I finished reading the book ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham. It uses the character of Philip to demonstrate how human beings, ever after birth, gets bonded by his/her uncontrolled emotions and prejudices. In an attempt to find a meaning of existence, Philip gets entangled in the complexities of life where he finds himself helpless and indecisive. He is in a constant quest to unravel what happiness means but whatever ideals he develops, he fails to abide by them and succumbs to his uncurtailed desires.
Philip, since birth had a club foot and bore an infiriority complex because of that. He wanted to get loved but he didn’t love himself. His own fears, hatred and apprehensions weighed upon him, making him irritable and prejudiced. He met Mildred, a selfish greedy lady, and fell in love with her. She didn’t love him though and continued to humiliate him. He thought he will be able to make her love him, but it never happened, yet he continued to grovel infront of her and spend away his hard saved pennies to satisfy her extravagant desires. It makes a reader question whether he was mad to do that. Perhaps he was insanely trapped by the chains of his own uncontrolled mind.
I believe there are two groups of people- One who lives life in simple terms, that is conventionally, normally. The other group is too curious to accept things immediately. They want to unravel such philosophical dimensions first, like what is life and why are we born. This path is somewhat dicey because in the absence of a firm guidance, one may end up forming ideals which will misdirect them. This second class of people is what Philip represents. His quest to understand the meaning of life leads him to raise fine questions, but in the absence of a learned guide, he ends up making shallow conclusions. It leads him to deny the veracity of the Divine and belive that life is meaningless; human existence is nothing but a biological accident and so there is no such thing as ‘morality’. The purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure and nothing more. Incidentally, he derives joy in inflicting himself pain and succumbing to his maddening desire of wanting the love of selfish Milderd although he hates himself for that.
I would blame the vicar, his uncle, in whose custody he grew up after the demise of his parents. When Philip first began to understand about life and raised such queries like what it meant that ‘with faith one can move mountains’, the vicar answered him coldly and never bothered to understand his curiosity and intentions. Had he tutored the child lovingly, he would atleast have given Philip’s young mind some idea of morality and meaning of life rather than keeping him ignorant because of which Phillip was still struggling with basic questions even during his mature adult days. Having no solid foundational philosophy comparing which he could judge his revelations, he was bound to succumb to any fickle idea that seemed convenient to him at the moment. The result was he failed miserably all the time, hurt himself, and always lived in a state of deception, thinking that he had finally found answers and attained freedom, while in actuality he only strengthened the stranglehold of ‘bondage’ around him.
(PS: I had been missing being a part of Recycled Book Reading Challenge, a wonderful initiative by Mliae. I want to dedicate this review as my October entry for the challenge. It feels so therapeutic to get back to the habit of reading and writing! I am thankful to a friend of mine at office for recommending me this book, and prompting me to read it. It has helped me get back to my reading schedule! )