Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham
In Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham we have the theme of responsibility, acceptance, happiness, dignity and humility. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Maugham may be exploring the theme of responsibility. Salvatore is responsible for looking after his two younger brothers. Which may be important as it suggests that Salvatore’s parents trust him to look after his younger siblings. It is also noticeable that Salvatore is good-natured. He takes everything in his stride particularly the fear he has when he has to enlist in the Navy. Salvatore doesn’t want to leave home but he knows that he must accept the position he finds himself in. He is dignified though at the same time scared about what might happen him considering that he has never left home before. This may be important as Maugham may be suggesting that by joining the navy there will be a transition from boyhood to manhood for Salvatore. There is also no disputing that Salvatore is in love. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Salvatore writes so many letters to his girlfriend. What is also interesting is that the narrator never mentions Salvatore receiving any letters back. Though as readers we know that Salvatore has not been forgotten by his girlfriend. However we do eventually learn that she is not prepared to marry him due to his rheumatism. Which may suggest that Salvatore’s girlfriend is being selfish and putting her own interests first. Rather than sticking to the commitment she made to marry Salvatore.
It is also noticeable that Salvatore when he discovers that his girlfriend doesn’t want to marry him fully accepts the position he finds himself in. Again there is a sense that Salvatore is acting with dignity or as the narrator prefers to say at the end of the story ‘goodness.’ He does not have a bad word to say about his girlfriend. Even though some critics might suggest he has a right to considering that his girlfriend abandoned him. Maugham also manages to make Salvatore human by way of his comment about Assunta – ‘she’s as ugly as the devil.’ Similarly the fears that Salvatore has about joining the navy also make him very human. Assunta is also an interesting character as she seems to compliment Salvatore’s character. She is level-headed and like Salvatore she has a good-heart. It is also noticeable that when Salvatore’s children are born he acts as a good father to them as well being a hard worker (when he can).
Salvatore also appears to be a very humble person. He doesn’t take himself or his situation (rheumatism) too serious. He is content in his marriage to Assunta and he seems to accept his limitations. Doing what he can in the vineyard and fishing. In all likelihood there doesn’t seem to be anything that will faze Salvatore. He has complete acceptance about where he is in life. Which probably helps him to be so humble. There is also no mention of Salvatore wanting for anything. He has his fishing and vineyard businesses and he has his wife and his children. The past is exactly that to Salvatore and if anything Salvatore lives in the present. Where many would wallow in self-pity should their past mirror Salvatore’s this is not the case for Salvatore. He finds joy in the simple things in life. Things like bathing his children in the sea bring Salvatore much happiness. Again there is a sense that Salvatore no matter what circumstances he might find himself in. Will accept whatever is happening to him.
Which is important as life is easier when an individual has the ability to accept everything around them. It is half the battle in living when a person finds the courage to realise that they have no control over outside influences. Salvatore’s ex-girlfriend being an example. Maugham has managed to write a story about a young man who though he has been challenged by life has overcome any obstacle that has been put in front of him. Salvatore has managed to prosper despite incurring difficulties in life and at the same time he holds no ill will towards others. Where many would have been beaten by the rejection that Salvatore received from his ex-girlfriend. Salvatore kept looking forward and found happiness with Assunta and his children. In reality Salvatore is a good man who is dignified and humble. Two character traits that a lot of people in life could learn from. He understands the importance of family and the character traits he had as a brother he has carried through as a father. Life is a lesson and there are some people who learn the lesson well. Salvatore is one of these people. Whatever life has thrown at Salvatore he has accepted his situation, moved on and prospered. Though some critics may suggest that Salvatore is just a simple islander. The same critics could learn a lot by walking in Salvatore’s shoes. Just to see if they too would handle life with the same calmness that Salvatore does.