Painful Mortification or Must-Do


The Moon And Six Pence is written by great British author William Somerset Maugham, who was adopted by his cold-hearted uncle after his parents’ death. Maugham had rich life experiences compared to those in the same time, for he had been a spy working for British authority, and had traveled around India and southeastern Asia. Back to his childhood, born in France, Mr. Maugham’s native language was not English, which made his later life in church school in Britain miserable, for his clumsy English brought bullying and mock to him. His dark childhood and unique life experience later give him the talent to play sharp sarcasm as a master and blessed him with the ability to strike the reader deeply inside, which his masterpiece The Moon And Six Pence have achieved, no doubt.

In the book he described a ‘weird’ painter Strickland who gave up his ‘decent’, at least believed by many, life and went to Paris to start painting just because he “must paint”, as if he might die otherwise. He had met people who respect him, women who recklessly loved him, and mostly those who were scared of him with even a bit of hatred that came from Strickland’s bold rebelliousness of morality and social norms.

Strickland was first a stock manager, earning money that can support a upper-middle class family but no more. He had a kind and careful wife who fitted the exact perfect image of a good wife of that time: a mild lady with a strong sense of responsibility for her children and husband and with a harmless habit of socializing with artists and authors. No one should be more content than Mr. Strickland, whose warm and sweet life could be foreseen easily by anyone with the basic cognition of the society in London: stable but boring.

However, left others with only shock and confusion, he abandoned his career and family and moved to Paris for seemingly no reason one day, suddenly. Of course, Mrs Strickland, the mild and strong lady, believed firmly that he had been induced by another lady and he must not have the endurance of poverty and boredom after he got tired of the affair, so she sent “me” to Paris to see what happened. It turned out, to everyone’s surprise, that he went to Paris to be a painter.

Some are confused, some refused to believe and some are outraged. The outraged victim, Mrs Strickland, however, seemed to understand the mortification somehow, for she became hopeless for he’s coming-back. No matter what people believed, they insisted that Mr Strickland was in a mortification, therefore most of their action based on that. For example, Blanche tried to engulf him with caressing love and every warm little action in daily life. However, it was like a must-do for Strickland, he did not do it for fame and wealth, and for the abstract must-do, he felt no burden leaving those norms and morality behind. It sounds unbelievable, but this thought might have rooted spontaneously in many people’s mind, and can be seen as a harsh and life-consuming idealism, which is why Maugham built a strong bond with the readers by this masterpiece.