The Happy Couple by W. Somerset Maugham
In The Happy Couple by W. Somerset Maugham we have the theme of perception, gender roles, hope, independence, connection, identity, fear and self-importance. 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 perception. Miss Gray’s perception of Mr and Mrs Craig is completely different to that of Landon. Should Landon be believed by the reader rather than being a young loving couple who have struggled. The Craig’s may have a dark past. This may be important as Maugham may be suggesting of highlighting how one individual’s opinion about someone can be totally different to that of another person’s opinion. Miss Gray has no evidence to back up her perception of the Craig’s yet Landon does. The fact that Mr Craig faints and that both he and his wife depart with a sense of urgency from their cottage would lend the reader to believe Landon’s version of who the Craig’s really are. If anything Landon may know the Craig’s true identity. Something that the Craig’s themselves are acutely aware of. Through fear they have decided to leave as soon as they could knowing that their past may have caught up with them.
Mrs Gray’s character is also interesting as she appears to be an affable sort of person who easily connects with others. Though she was hesitant to make friends with the Craig’s she still nonetheless does so eventually. It is as though connecting with people is something that Miss Gray likes to do. She may not be an old lonely woman but she still likes other people’s company and is intelligent enough to be able to hold her own when engaging with others. The reader left suspecting that this is the reason as to why the narrator invited Miss Gray to dinner with Landon. Landon himself is also interesting. Particularly his views with regards to women. He does not believe that a woman should be independent and if anything believes they should marry and have children. This may be important as at the time the story was written this would have been the accepted view of society with regards to women. If anything a woman’s place was at home. Taking care of their children and husband. Something which some readers may suggest is an unfair assessment of a woman’s role in society.
The narrator’s reaction to Miss Gray’s perception of the Craig’s is telling. He sees her appraisal of both characters as being fanciful though in reality it may be more wishful thinking by Miss Gray. She may herself be hoping for a man to enter her life. To meet someone who has struggled and then married her. Though some critics might suggest that Miss Gray is merely being a romantic and is not being rational. Love itself is not rational. People fall in love for different reasons and Miss Gray may still have a desire to find a man who loves her and wishes to marry her. Despite the passing of time Miss Gray still has the capacity to love another human being. Which may be the point that Maugham is attempting to make. Miss Gray can still maintain her independence and yet get married. Though in light of the perceptions within society many might consider this to be difficult. Miss Gray on the other hand may not have lost hope. Just as the Craig’s had hoped that the conditions would be right for them to get married. Miss Gray may simply be waiting for the right man and the right conditions. She is also intelligent enough to know what she wants and what she doesn’t want.
It may also be a case that Landon considers himself to be more important than he actually is. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Maugham gives Landon the role of a judge. An important job but Landon appears to view himself as being better than others. Particularly women. Similarly when Landon plays golf with the narrator he wins. It is as though Landon can do no wrong. At least that might be Landon’s opinion of himself. If anything Landon is inflated by his own ego. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Landon was assured that the jury would find the Craig’s guilty of murder. In reality Landon may be a difficult person to get along with. Something that the narrator might have found when he first met Landon. He had concerns about Landon’s personality. It is also clear to the reader that the narrator’s opinion of Landon changed based solely on the influence that Landon had. There is no sense that their relationship is a friendship but more of a convenience. The narrator wants to attend trails and Landon is his gateway to getting a seat in the courtroom. Though Landon might be full of his own self-importance the fact that he recognises the Craig’s cannot be taken away from him. However it might be important to remember that the Craig’s have been found to be innocent by a jury despite Landon’s appraisal of their case.