Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Quest

The Razor's Edge (Vintage Classics)                                    
The Razor's Edge 
by W. Somerset Maugham

"Wouldn't it be better to follow the beaten track and let what's coming to you to come? And then you think of a fellow who an hour before was full of life and fun, and he's lying dead; it's all so cruel and so meaningless. It's hard not to ask yourself what life is all about and whether there's any sense to it or whether it's all a tragic blunder of blind fate." − (p 51)

The Razor’s Edge tells the story of an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. At heart, The Razor's Edge is the story of a young man, Larry Darrell, trying to answer basic questions about life and mankind through knowledge. It's also about taking a different path to modern life, choosing spirituality over money and other material things. The story begins through the eyes of Larry’s friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War. His rejection of conventional life and search for meaningful experience allows him to thrive while the more materialistic characters suffer reversals of fortune. In the end, Larry through his independence from shallow desires is one of the few characters that is truly happy and without regret.

Although the characters or their interactions might be cardboard to some or seemingly complicated to others, the story line itself is fairly straight forward and simple, basically conforming to the classic steps of the hero's quest as laid out by Joseph Campbell and others. Throughout his book Maugham makes fairly blatant hints that the central character, Larry Darrell, is based on an actual person and that the story is based on actual fact. However, nowhere, either before, during or after, does Maugham offer any solid proof that such was the case. I found Larry's quest fascinating even while I did not agree with many of the ideas of Eastern philosophy toward which he seemed to gravitate. However, the independence he achieves is more appealing to me and the quest for wisdom is always worthwhile.

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