaper and then accompanies his aunt on her errands. Philip is taught Latin and mathematics by his uncle, and his aunt teaches him French and music. They seldom have company, but Philip, as an only child, is used to a solitary existence and can entertain himself. Sometimes, his aunt and uncle will talk about Philip's parents. He learns that his father was a brilliant doctor at St. Luke's hospital and was earning enough to lead a comfortable life. However, his generosity and his ostentatious living, coupled with his wife's careless management of their resources, has left very little financial security for Philip. Since the vicar is the brother of Philip's father, he and his wife seem to resent Philip's mother. In fact, one day a parcel arrives from Miss Watkins; it contains photographs, intended for Philip. His mother had the photographs taken before her death to leave behind as a remembrance for her son. Mr. Carey allows Phillip to keep only one of the pictures and returns to rest to Miss Watkins.

Sunday is the most important day in Blackstable. After a hurried breakfast, Philip accompanies his aunt and uncle to church. On the way, the vicar acts important and takes precautions to keep his voice intact for the sermon. Philip is always bored in church and looks forward to hearing the last hymn, signaling the end of the service. On Sunday evening, Philip must again accompany his uncle to the church for evensong.

One Sunday afternoon, the Vicar scolds Philip for disturbing his afternoon nap. The innocent boy, unaware of his uncle's angry mood, feels hurt. That evening Mr. Carey refuses to take Philip to church with him, which makes the boy feel even worse. In his frustration, Philip speaks harshly to his aunt but he soon regrets his rudeness. The next Sunday afternoon, to keep Philip busy, the Vicar asks him to learn the text for the day. Philip does his best, but grows frustrated, for the text is too hard. Mrs. Carey pities the boy and gives him religious picture books from his uncle's library. The boy reads them with interest and asks for more, establishing his habit of reading.


Notes

These chapters show the lifestyle of a country vicar in Victorian England. As would be expected, Mr. Carey is a conformist who believes in discipline and a pragmatic approach to life. He and his wife follow a very set pattern of living, never realizing the monotony of it. They bathe once a week; meals do not vary, with menus for their supper fixed for the whole week; and Sundays are largely devoted to church, with services in the morning and evening.

Every Sunday there is commotion in the house as the Vicar gets ready to accomplish his tasks for the day. Soon after he dresses in the morning, he polishes the communion plate and cuts bread. Before leaving for the church, he has a glass of sherry to keep his voice steady during the sermon. He stands on ceremony with no variety to his regimen. In fact, he is easily upset if his routine is broken, as shown when Philip interrupts his Sunday afternoon nap. Maugham's description of this authoritarian minister is outstanding. Through his actions and his conversation, he is shown to be filled with self-importance and ignorant of the feelings of his wife or the boy. He clearly does not understand the lonely Philip.

Mrs. Carey is a typical Victorian housewife, meek and submissive; her husband's word is her command. She likes to dress in cheerful clothes, but the Vicar insists on her wearing plain black without any ornamentation, and she gives in to his demands. Even though she likes Philip and feels affectionate towards him, she suppresses her maternal feelings out of respect for her husband. But she hates it when Mr. Carey punishes him and takes pity on him when the Vicar expects too much of the boy.

Philip is largely ignored by his aunt and uncle; therefore, he keeps himself busy by talking to Mary, the maid, and playing with his blocks. The Vicar resents his childish activities and expects him to behave like a responsible adult. He wants the boy to forgo his fun and games and study deep religious texts that are too difficult for Philip. Fortunately, his aunt is more sensitive to his needs and gives him picture books, which he enjoys; they provide his company and allow his to escape from his lonely, largely silent existence.

Through his portrayal of the Vicar, Maugham is openly criticizing the officers of the church who talk about the ways of God, but fail to act in a godly way. Mr. Carey seems to have little concern for the feelings of his fellow humans. He is thinking about sending Philip off to school, and the reader has the impression it is because he does not want to be bothered with the boy.

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MonkeyNotes-Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham
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