Liza of Lambeth, Chapter Eleven

it’s the longest chapter in the novel so far, though not a lot happens. Maugham does an action chapter—Liza getting in a fight with her beau’s wife and getting beaten to a pulp. The chapter opens with her friend, who’s being beaten by her husband, opining the abuse is her fault. Liza sort of agrees, tells her she’ll get use to it. Already, Maugham’s in a questionable spot. He’s presenting all these interactions without comment, in a distant enough third. If he infused it with social commentary, it’s been lost to the ages. Then comes the fight and a gathered crowd of spectators—the men think Liza should get off without a beating, the women disagree. Little bit of pointless anti-Semitism from Maugham in this section too. The beau breaks up the fight. Liza goes home with the guy who moons over her and offers to marry her, even though she’s pregnant. She offers him sex as a thank you for bringing her home, but he declines—unaware of her intentions; at this point, Liza of Lambeth’s plotting is becoming more and more questionable. I’m currently betting on Liza becoming an actual prostitute, spit upon by all, which the chapter’s finale—Liza and her mother finally sharing the mother-daughter bond of getting pass out drunk—does nothing to dissuade. But before that finish, Maugham cuts to the beau trying to beat his wife to death. He doesn’t manage it—the women downstairs stop him, while the men sit and do nothing. Not their place. Again, a weird chapter, if only because Maugham doesn’t do well with subtlety. So much so, I’m not sure there’s supposed to be any.

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