William Somerset Maugham’s The Ant and the Grasshopper: The Literary Implication of Unmasking George’s True Nature

Keywords: George Ramsay, Tom Ramsay, Value, Compassion, Baruch Spinoza


In his 1938 autobiography, The Summing Up, Maugham makes a direct and lucid interpretation of how he observes life and its values as he says, “For art, if it is to be reckoned as one of the great values of life, must teach men humility, tolerance, wisdom, and magnanimity.” (1945, 303). The conventional way of teaching and adopting ‘value’ is shattered in Somerset Maugham’s short story The Ant and the Grasshopper. An autobiographical undertone clears the mystery of his intention as the story begins in the middle of a conversation between the writer himself and George, one of the characters in the story. Using literary devices like image, irony, and allusion, Maugham exerts his philosophy of defining value in the manner of unmasking the shell. Maugham rails against the labeled truth by alluding to Aesop’s fable. By reversing the story line, he showcases the paradoxes of life. The multifaceted variations of the term ‘Truth’ are denoted in a rather amusing way through the depiction of the character Tom Ramsay. Influenced by Baroch Spinoza’s ethics, Maugham inverted the labeled definition. The implications made through the story endorse the freedom of the individual to be true to his or her nature. By weaving a dramatic and well-knit plot, Maugham intends to exhort lessons regarding human nature and circumstance to their nature and situations. The dramatic twist shown by inverting Aesop’s fable makes it an exemplary tale about individual tolerance, altruism, and understanding, which are, according to Maugham, the values to be nurtured and brought to perfection. This study attempts to show how George’s true nature and feelings are unveiled to expose the hypocrisy prevalent in the  cosmopolitan urban world.

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