The moon and Sixpence is a delightful literary work. Its chapters are be analyzed in many ways from different points perspectives. Thus, I decided to choose only one character and to interpret it by the help of some quotations. I am going to expose my impressions through protagonist’s characterization. I enjoyed the tone of the novel, atmosphere, title, plot structure and other elements, but all of them are written and depicted only for the sake of putting in relief, the main character’s profile, a great and hard work that has resulted in Charles Strickland’s biography.
The narrator shows us what Charles Strickland is really like explicitly. Despite this, there are moments when the reader can deduce some of the character’s features by means of descriptions, dialogues, and flashbacks. The point is that the direct characterization prevails the indirect on. It can be observed throughout the entire novel.
The central objects of our interest are Charles’ unrest and struggles of mind. We, the readers, are revolving around his personality and looking at it from any angle we want.
Firstly, it is a complex and dynamic character, though, from the very beginning, he seemed to be a flat and static one. In appearance, he is too ordinary: he was just a good, dull, honest, plain man. One would admire his excellent qualities but avoid his company.
Even if he was recognized as a respectable member of society, a good husband, and father, an honest broker, there was no reason to lose one’s time over him.
The narrator confessed that considered Charles a zero until he met him in Paris for a discussion about his wife. Charles Strickland left her for the sake of painting, and, as she did not understand his soul’s aspirations and motions, he preferred to look for his inspiration far away from his family and his habitual social circle. They were fettering him; their conservatism paralyzed his inner call to art. He needed freedom, but instead of that, he was bound to their style of behavior and could not express himself as he wished.
After having a talk with Charles the narrator noticed that in his voice could be heard the true passion. Something cruel and irresistible was dominating him, similarly as the devil would possess this man and it could tear or destroy him at any moments. It is a terrible and powerful force that seethes inside him and determines Charles to change his life according to his own beliefs. He was cold blooded and blind to everything excepting the disturbing visions of his soul. All that did not relate directly to painting is either ignored or hated by Charles Strickland.
Those who knew him only superficially said that he was a simple egoist. But was it true? The whole life of this man was a ruthless rejection of the material, or as it is said in the novel itself: his life was strangely divorced from material things, and apparently, the body, at times, wreaked a fearful revenge on his spirit.
He could not overcome his passion, it kept in his spirit in chains, meanwhile, he was dreaming about a time when he would have no desires and he could completely surrender to his work.
He is revolting against all that is standing between him and his incomprehensible attraction.
He is utterly insensible and there was no room for prudence or gratitude in his heart. He was powerless in the grip of an instinct, which had all the strength of the primary forces of nature. It looked like he had only one instinct, the one of creativity.
The revelation comes under various guises and people respond to it in different ways. For Charles Strickland, a gradual process grew slowly but steadily until it took over his whole being and forced him to act.
Strickland had a fanatic’s directness and apostle’s ferocity. He had no weakness and did not know the temptation. He was indifferent to comfort, to fame and money; he did not depend on other people’s opinions and was not discouraged by their underestimation. He really did not care for their attitude that others could adopt regarding his actions it made him “a monster who has lost his human face”. “Strickland was an odious man, but I still think he was a great one”.
He was tormented by his passion to which, he was devoted, and stuck as a fly in a cobweb. Otherwise, he was a martyr whose target was higher than all that is bound by the flesh. To put it metaphorically, he was a disembodied spirit searching for the ineffable. Among the chaos of the Universe, he found a new form and in an immense mental anguish, he clumsily tried to reproduce it.
What he needed was the release. It seemed that he saw the soul of the Universe and was obliged to express it through his work: “His satisfaction is a sense of liberation”. His passion was to create beauty. It gave him no rest and was chasing him from country to country. His talent penetrated into the hidden depths of nature, and there opened a secret – beautiful and frightening. His pictures were exposing his visions: something that humans are not allowed to see, like the secret Garden of Eden. It was primitive and terrible. Moreover – inhuman. It shamelessly betrayed how the lost paradise would look if it existed; it was his personal lost paradise that he reached back just before his own death. He got pacified: working in silence, knowing that this was the last chance when the peace descended on his long-suffering, rebellious spirit. He was ready to die because he fulfilled his intended purpose. His masterpiece accompanied him in the afterlife; he ordered his wife to burn it down right after he passes away.
The novel "The Moon and Sixpence" is a "tragic novel that describes the fate of the brilliant artist, the inexplicable mystery of his personality." Its prototype Charles Strickland is the famous French painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). This view is shared by many researchers: M. Zlobin, G. Ionkis, V. Skorodenko, R. Calder, J. Meyers, and others.
