W. Somerset Maugham Explores the Different Meanings of Success in The Razor’s Edge
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In The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham explores the different meanings of success, through the conflicting ideals of his characters. The different interpretations of success are shown prominently through the views of Elliott Templeton and Laurence Darrell. Elliot for most of his life views success as becoming socially eminent and Larry believes success is happiness and the reaching of a state of enlightenment. The epigraph of The Razor’s Edge, “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard” (Katha-Upanishad as cited by Maugham) applies to both Larry and Elliott because both of them had to get over significant hurdles in their views in order to find peace within themselves. In my opinion, success is when a person feels a sense of accomplishment when they realize they have reached their goals in life.
In my opinion, Elliott Templeton has a thoroughly misguided view on the true meaning of success for the majority of his life, and this has resulted in his snobbish attitude towards the lower classes of society. Elliot’s views a successful person as someone who is a prominent social figure and well-acknowledged by others. Elliott’s narrow-minded views in life are apparent when in his frail condition, he shows little concern for his health and focuses on, “The best party of the season! If I were on my deathbed I’d get up for it. I’ve got the costume of my ancestor, the Count de Lauria, to wear” (Maugham 226), showing that social gatherings and his view on success mean more to him than his own life. Elliott holds the belief that even in Heaven there is, “…no doubt that I shall move in the best society in heaven…. It would be highly unsuitable to lodge the hoi polloi ...
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...from seeing it as a necessary evil. The difference between Elliott and me, is that Elliott’s definition of success depends on acknowledgment from social peers, and my definition of success rather relies on my own motivation and judgment on my success in life. The similarities and differences among Larry, Elliott, and my views shows just how different people look at success in different ways.
There are many different facets to success, and W. Somerset Maugham explores these different aspects through his diverse set of characters in The Razor’s Edge. However, Maugham makes each of his characters value success in only one way, without considering that in the real world every person values success in several different ways. My own definition of success is an example of this, because I value success through material accomplishments and through its intangibles.