Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham

Salvatore - W. Somerset MaughamIn 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.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 4 Oct. 2017. Web.


  • But it might also be noted that the story Salvatore was kind of an experiment by W. Somerset Maugham who wanted to see if he can paint a picture of man using just one quality that is ‘goodness’ and see if he can draw the reader’s attention to it therefore the words ‘I wonder if I can do it’ can be seen at the beginning.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment and insight Claustrophobic.

      • I also want to ask a question. The author said that the eye of the girl whom Salvatore loved was like forest pool and she held herself as Caesar’s daughter. I didn’t quite understand this. Can you please help Dermot.

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          It is possible that Maugham is suggesting that Salvatore’s girlfriend had eyes that a man would happily get lost in (forest pools). Similarly by calling her a daughter of the Caesars Maugham may be suggesting Salvatore’s girlfriend was like an empress.

          • A thousand thanks to you for your post and answer. Your content is a great evaluation of the story and it helped me a lot. I hope you keep writing these wonderful posts. The world needs to profit from your knowledge and perspective to look at things.

            P.S I have an exam tomorrow and your post was a valuable help so a thanks again.

  • This helps me a lot. Thanks.

  • We are teaching this in school and ur post is valuable

  • Salvatore is referred to as a character who reflects just “goodness”…But we see his first reaction when he hears about Assunta- “she’s as ugly as a devil”…

    Does this reaction (the words which he uses) not create an ambiguity in his “goodness” thereby culminating in Maugham’s slight failure in coming up with a masterly portrayal of a character of just “goodness”?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I think there may be a difference between ‘goodness’ and perfection. Salvatore is not perfect. He aims to be the best that he can. Though may still have failings. As all humans do.

  • It really helped me a lot to improve my notes ….. moreover it proved to be a great help for my exam too …. This story is quite osm from a viewpoint of a student as it contains many features that a teen finds in his present life situations…… so overall it was osm experience by reading ur valuable post

  • Dude this is great thanks man .. appreciated …

  • How do we know that Salvatore has not been forgotten by his girlfriend

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Salvatore’s girlfriend is up to date with Salvatore’s illness while he is away (by way of letters sent by Salvatore and by word from Salvatore’s friends). She hasn’t forgotten him. She just doesn’t want to marry a man who she believes ‘would never be strong enough to work like a man.’

  • It has helped me a lot

  • There is a name for the protagonist, there is a name for his wife…but why there is no name for his ex- fiancée?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Maugham most likely wants to keep the readers focus on the wife rather than on the ex-fiancée. She after all is there for Salvatore.

  • What role did assunta play in the life of Salvatore what message does it convey to you

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Assunta provided security and happiness to Salvatore. Though she was not as pretty as Salvatore’s ex-fiancée. She is the better woman.

      • Thank you….But if the same question is asked for 8 marks then?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Maugham may be suggesting that looks or appearance aren’t everything. If anything Salvatore’s ex-fiancée is shallow and lacks substance. Assunta is the opposite.

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