William Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Lotus Eater’ Paints Thomas Wilson as Lotophagi ("lotus-eaters")

   In Greek mythology, the Lotophagi ("lotus-eaters") were a race of people on an island dominated by lotus plants. The lotus flowers were the primary foodstuff of the island and it caused the people to sleep in peaceful apathy. When Odysseus and his men landed on the island of the lotus-eaters, they began doing as the natives did, eating the lotus flowers. This caused them to sleep and stop caring about ever going home. Finally, Odysseus managed to rescue himself from the apathy and set sail. symbolically lotus-eaters are the people who live in oblivion forgetting their hardship of life. Now we will discuss how William Somerset Maugham’s compelling short story The Lotus Eater’ paints Thomas Wilson as Lotophagi ("lotus-eaters").

William Somerset Maugham’s compelling short story The Lotus Eater’ paints author's curious meeting with Thomas Wilson, the pivotal character of the story. A retired English bank manager, Wilson, who made the Italian island Capri his own abode, had a good deal of rumour going about him. No believer of all the tittle-tattle that went about him on the island and elsewhere, the author met him personally to discover his real character.

When the author met him for the first time, Wilson, a middle-aged fellow, had already spent fifteen years on the island. As Wilson himself revealed to the author, he fell in love with Capri at first sight. Mr. Wilson came to Capri and lived peacefully and leisurely doing nothing. He simply idled away his time in reading books, playing piano and enjoying the beauty of the place. And Capri was an island of superb sights and sounds so much so that Wilson would enjoy them heartily until the last day of his life. After his retirement, he lived on an annuity that was to last for only twenty-five years, and he wished to live these years to his heart’s content. He was a man who would live in the present caring little about the future. To Wilson, he had justifiable reason to live after his own heart, since he had none on earth to worry about. He loved nature, music and books, which alone could feed the thoughts of a lonely man like him. He preferred leisure to work, for he believed that people worked only to obtain leisure.
Small wonder, after the expiry of his annuity, Wilson fell on worst days and lost the will-power to carry his life any further. With no hopes to live for, Wilson once made an attempt to commit suicide. He was taken to hospital for treatment. Then he was released from the hospital, but he became mentally insane. He lived six more years thereafter. His maid servant, Assunta gave him shelter and meager food. Her husband made him work for them. Then one night he went out to see the beauty of a moonlit mountain and he was found lying on the mountainside with his eyes closed for ever. The author cynically comments that Wilson had breathed his last while feasting his eyes on a breath-taking sight in the moonlight.

      William Somerset Maugham’s short story The Lotus Eater’ paints Thomas Wilson in minute details. However, much of the peculiarity remains undisclosed. The English bank manager, bidding adieu the life of hardship,settles in Capri, an island of superb sights and sounds so much so that Wilson would enjoy them heartily until the last day of his life which
has a great appeal to the readers .It is easy to say that Wilson had no future vision and he preferred a life of oblivious settle at Capri and argued that such a long years of 25 were enough to enjoy a life. Arguably it is also true that he had no vision that after so long days’ of passivity would have crippled his will power and he remained a pity for others at his last days. But a sense of Homeric Lotophagi lives at everybody's heart. Like the mythical lotus eaters we dream of the life of oblivion and leisure. We remain a Wilson as a modern lotus eater.

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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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