Two short stories by William Somerset Maugham, The escape and The luncheon, both describes grieving experience of men towards women. The narrator of the former recites how his friend, Roger Charing, tries to get rid of a woman, Ruth Barlow. The author of the later reflects his own experience with a woman using her well-laid traps to make him fulfill her luxurious demands. Since these events are anything but pleasant and memorable, the author expresses his severe criticism towards women.
The story begins with a funny anecdote, stating that “If a woman once made up her mind to marry a man, nothing but instant flight could save him. ” Faulkner describes marriage as “the inevitable loom menacingly before” men or “danger” that urges men to perform an “immediate action”. This suggests his negative attitudes towards marriage and, more importantly, expresses the difference of men and women in love. Men are not marrying creatures while women usually expect to lead a love affair to marriage.
Ruth Barlow is characterized by a “gift”: “a gift for pathos”. Her sympathetic appearance, “splendid dark eyes and they were the most moving I ever saw, they seemed to be ever on the point of filling with tears”, conspires with a pitiful background, “twice a widow”, to render Ruth the vulnerability, which strips men off their usual sensibility. Though appearing as naive and harmless, Ruth is led to gradually reveal her true character. Despite the absolute sympathy Roger has towards her, the narrator perceive her as stupid, scheming and unemotional.
Her cheating on the card game and overlooking to pay the money she lost expose her dishonesty and affected manners. Ruth is a dull and narrow-minded woman, as “she had never had any conversation. ” Faulkner’s repetitive description about her eyes: “splendid dark eyes”, “the most moving eyes”, “big ad lovely eyes” makes an impression that other than the pathetic look, this woman is a hollow. The turning-point of this story is when Roger, out of the blue, falls out of love with Ruth. His ingenious (and somewhat artificial) effort to run away rom that “happy ending” contributes to unveil Ruth’s fake personality. The seemingly endless hunt for a “suitable” house turns the adorably looking Ruth to a “silent and scornful” woman with “sullen” eyes. She finally gives up her “patience of an angel”, breaks up with Roger and rushes herself into an instant marriage with “someone who is anxious to take care of me. ” This uncommon situation confirms the narrator’s judgment on women as “fickle” at the beginning of this story. Similarly, the other short story, The luncheon, expresses equal disdain of the author towards women.
The narrator the story This woman immediately strikes the readers with her artifice: she knows how to present lavish praise to a young and inexperienced writer, inducing him to spare her a suspicious meeting. Considering that men always pay for the meals, her request to have a “little luncheon” at Foyot, a place for the elite’s, indicates her rudeness. The narrator’s first impression about this woman was her “having more teeth, white and large even, than were necessary for any practical purpose, being talkative and “imposing rather than attractive” – neither favorable nor positive.
The woman says repeatedly that she prefers simple and light meals, “I never eat anything for luncheon. ” “I never eat more than one thing. ” “I never drink anything for luncheon. ” but turns out to have a very good appetite, especially for most expensive things. She comfortably consumes caviar, salmon, white wine, asparagus, ice-cream coffee, and a peach and talks in an exalted mood about art, literature and music. The narrator, on the other hand, eats only a “miserable little chop” while sketching out a plan in case he could not afford the bill.
However, the woman is nonchalant and thoughtless enough to ignore that; she continues to rebuke him for “ruining your palate by all the meat you eat. ” Her impoliteness also reveals through her vulgar eating manner, “I watch the abandoned woman thrust them down her throat in large voluptuous mouthfuls… “, and then reaches the top when she implies the narrator mean after “robbing” him with an excessively luxurious meal, sparing him so little to give the waiter an adequate tip. Apart from ill-mannered, the woman is also unsophisticated.
She responds to the narrator’s ironical saying “I’ll eat nothing for dinner tonight. ” with a loud laughter, thinking that he was “quite a humorist”. All by all, in various literary works, Faulkner built up a negative image of women: insipid and mercantile, through which he expressed his contempt and indifference for women. The Luncheon This story with a twist of irony happened 20 years ago when the man was living in Paris. He was a writer and like any young writer, he was earning barely enough money to survive. And one day he received a fan mail from a lady.
She was passing through Paris and was interested to have a chat with the author. She suggested to treat her with a little luncheon at Foyot’s. When they were at Foyot’s, he was surprised because she was a woman of forty and not a young lady as he imagined. But the biggest surprise was the high prices from the bill of fare. The first words coming from her mouth with big teeth was “I never eat anything for luncheon”. At this point, the author did not know that this was the beginning of his nightmare.? @He insisted her to have some thing. She said she never had more than one thing and suggested a little salmon.
Although she said she never had more than one thing, she opted to have some caviar while the salmon was being cooked. He ordered caviar for her and the cheapest dish for him, a mutton chop. The irony of this story is that, the lady ends up eating salmon, caviar, champagne, asparagus and peaches and she rebukes him for taking more than one thing. His mind was in a whirl after all these happenings and specially after paying the bill with a small amount of tip. But he had his revenge after 20 years. She weights twenty-one stones now. This was probably when he could confirm the existence of the gods