The Narrow Corner, vi

Maugham has a really, really crappy simile in this section. So bad I stopped. So bad I thought back to undergrad creative writing when the professor said, “Never use a simile if it doesn’t make sense for the character to make the observation.” First person, third person, doesn’t matter. It has to make sense for the character. So Dr. Saunders opining about his restless brain working like the “misfirings of a defective carburetor?” Not a good simile. The Narrow Corner came out in 1932; it is set “a good many years” before that year. Was Dr. Saunders an automobile enthusiast? I don’t think so. I think cars were getting to be a thing in the early thirties and Maugham put it in there for the reader. Red mark, Mr. Maugham, red mark. Maybe the only interesting part of the chapter is the mention of a “Dutch wife,” which is a body pillow. According to the Internet, the term—as opposed to body pillow—came from some untoward behaviors of Dutchmen in Indonesia when they got lonely. Maugham doesn’t do anything with it along those lines, however; it’s just a detail. The rest of the chapter espouses about the visitors to the island. Maugham introduces the rich Chinese merchant who Dr. Saunders is treating—Kim Ching—but gives him very little to do in the section. Just convey information, no real personality. There is the hint Saunders speaks (or at least understands) Chinese, which is kind of cool, but Maugham does nothing with it.

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