The Narrow Corner, xxviii

Though the chapter end’s up being Fred the fugitive’s story—told entirely in the first person, which showcases Maugham’s ability at that perspective—it opens with a description of a funeral. There are tonal ties to the previous funeral, of course, but the more interesting part is how Maugham doesn’t describe the geographic features of island in the present tense. It stands out as he did previously refer to a newspaper’s publication schedule (or its frequent subject matter) in the present tense; shouldn’t the description of the island warrant the same presentness? Once the monologue starts, it goes for most of the chapter. It’s first person monologue. Maugham writes the heck out of it. Fred’s confessing to the doctor, who occasionally asks a question or makes an observation, and does get The Narrow Corner to its peak Maugham moment—“The contrast between a man’s professions and his actions is one of the most diverting spectacles that life offers.” I’m not sure anything else sums up Maugham’s fiction better. Or just the act of reading fiction. That contrast is where one finds Faulkner’s conflict of the human heart. Is Fred the fugitive’s tale worth all the hubbub? Actually, yes. Probably not so late in the day—The Narrow Corner comes to an end through contrivance not organic progression—but it’s a definitely a good yarn.

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