william somerset maughams the lotus eater

Q: Sketch the character of Thomas Wilson. Is the name ‘lotos-eater’ appropriate to him? Ans. William Somerset Maugham’s compelling short story ‘The Lotus Eater’ paints his 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. 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. Though he survived the mortal attempt, he was no longer in his right mind. Then one fateful morning, he was found lying on the mountainside with his eyes closed for ever. The author recalled Wilson saying that he had come to the island on a moonlit night.

Hence, he assumed that Wilson had breathed his last while feasting his eyes on a breath-taking sight in the moonlight. It is noteworthy that the title of the story ‘The Lotus Eater’ is remarkably appropriate to the character of Wilson. The lotus eaters in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ were the mariners of Ulysses who forgot their friends and homes after consuming the ‘lotos’ plant on Lotus-land. Having consumed the plant, the mariners broke into a memorable chorus. The chorus worded the anguish that came with toil, as also the joy that they had in that blissful life of leisure and inaction.

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