Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"The Outstation." W. Somerset Maugham.

Review: Mr. Warburton is a British snob. He is the superior official in the outstation, 200 miles from civilization. He dresses in white for breakfast. He dresses in whites for dinner. H smokes his cheroot after dinner. He has a drink at 6 o’clock in the evening before dinner.

And then along comes Mr. Cooper, assigned as assistant to the outstation. He is a slob. The two are the odd couple. He does everything wrong. He does not treat the natives with dignity. He yells at them. He swears at them. And he soon grows to hate Mr. Warburton, the epitome of the civilized Englishman in a barbaric outpost.

Both men grow to hate the sight of each other. Mr. Warburton tries to warn Mr. Cooper to stop mistreating the natives. Mr. Cooper is contemptuous of his advice. One night while he is sleeping his heart is plunged by a knife. He is dead.

Now Mr. Warburton can return to reading his Times leisurely in the morning and dressing in his whites, an English gentleman in a primitive environment.

A study of privileged white colonialists dealing with the strains of isolation in the heart of darkness. Reminds very much of Conrad’s The Outpost of Progress.

Short Story Masterpieces. Ed. RP Warren and A. Erskine. New York: Dell Books. 1954.

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