Mabel by W. Somerset Maugham
In Mabel by W. Somerset Maugham we have the theme of determination, despair, fear, appearance, devotion, escape, love, responsibility and struggle. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Maugham may be exploring the theme of determination. Nothing stops Mabel from locating or finding where George is. It is as though she is determined to go through with the marriage despite it being clear to the reader that George is in a state of despair. Fearful of how Mabel may have changed over the last seven years since he last saw her. This may be important as both Mabel and George have concerns about one another’s appearance and the suitability of the other for marriage based solely on appearance. Which some critics might suggest is not the best of foundations for a happy marriage. It is this fear of what Mabel might look like that originally drives George away from her and half way across Asia. It might also be important that the reader cannot help but see the funny side of what is happening. Despite all the evasive action that George takes he is still caught by Mabel.
What is also interesting about the story is the George is worried about Mabel now that she has returned to England on holiday. This is in complete contrast to how he felt when she first arrived in Asia. When George did everything he could to avoid Mabel. It is as though George despite his fears has found happiness with Mabel and as such worries about her when she is not by his side. Though some critics might suggest that George is simply attempting to control his environment it is more likely that he is deeply in love with Mabel and genuinely misses her. She does after all show a large degree of devotion and dedication to George by following him around Asia. Controlling Mabel and her activities may not be at the forefront of George’s mind. If anything George struggles to live without Mabel by his side. It is also possible that George along with being afraid of what Mabel might look like after seven years is also afraid of commitment. With marriage comes change and George may not necessarily be ready to change his life. It is easier for him to run away than to face his responsibilities.
Mabel’s drive and determination is also admirable. She has her heart set on marrying George and it is for this reason that she follows George through Asia. She simply won’t give up. Something which is admirable considering that George is determined not to be found when he tries to escape from Mabel. Though George can be criticized for his decision or apprehensions that Mabel may not look like the same woman that he first met. Mabel too is open to criticism. Which may be the point that Maugham is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that it is a part of human nature for an individual to be physically attracted to their future wife or husband. Though it may not be the sole motivator it is still nonetheless important to some. There is also a sense that there is no escape for George when he is eventually tracked down by Mabel. Despite her long journey she is determined that the marriage will go ahead as soon as she has had a bath. This too may be significant as it suggests that Mabel will not be defeated by George despite all his efforts.
It may also be important that George and Mabel appear to have found happiness in a world that is in reality alien to them. The comforts that Mabel might have known in England are no longer and she lives in a totally different environment. Which may leave some readers to suspect that there is a depth to the love between George and Mabel. She was prepared to travel half way around the world and marry George. Life may have been easier for Mabel if she had stayed in England and not moved to Asia to marry George. Though as mentioned previously Mabel appears to be a determined woman who when focused on something ensures that she succeeds. If anything Mabel may be the stronger of the two characters and may not be as affected as George is by the long absence between them. Which may suggest that Mabel is the more resilient of the two characters or the more practical. While George may be somewhat of a nervous disposition. Something that is clearer to the reader by the stance that George originally took when he fled form Mabel rather than marrying her. Regardless of this it is also clear to the reader that George and Mabel are very much in love.