Maugham was interested in the life and work of an outstanding post-impressionist. In the book “Summing up,” we read: “... and I decided to go to Polynesia. I was drawn there since I read The Low Tide and The Mystery of the Ship as a boy, and besides, I wanted to gather material for a novel I had long conceived based on the life of Paul Gauguin ”[Maugham 1991: 148]. In addition, this particular interest in the French painter was manifested in Maugham as a result of communication with the Irish artist Roderick O’Conor (1860-1940), whom the writer met in Paris in 1905 [Meyers 2004: 118]. O'Conorus personally knew Gauguin on Pont Avens (Brittany, France) from 1894. In early 1917, Maugham decided to travel to Tahiti, where he spent about a month talking with people who knew Gauguin, visiting places associated with an artist, etc. However, there are both similarities and differences between the hero and his real prototype.
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin) was born in Paris on June 7, 1848. At the age of 17, he joined the crew of a merchant ship and made several long voyages. At 23, he began a successful but short-term business career in Paris as a stockbroker. In 1873, Gauguin married Danish Matt Sophie Gad. In the next ten years, Gauguin's position in society became increasingly successful: he had a comfortable house in the suburbs of Paris, his beloved wife bore him five children, financial successes allowed him to engage in collecting works of the Impressionists. Gauguin did not receive a full-fledged art education, not counting several lessons of impressionist Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). The exchange crisis of 1882 pushed Gauguin to an important decision: he left commercial activities to devote himself entirely to painting - all this led him to poverty and to break with his family. In early 1891, the master arranged an auction of his works in order to make a trip to the island of Tahiti with the money received. Disappointment in the French colonial life forced him to go deep into the island, where the artist saw other people - people living in harmony with nature. Naturalness, the feeling of freedom from chilling norms and conventions became for Gauguin the embodiment of the earthly paradise and the golden age of humanity [Kovalev: electron. resource].
Disease and poverty forced Gauguin to return to Paris in 1893. Two years later, he returned to Tahiti. The works of the master of the second Tahitian period are similar to decorative frieze compositions. Among them is the panel “Where are we from? Who are we? Where are we going? ” (1898) is an allegory about the stages of human life. In his latest works, Gauguin embodied the images of an ideal life outside of time and space.
In 1898, almost deprived of livelihood, in complete despair, Gauguin tried to commit suicide. In 1901 he moved to Dominic Island (Marquesas Islands), where, sick and lonely, died May 8, 1903. The artist lived most of his life in poverty, depression and illness, the fame came to him only after his death, when in 1906 In Paris, about 200 of his works were exhibited. There is no doubt that the work of Paul Gauguin had a significant impact on painters of the 20th century.
The fate of the post-impressionist painter and the protagonist of Maugham’s Moon and Sixpence you can find a certain similarity to the fate of Gauguin. Like him, Charles Strickland leaves the job of a stockbroker, leaves the family to devote himself entirely to creativity, and goes to Tahiti. Even as a child, Strickland dreamed of painting and even painted a little, but later the need to provide his family with money forced him to part with his illusions and desires. A year before the breakout, Strickland begins to secretly take drawing lessons, and then finally decides to link his fate with painting. He explains his desire to become an artist as follows: “They tell you, I have to write. I can't help it. When a person falls into a river, it doesn’t matter whether he swims well or badly. He must get out of the water, otherwise he will sink” [Maugham 2010: 56].
The desire to create becomes all-consuming and all-encompassing for Strickland. The conventions of the world that surrounds him are alien to him. The last years of his life Strickland spends in Tahiti. But, as on the continent, on the island his paintings are just as incomprehensible to the people around him, he is an unrecognized genius. And only after the publication of the article in the journal, when Strickland is no longer alive, there appears a true interest in his work.
Using facts from the biography of Paul Gauguin, Maugham explores the personality of the artist, presenting the reader with an ideal creator who can neglect material goods for the sake of creativity, a sense of freedom of the spirit. The hero managed to give up everything in order to find himself, to put his ideas into practice. At the beginning of the novel, the narrator - an aspiring writer who is personally acquainted with Strickland - declares: “I think that the most interesting thing in art is the artist’s personality, and if it’s original, I’m ready to forgive him thousands of mistakes” [Maugham 2010: 5-6]. Thus, from the first lines the greatness of the Maugham hero is affirmed. Strickland, like Gauguin, comes to comprehending the true meaning of life, which both creators see in art.
However, the image of Charles Strickland cannot be identified with the personality of Paul Gauguin. The writer does not set as his goal the biography of the postimpressionist artist. He wants to show the ideal creator who feels Beauty and is eager to express it. Using Strickland as an example, Maugham shows a person who is able to follow his irresistible desire to create. He is indifferent to fame, he does not care about the opinion of the crowd, his behavior is sometimes striking in its immorality, but Maugham is convinced that the artist’s personality is revealed in art. Only in a world far from civilization, does Strickland gain complete freedom. On the island of Tahiti, his individuality is revealed in full, it is there that he creates his best creations. In addition, as J. Meyers points out, “Maugham portrays his hero as less morally repulsive, unlike his real prototype. It is known that Gauguin died of syphilis, his lover was 14 years old. In the novel Maugham Strickland dies from leprosy, Ate in the work of 17 years" [Meyers 2004: 137-138]. In our opinion, such a comparison (and, accordingly, a statement) is not so significant when comparing two images, but there is a place to be.