"Mr. Know-All" by William Somerset Maugham
1. William Somerset Maugham is one of the best known English writers of the 20th century. He was not only a novelist, but also a one of the most successful dramatist and short-story writers.
He was born in Paris in 1874. His parents died when he was very little and the boy was brought up by his uncle.
As you may know, Somerset Maugham was the master of the short, concise novel and he could convey relationships, greed and ambition with a startling reality.
The most prominent works by Somerset Maugham are: Cakes and Ale(1930), Theatre(1937), and The Razor’s Edge(1944). Realistic portrayal of life, keen character observation, and interesting plots coupled with beautiful, expressive language, simple and lucid style, place Somerset Maugham on a level with the greatest English writers of the 20th century.
2. The story “Mr. Know-All” deals with a strange man who poses that he knows all. The narrator had to undertake a sea-voyage from the USA to Japan. His roommate Mr. Kelada was not only disliked by the narrator but by everybody on the ship. Mr. Ramsay was taking his wife, Mrs. Ramsay, to his work place in Japan.
One evening they all met at a dinner. Mr. Kelada declared that the pearls worn by Mrs. Ramsay were original. Mr. Ramsay unaware of the fact that they were original challenged that it was bought for only eighteen dollars in a department store. They entered into a bet of one hundred dollars. Mr. Kelada observed on Mrs. Ramsay’s face a desperate appeal. Since he didn’t want to destroy their marriage, he accepted his defeat though he was sure that the pearls were original.
3. The basic idea of the story is that appearances are sometimes deceptive. Mr. Know-All who is described as a selfish person, who shows, that he knows everything better than others, is in real life, a sensitive and kind gentleman who wouldn't hurt others. But Mrs. Ramsay, whose modesty and good qualities no one questions, has been unfaithful to her husband.
4. The story takes place in international waters on an ocean going liner sailing from San Fracisco ( the USA) to Yokohama (Japan) on the Pacific ocean. As the war had just ended, it was difficult to get accommodations. Therefore, the narrator had to share a cabin with a total stranger, but he expected him to be one of his own countrymen: "The war had just finished and the passenger traffic in the ocean going liners was heavy. Accommodation was very hard to get and you had to put up with whatever the agents chose to offer you."
It is presented in a general way. There is just general description of the ship and the cabin. It provides a background for action.
5. The story is told in the first person – the narrator sees everything and is a part of the plot.
6. The characters we meet in the story are Max Kelada (Mr. Know-All); the narrator; Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay; and the doctor.
The characters are described by their appearance and characteristics, except for the narrator.
From the start, the narrator expresses his prejudices against the man with whom he must share a cabin (Mr. Kelada). At the beginning I dislike the protagonist, because Mr. Kelada was too selfish and egotistic: "Mr. Kelada was chatty.....He discussed plays, pictures, and politics. He was patriotic...... He managed the sweeps, conducted the auctions, collected money for prizes at the sports, got up quoit and golf matches, organized the concert and arranged the fancy-dress ball. He was everywhere and always. He was certainly the best hated man in the ship."
But, at the end of the story, he appears to us as a good and a decent person.
The writer reveals Mr. Kelada by means of narrative description with explicit judgment. At first from both fact and judgment we derive the impression of the main character as as a disgusting person. But the following action of the protagonist: “Suddenly he caught sight of Mrs. Ramsay's face…...She was staring at him with wide and terrified eyes…..Mr. Kelada stopped with his mouth open……"I was mistaken," he said” clearly shows, that Mr. Know-All is a good and brave man.
7. The plot deals with the conflicting relationship between the narrator and Mr. Kelada; with the relationship between Mr. Kelada and Mr. Ramsay.
Compositionally the text falls into 3 logical parts.
The exposition gives us the opportunity to present the whole situation, marked in the text, main and major characters and the atmosphere of the story. The general atmosphere of the action is calm, which later becomes awkward and by the end – tense. At the beginning of the text the author introduces us the main characters.
The climax lies in the episode when Mr. Kelada and Mr.Ramsay argued among themselves about the pearl bracelet. And the main character sees Mrs. Ramsay's face: “It was so white that she looked as though she were about to faint. She was staring at him with wide and terrified eyes. They held a desperate appeal; it was so clear that I wondered why her husband did not see it.
Mr. Kelada stopped with his mouth open. He flushed deeply. You could almost see the effort he was making over himself “.
The denouement: Mr. Know All decides to lie in the dispute, in order not to destroy marriage.
8. The types of speech employed by the author of the analysed story are narration, description, dialogue.
9. In order to reveal the idea vividly and convincingly the author of the analysed passage resorts to the following devices:
· Mr. Kelada was born under a bluer sky than is generally seen in England;
· Mrs. Ramsay was a very pretty little thing, with pleasant manners and a sense of humor;
· My heart sank;
· It shone in her like a flower on a coat – (about modesty);
· He spoke with a fluency in which there was nothing English…
· Mr Kelada was short and of a sturdy build, clean-shaven and dark-skinned, with a fleshy hooked nose and very large, lustrous and liquid eyes.
· A row of flashing teeth;
· He ran everything;
· He was everywhere and always;
· The best hated man.
· "The three on the four,"…
· With rage and hatred in my heart I finished;
· I did not like the look of it; there were too many labels on the suitcases;
· He talked of New York and of San Francisco. He discussed plays, pictures, and politics; (anaphora)
· "It's coming out, it's coming out," he cried; (ordinary)
· You don`t think I look like an American, do you? British to the backbone, that`s what I am;
10. Summing up the analysis of the given extract one should say that the writer brilliantly uses metaphor and personification which help to reveal the main character’s nature.