02 March 2013

MSP: Of Moon and Six Pence...

The book 'The Moon and Six Pence' written by the great writer Somerset Maugham  deals with the story of Charles Strickland, a middle-aged stock broker in London, who leaves his wife and children and moves to Paris in search of Art and Beauty.

After struggling for a long time in Paris, Strickland moves to Tahiti, where he spent his last few years before dying of Leprosy.

During his years in Paris and Tahiti, Strickland created many works of art. The best of them, his magnum opus were painted on the walls of his house, just before his death. After his death, as per his last wishes and the custom in Tahiti, the house was burnt down.

The story starts off when Strickland's wife, convinced that her husband left her for another woman, asks their mutual friend, Maugham, to go to Paris and convince her husband to return to London.

Maugham travels to Paris and meets Strickland. His interaction with Strickland make fascinating reading. In his restrained and subtle way, Maugham elicits the best or worst out of the various characters in the story.

When Maugham tells Strickland that it is wrong to leave his wife for another woman, Stickland replies that he just left his wife, not for any other woman. There is no woman in Strickland's life.

This puts Maugham in a spot. 

He doesn't know if it is right for him to inform the lady that her husband just left her and is indifferent to her. 

The question is, what will hurt the lady the most. Is it the thought that her husband left her for another woman or the knowledge that he is indifferent to her.

I don't remember if Maugham informed her of his findings. I think he did not. He decided that it is more hurtful if the lady knew that her husband was indifferent to her than if she remains with the thought that her husband left her for another woman.


Someone said, 'The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference'.

What a profound statement !!!

If you think that someone hates you, you feel that in the other person's mind, you are important enough for him / her to hate you. If someone hates you, obviously she is thinking about you. You are a part of her life, and you feel that you should mean something to the other person for her to hate you.

In a perverse way, you feel important, you feel happy.

But if the other person is indifferent to you, that is very hurtful. Obviously, in your mind you are important 'For Him' to have you in his life. But, the knowledge that he doesn't care about you enough to hate you? That can be depressing. 

Knowledge that a person hates you do not hurt as much as the knowledge that the person is indifferent. 

Indifference hurts.

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