Monday, November 9, 2009
"Rain" by W. Somerset Maugham
Rain is a story about the logical and emotional edifice that is human ideology, which is built in a foundation in the brain of a savage animal.
W. Somerset Maugham studies a contrast of characters in this short story. A cynical first world war doctor is travelling to the South Pacific to adjourn himself from stress and recuperate from an illness. He and his wife meet and befriend a pair of devout missionaries along the way. The missionaries are proud of the progress they've made converting an island's native population the Christianity, but their methods are cruel.
The four are quarantined together on an island due to a smallpox outbreak. On this island, they meet a prostitute, whose soul the missionaries take a direct interest in saving.
The story is brief, but it gives a very unflattering view of devoutly religious behaviour. Psychologically assaulting the young prostitute, and with the threat of sending her to jail, the missionaries cow her to their will. For them, the ends justify the means, but their behaviour is very much unethical.
It is clear that it is wrong to pursue of an ideal to such an extreme that the methods used surpass human decency. Maugham gives a great example of this in Rain, and a good read as well.