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[114] Mrs. Craddock – W. Somerset Maugham

craddock.jpgMaugham states in his opening sentence that this novel could be also titled The Triumph of Love. It explores the delicacy of a difference in expectation of love and how this subtlety constitutes an unequal marriage. In a language that strips life to the bone, Maugham probes the nature of love and happiness and finds that the two rarely coincide. Love doesn’t guarantee happiness nor can happiness be attriubuted to love alone.

Bertha completely falls for Edward Craddock, an unfailingly good-humored, uncalculated, handsome, placid and morally strict farmer who has been a tenant of her father. In spite of the difference in their social status, which has been conquered by her ebullient passion, she deems her happiness complete and has nothing to desire. Her pride and vanity vanish, for she only desires to exist in Edward, whose simplicity and naturalness of mind capture her.

As time goes by, so much that she wants to fuse her character with him, she realizes that he is not as ardent a lover who will always be responsive to her passionate outbursts. The love she wants is the love of a man who will lose everything, even his own soul, for the sake of a woman–the kind of love that brings her happiness. Her fits of elation would die down with the same suddenness that her despondency seizes her. She questions if he has ever loved her, wavering uncertainly the passionate devotion to a new equally passionate hatred. She begins to detest Edward, employing upon his character with a destructive effect. She is indignant at having humbled herself so abjectly before a narrow-minded man who is at best medicore.

While the gift of humanity is the capacity to love, our emotions know no bound and often pour out in a deluge like a lamp shines. Everyone possesses a different perception of love. Bertha cannot help denying the difference between her love and Edward’s love. The most of marriage between two persons of different temperament is so intricate that the best resolution is to part. She is heart-broken at the impossibility of getting down to his heart. She can never know his thoughts nor has she seen his veritable self.

Mrs. Craddock touches on a delicate issue in relationship that many of us might have otherwise dismissed or compromised. Bertha’s encroaching love might appear insane but it’s not her fault to demand love and happiness. How often do we long for love and attention? How honest and open are we with our desire? For myself I have worn out my heart on the sleeves (sometimes too soon) and demanded the same volume of love I give. Sometimes I find life easier without love or hate, hope or despair, without desire or tumultuous passion.

2 Responses

  1. So many stories and novels of Maughm I happen to have read deal with asymmetry in relationships. This novel seems to have struck a chord in your own heart. I understand your being chary of those passions associated with love–despair, desire, passion, and all the rest. Sometimes, it seems, a time out from all that is the only desirable option. There are so many paradoxes in the course of loving, especially over time: we experience such an ineluctable craving for it; and at the same time, there seems to be so much inevitable pain as a result of it, especially when we are denied the full measure that seems so important for our fulfillment. On the other hand, I want to believe that the potential of pain from something is not really a negation of one’s need for it.

    And love is not all pain, of course. I’m glad to hear of Maugham telling us that _The Triumph of Love_ might have been an alternate title to his novel. While love may be a gift, it’s also an undertaking–of the mind and of action. We can search Maugham to discover our own insights, and hopefully, find the courage to go on.

  2. […] Contempt – Alberto Moravia Posted on February 10, 2008 by Matthew If Mrs. Craddock (W. Somerset Maugham) is about an unequal marriage in terms of difference in the expectation of […]

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