About the Author
William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) is one of the great English writers. He still enjoys vast popularity as a story writer. He was born in Paris where his father was a solicitor attached to the British Embassy in France. He lost his parents when he was only ten. He was sent to the U.K. to be brought up by his paternal uncle Henry MacDonald Maugham, the vicar of Whitstable. He attended The King’s School, Canterbury. At sixteen, he refused to continue in this school. His uncle allowed him to travel to Germany where he studied literature, philosophy and German.
Somerset Maugham’s father and his three elder brothers were all distinguished lawyers, yet he did not follow in their footsteps. He also rejected a career in the church (probably due to a stammer that stayed with him all his life). He joined medical profession to become a doctor.
Maugham published in his first novel Liza of Lambeth in 1897. It was so successful that he dropped medical profession and embarked on a literary career. Though his next ten works never came close to the rivalling success of Liza, Lady Frederick in 1807 was very successful. By 1914 he had established himself as a famous writer. Besides his autobiography The Summing Up, his other popular works include The Magician and Of Human Bondage. He breathed his last on December 16, 1965.
About the Story
‘Salvatore’ is the story of a person who, according to the narrator, possesses “the rarest, the most precious and the loveliest” quality that anyone can have, and that quality is goodness. The protagonist of the story, Salvatore, is a usual fisherman’s son. He is madly in love with a pretty girl who lives on the Grande Marina. They are affianced but they can’t marry till Salvatore has done his military service. Salvatore leaves the island and becomes a sailor in the navy of King Victor Emmanuel. He weeps like a child because separation from his beloved is unbearable to him.
It is very hard to live in a battleship with strangers. He feels terribly homesick. He remembers his fiancee whom he loves with a passionate heart. He falls ill of some mysterious ailment that keeps him in hospital for months.
When he learns that it is a form of rheumatism that renders him unfit for further service , he feels rather happy. He is happy that he could go home now and meet his beloved. But, when he returns from the military service, the girl of his heart refuses to marry him. He starts a new life without her but the loss hurts him and stays in his heart forever.
The story is told by the narrator in the first person. The narrator is an acquaintance of Salvatore. Nothing more about their relationship is known. Told in a simple, straightforward manner, the story focuses on the essential aspects of the protagonist’s life.
A fisherman named Salvatore : The narrator begins his life history of Salvatore, the protagonist when he is a young lad of fifteen. He has an attractive face and carefree eyes. Like all fishermen’s sons, he knows swimming very well. His father owns a little vineyard where he acts as a nursemaid to his two younger brothers. When he grows up the falls madly in love with a pretty girl who lives in the Grande Marina. She has eyes like forest pools holds herself like ‘a daughter of the Caesars’. They are engaged but they can’t marry till Salvatore has done his military service. As per the requirement, Salvatore leaves the island to become a sailor in the navy of King Victor Emmanuel. He is very unhappy. It is very difficult for Salvatore to live in a battleship with strangers. He feels dreadfully homesick. It is painful for him to be parted from the girl whom he loves so deeply. He writes to her long ill-spelt letters in which he tells her how constantly he thinks of her and how much he longs to be back home to see her.
Salvatore’s illness : Salvatore visits Spezzia, Venice, Bari and China. In China, he develops some mysterious illness. He stays in a hospital for months. He learns that this disease is a form of rheumatism and due to this he is rendered unfit for further service.
He is rather happy to learn about it because he can now go home. The doctor tells him that he would never be quite well again. But Salvatore pays no heed to it.
Back home : Salvatore returns to his hometown. He is welcomed home by his parents and brothers on the jetty but his anxious, eager eyes fail to see the girl of his heart there. He is disappointed. He asks his mother about it but she fails to give a satisfactory reply.
Sad and heart-broken : In the evening, Salvatore goes to the house of his beloved. He receives a cold welcome from her. She tells him that they had heard about his illness and that he would never be quite well again. They are silent for a little while. Then Salvatore’s fiancee, nudged by her mother, tells him bluntly that she cannot marry a man who would never be strong enough to work like a man.
Starts a new life : Salvatore returns home . He weeps on his mother’s bosom. He is terribly unhappy but he does not blame the girl. A few months later on the advice of his mother, Salvatore marries a girl named Assunta who is older than him. They settle down in a small house. With a little money that Assunta has, they buy a boat and a handsome vineyard. They live happily and have children, two boys, whom Salvatore loves very much. He works very hard all through the fishing season and at other times in his vineyard. Often his rheumatism prevents him from doing anything at all, then he lies about the beach and takes rest. It is his innate goodness that has enabled him to endure the hardships of life boldly and patiently.
The beauty of the inner goodness : One of the themes of the story is that there is nothing like innate goodness. Salvatore is a common, simple-hearted fisherman. When he is rejected by his beloved and fiancee, he is sad and heart-broken. But he does not say a harsh word of the girl he has loved so well. He moves forward in life and marries a girl who is ugly. But he remains devoted to her. The narrator, towards the end, points out a rare quality in him that shines in him brilliantly , and that quality is “Goodness, just goodness”.
Ill-effects of hearsay : Another theme which is rather obvious is about a common human weakness. For most people the things spoken about oneself are more important than the man himself. That causes lots of difficulties and misunderstandings which ruin the happiness of persons involved in the case forever. After returning from military service when Salvatore meets his fiancee, she tells him bluntly that she cannot marry him. In fact she and her parents have heard that Salvatore can never be well again. On the basis of this they have made up their minds that Salvatore can never be strong enough to work like a man. So they will never give consent for marriage. A lot of nonsense that the doctor talked has created such misunderstandings that Salvatore’s hope are dashed to the ground. He is sad and heart-broken . However , he begins life anew and proves that the hearsay about him was just nonsensical.
