The Narrow Corner, xxv

Maugham tries and tries, but cannot make Erik the Dane’s chapter about his love—the history of his love and the depth of his love—for Louise the girl interesting. Maugham globe-trots with it, as Erik walks out to the girl’s house, fully confident his betrothed will not be in the arms of Fred the fugitive, he muses on all the things they will do once they are married. It’s too much and Maugham seems to know it’s too much, which makes it an awkward read. There’s some decent enough stuff with Louise’s mother, who sort of adopts Erik in a not-but-somewhat maternal way after his arrival on the idyllic island, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Even though Erik’s walking a three mile road, the chapter doesn’t go anywhere until the last couple paragraphs when he gets to exactly where the reader knows he’s getting. Though it is the first time the second person works. Maugham uses it—and his many semi-colon sentences—to good effect with the close third person on Erik. It doesn’t make Erik any more sympathetic, but it doesn’t cause speed bumps the way the shift to second person does in previous chapters. It does seem like a missed opportunity, as Erik the Dane is incapable of acknowledging the inevitable, while Maugham’s been preparing the reader for it since the first page of the novel.

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