The Escape by W. Somerset Maugham
In The Escape by W. Somerset Maugham we have the theme of pity, dishonesty, escape, selfishness, dignity and freedom. 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 pity. Roger appears to feel sorry for Ruth and this seems to be the reason as to why he wishes to marry her. It is as though he wants to look after her, to protect her from the world. However for Ruth the reality is very different. She is more interested in Roger’s money and the lifestyle that he can provide her with. If anything the love affair between both Roger and Ruth is one sided. With Roger through his pitying of Ruth falling in love with her. It might also be important that the narrator can see through Ruth. Something that is noticeable by the fact that when Ruth loses money to the narrator while playing cards. She does not pay her debt. Rather she takes on the role of a victim. Something that Ruth does for the entirety of the story. Playing the victim. If anything Ruth is dishonest in character. Fooling each person that she meets till she gets what she wants.
It may also be a case that Maugham is exploring the theme of escape. The narrator begins the story with a tale of man who ran away to sea so that he didn’t have to marry. Also Roger changes his mind about marrying Ruth but rather than running away from her he wears her down by the process of viewing so many houses. With the intention of not buying any of them. It is as though Roger has seen through Ruth but he does not wish to be seen as the one who is ending the relationship. He wants Ruth to do that. Which she eventually does. The reader discovers how manipulative Ruth actually is by the fact that within a week she has found a new man to marry and intends to marry him after only meeting him. Ruth’s number one concern throughout the story has and is herself. If anything Ruth is selfish. Everything about her is for her own personal gain. She thinks of nobody but herself. Which may be the point that Maugham is trying to make. He may be suggesting that some women are manipulative to such an extent that they will marry not out of love but out of a desire to improve their lives. Having never loved their husbands.
Overall Maugham does not shine a favourable light on Ruth. There is no mention of her being able to support herself and it seems to be a case that it is Roger who is supporting her. However it is also possible that Maugham is placing a spotlight on the society that existed at the time the story was written when women would not have been treated as equals to men. It may be a case that many women married not out of love but out of necessity to improve their lives and social standing. Ruth may just be an example of the many women in English society who were forced to marry not out of love but due to their dependence on the male. Either way Roger is not falling for Ruth’s advances or game playing and as such decides to tire Ruth out by visiting so many houses. The reader is also left to assume that the narrator is a single man. His stance when it comes to marriage is that he is against marriage. He sees women as being like birds of prey swooping down on the unsuspecting male.
The end of the story is also interesting as both Ruth and Roger manage to maintain their dignity despite the break down in their relationship. However it may be important to note that it is Roger who allows Ruth to keep her dignity by his polite response to Ruth’s letter. It is also interesting that Roger includes a list of houses in his letter. He may be having the last laugh having completely seen through Ruth and if anything he is relieved that they are no longer courting. He can also afford to be a little bit sarcastic by including the list of houses for Ruth to view. Knowing that Ruth will not register the fact that he is being sarcastic. Roger has acted like a gentleman throughout the story even if he did play Ruth at her own game. He kept her happy till she tired of him and moved on to the next man. By the story end there are no real losers in the story apart from Ruth’s perspective husband. Roger has freed himself of Ruth and Ruth has gotten what she wants. A wealthy man who will look after her. How happy Ruth will be is unknown but her thirst and appetite for things may stretch her new husband to his limits. Though this is not something that Roger has to worry about. Roger is a free man again.