The message of the writer can easily be drawn. It is the beauty of a man is defined not by his inner characteristics, but by his inner world. This idea consistently helps us to formulate the controlling idea of the novel – more than often mankind forgets about morals and inner world of man and that is much valuable than his outer features. In other words – the only valuable quality of goodness is much more than many unimportant and unnecessary ones. Salvatore possesses one quality. Salvatore has essential goodness. He marries an ugly looking girl but adjusts himself so well with his life that he never complains. He remains contented with his lot.
Since the whole story revolves round Salvatore, its title ‘Salvatore’ is quite appropriate. It describes the early youth, love, marriage, and finally settling down of Salvatore to a peaceful life.
The focus of the story remains on the protagonist. Other characters, except Assunta , are not given any names for they are insignificant. It is Salvatore who draws our attention by his simple, straightforward life. We are moved when he is rejected by the girl who mattered to him the most in his life. We cannot fail to appreciate that he is sad but not embittered by her unexpected reaction on her parents’ bidding. He utters not a single harsh word on her. With Assunta, his wife, he leads a hard but happy life. He is really an embodiment of the rarest of human qualities called goodness.
Salvatore is the protagonist of the story. The whole story revolves around him. He is a pleasant, hard working, noble and kind-hearted fisherman. He is an embodiment of the loveliest and the rarest quality anyone can have, and that quality is goodness.
In spite of being an ordinary Italian fisherman he holds the reader’s attention during the whole story. Salvatore is a static characters because he doesn’t change in the story. He is a very sensitive guy. This quality is really important and interesting for the reader to understand. When his beloved tells him bluntly that she cannot marry him because he is not strong enough to work like a man, he does not compel her to agree. But he weeps on his mother’s boson. He is terribly unhappy but he does not blame the girl. He knows that a girl cannot afford to marry a man who might not be able to support her. That is why, he does not complain, nor does he speak a hard word of her. Salvatore a strong man. He can hold on to his feelings.
Another quality of Salvatore is that he is really a hard-working person. When the story begins we learn that he helps his father to look after his younger brothers. He is very diligent. Even at the end of story, after his marriage with Assunta, he works hard all through the fishing season. At other times, he works in his vineyard. Despite his disease, which Salvatore got during military service, he continues to work hard. The writer tells us, “He (Salvatore) was working in his vineyard from dawn till the het drove him to rest and then again.” Often his rheumatism prevented him from doing anything, still after taking rest for a short while, he would continue to work.
A lot of people may think that he is lazy but it is not true. He is really hard-working. The doctors told him that he would never be quite well again. But Salvatore proved it to everybody that it was a mistake.
Salvatore is a kind person. He has extremely good manners. When the parents of his beloved prohibit her for marriage with Salvatore, he makes a decision that is unexpected. He lets the girl go. He realizes that no girl could marry a man who might not be able to support her. This is the only right decision in relation to his love. The author says, “He had the most beautiful manners.” This quality of Salvatore makes the readers love him. They feel that Salvatore is extremely good and well mannered. He has a lot of troubles in his life but he does not change.
Salvatore’s goodness remains in focus. He possesses nothing in the world except this quality which is the rarest, the most precious and the loveliest. It shines in him with radiance. No wonder by the time the story ends, Salvatore leads a good life with his wife, children and property.
Assunta is one of those human beings who are rational and practical. She represents what we can call inner beauty – the beauty that shines through good deeds.
Assunta is introduced to the readers by the mother of Salvatore as a young woman who is willing to marry Salvatore. According to Salvatore, She is “ugly as the devil”. She is twenty-four or five, older than him. She had been engaged to a man who, while doing his military service, was killed in Africa. She has seen Salvatore at the fest, and since then she had fallen in love with him.
Assunta is a mature girl. She is practical and materialistic. She has a little money of her own. With this she thinks that she can win the young man whom she secretly loves. Very cleverly, she tells Salvatore’s mother that if her son marries her, she can buy him a boat of his own. Moreover, they can also take a vineyard which, at the moment, is without a tenant. This offer works well. Salvatore goes up to High Mass at the parish church, has a look at Assunta and gives his consent for marriage. They get married and settle down in a tiny white-washed house.
Their marriage proves happy and fruitful. Assunta loves Salvatore. They have two sons and they lead a happy life. Assunta, with the passage of time, becomes a grim-faced female with decided features. She looks older than her years but she has a good heart and is quite sensible.
Interesting story : ‘Salvatore’ is a gripping story. It is told in such a way that we remain curious as to what is going to happen to this simple-hearted young fisherman. When he receives the most crushing blow to his self-respect by the girl whom he loved so much we hope to hear some nasty words about her. But Salvatore shows no bitterness. He goes on to accept a girl whom he compares in ugliness to the devil. And yet he remains happy and faithful.
Throughout the story his character does not change. He is basically a good character, and like many static characters, he is simply lovable.
Narrative Style : The story is told by some acquaintance of Salvatore in the first person. We do not know much about the narrator. Whoever he is, he is a great admirer of Salvatore. That is why, the last line focuses on one great quality of Salvatore – and that is goodness. The narrative is chronological and straightforward.