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On Maugham’s Misogyny in the Moon and Sixpence

Author ZhangXueQin
Tutor JiShengLei
School Hebei Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords misogyny homosexual feminist family love
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
Downloads 48
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William Somerset Maugham, an English playwright, novelist and short story writer, is known for his ironic point of view and an astonishing understanding of human nature. Among his several long novels,The Moon and Sixpence is less discussed, but its value should not be underestimated. The story is told in episodic form by the first-person narrator. The protagonist Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker, abandons his family and career abruptly to pursue his desire to become a painter. Many critics and reviewers attend critically to the novel’s theme—the contradiction between the spirit and material, ideal and reality—which has been widely recognized. However, if Maugham’s experience and sexuality considered, our understanding of the novel can reach far beyond that. Therefore, this thesis intends to analyze and expose Maugham’s misogyny as reflected in the novel from the perspective of feminist literary criticism and makes a tentative attempt to explore the causes of his abnormal psychology.The novel is allegedly based on the life of Paul Gauguin, a leading French post-impressionist painter in the 19th century, which is actually a reflection of Maugham’s own psychology and emotion. Maugham cunningly and deliberately tried all his means to make this novel look more like a biography than a fiction. His aim is to release his suffocated ideal and indulge his repressed desire under the cover of Strickland. As a result, the misogynistic attitude manifested by Strickland is the very thought of Maugham’s own.Maugham’s misogyny can be identified through his depiction of the three women images—which go to opposite extremes. Mrs. Strickland is vain and hypocritical; Blanche is ungrateful and concupiscent; while Ata, a pretty and na?ve native girl on the Tahiti Island, is an ideal partner of a man. But from the perspective of feminist literary critics, all the“good”characters that have“virgin”qualities and all the“bad”characters that are stigmatized for their“whore”qualities are virtually anti-women, as they obscures the real social situation of women, luring them in a false myth. Maugham’s misogyny can also be perceived in the protagonist’s three escapes. Being a homosexual and persecuted by his unhappy marriage, Maugham yearns for an escape from his marital life, from a woman’love and even, completely from family. His sexual orientation and strong misogynistic attitude cause him to believe marriage is a human bondage, and women’s love will only fetter men’s freedom both physically and spiritually.But Maugham was not born misogynistic, he grew into. His hatred toward women was caused by his beautiful expectations on and distrust of women, the desire for and detestation of a family, and, his struggle to love normally and abnormally. Therefore, in the novel, if ideal and art may be considered as the bright moonlight, woman is only a silver sixpence, the most insignificant, on the ground. Maugham’s disguised misogyny is also shadowed, like the neglected sixpence.Because of the traditional education in the patriarchal society, men always enjoys high status in the field of literature, which results in a gender bias in the literature standards. Women and men are of different genders, naturally, are different readers and critics. This paper, hence, from the perspective of feminist literary criticism, interprets this work of Maugham. Starting with criticism of virgin/whore dichotomy, it criticizes the contempt for women in the patriarchal culture, to raise gender awareness, thus develop women’s own space and voice.

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