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Bestselling Novels of the 20th-Century

W. Somerset Maugham

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First Edition Publication Information The First Edition was published by Doubleday, Doran, & Co., Inc., in Garden City New York. It was printed at the Country Life Press in Garden City, 1944.
First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both? The First Edition was published in black cloth.
Edited and/or Introduced? The book is neither edited nor introduced.
Illustrated? There are no illustrations.
General Appearance

The book displays a classy appearance with a midnight black dust jacket, goldish lettering of the name of the author and the author's symbol, and off-white lettering of the title. The print and margins are both average in size. The chapters begin one-third of the way down the page and the sections of each chapter are marked with bracketed roman numerals. It is bound in smooth black cloth, blocked in blind on front with author's symbol and on spine in lime yellow with head and tail ornamental bands and lettered: W. SOMERSET | MAUGHAM | The Razor's | Edge | DOUBLEDAY | DORAN. Cream end-papers; top edges cut and stained yellow, fore-edges uncut, lower edges cut or roughly trimmed. Leaves measure 19.7 X 14 cm. The dust jacket consists of a black background with goldish and off white lettering on the front. The format is very similar to the title page, only it lacks the Katha-Upanishad quote, it lacks the publisher, place and date, and contains a Time Magazine praise of the novel at the bottom. The spine of the dust jacket is the same as the spine of the book with the exception of |A NOVEL| inserted underneath the title. The rear cover contains a portrait of the author drawn by Gerald Kelly, R.A., and a praise of Maugham, his other works, and his writing style underneath the portrait.
Description of Paper The thick, cream colored paper seems to be in relatively good condition considering the date of print of the edition. It contains cream end-papers; top edges cut and stained yellow, fore-edges uncut, lower edges cut or roughly trimmed. The leaves measure 19.7 X 14 cm.
Description of Binding Smooth black cloth, blocked in blind on front with author's symbol and on spine in lime yellow with head and tail ornamental bands and lettered: W. SOMERSET | MAUGHAM | The Razor's | Edge | DOUBLEDAY | DORAN. The binding is stitched.
Title Page Transcription [2-line quotation from Katha Upanishad]| The Razor's Edge |A NOVEL | BY W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM | Doubleday, Doran, & Co.,Inc., | GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK |[author's symbol on right on imprint with date below] 1944
Manuscript Holdings Information unavailable.
Other Katha-Upanishad quote, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard. Time Magazine Praise: "Deserves to rank after OF HUMAN BONDAGE and THE MOON AND SIXPENCE as one of Maugham's three major novels." There was a special edition of 750 copies of the novel printed slightly before the first edition. Even before this the novel was serialized in Redbook in Dec.1943 and Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., and May of 1944. The price of the First Limited Edition was $6.00 where the First Trade Edition was $2.75
Other Editions: There was a First Limited Edition of 750 copies. This edition has a Certificate of Limitation inserted with the following inscription: This edition is limited to 750 copies numbered and signed by the author of which this is No. ... The rest of the pagination is the same, but the binding differs. Binding: Plum buckram boards, bevelled edges, blocked in blind on front with author's symbol; on flat spine black skiver leather label gold-lettered between ornamental cross bands: THE| RAZOR'S| EDGE |W. Somerset| Maugham| DOUBLEDAY DORAN. Plain end-papers; top edges cut and gilt, other edges uncut; leaves measure 21.2 X 14.3 cm. In slip case. There was also a First English addition published by William Heinemann LTD in both London and Toronto.
First Edition printings or impressions? There are 750 copies of the Limited First Edition printed. There were then two other printings done, the American First Trade Edition and shortly after the English First Trade Edition.
Editions from other publishers? The date given is the first date of publication by each company: Blakiston Company: 1944-1945; Triangle Books: 1946; Cardinal (paperbacks): 1955; Pocket (paperback): 1945; Continental Book Co: 1947; Penguin Books: 1954; Armed Services (oblong paperback):1945
Last date in print? Viking Penguin books is still printing a mass market version and a Twentieth Century Classics Version as of 1999.
Total copies sold? All 750 copies of the Limited Edition were sold. Other figures not available.
Sales by year? No information available.
Other promotion? No information found
Performances in other media? A motion picture based on The Razor's Edge was released in 1946. Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Edmund Goulding with a screenplay originally by Maugham himself, but taken over and finished by Lamar Trotti. Actors include Tyrone Power as Larry Darrell; Gene Tierney--Isabel Bradley; John Payne--Gray Maturin; Anne Baxter--Sophie MacDonald; Clifton Webb--Elliott Templeton; Herbert Marshall--W. Somerset Maugham; Lucile Watson--Louisa Bradley; Frank Latimore--Bob MacDonald; Elsa Lanchester--Miss Keith; Cecil Humphrys--Holy Man; Harry Pilcer--Specialty Dancer; Cobina Wright--Princess Novemali. Nominated for four Academy Awards. Won Best Actress catagory, Anne Baxter as Sophie Macdonald.

A second movie version was released in 1984. The Screenplay was adopted by John Byrum and Bill Murray, and it was directed by Byrum. Actors: Bill Murray--Larry Darrell; Catherine Hicks--Isabel Bradley; James Keach--Gray Maturin; Theresa Russell--Sophie MacDonald; Denholm Elliot--Elliott Templeton; Peter Vaughn--Mackenzie; Brian Doyle-Murray--Piedmont; Stephen Davies--Malcolm; Saeed Jaffrey--Raaz.

The 1946 movie sticks fairly close to Maugham's novel, dialog, and intent. The Murray version has a tendency to vere away from the book. For example, the Murray version has the Larry Darrell character an ambulance driver a la Hemingway rather than a pilot. There are also long scenes in Tibet as Darrell/Murray meets his teacher as well. The Indian sage in the novel is based on the southern Indian holy man Sri Ramana Maharshi. The Ramana ashram is in the southern temple town of Tiruvannamalai located along the bottom slope of the "holy hill" Arunachala, very much different from the Himalayas as depicted by the Murray movie.

Book on Tape: Brilliance Corps (located in Grand Haven MI) publishes a 4 sound cassettes (11 hrs.: analog, Dolby processed).

Serialization? The novel was serialized in Red Book magazine starting with Vol. 82, no. 2, December, 1943 followed by Vol. 82, no. 3, January, 1944; Vol. 82, no. 4, February, 1944; Vol. 82, no. 5, March, 1944; Vol. 82, no. 6, April, 1944; and Vol. 83, no. 1, May, 1944.
Sequels or Prequels?

Although the possibility of a sequel in the form of a motion picture was discussed between Maugham and Zanuck following the release of the original movie, none was made nor was any attempt done to actually put a sequel on paper either as a screenplay or as a novel. Although not quite a sequel in the classical sense, to find out who Larry Darrell was in real life and follow-up what happened to him post novel see THE MENTOR.

Some people think that Guy Hague was the actual real life role model for Larry Darrel. So who was Guy Hague and is there any chance he could he have been the REAL Larry Darrell?

The theme of the novel, by the way, was taken from an unproduced and unpublished play by Maugham himself, entitled The Road Uphill. The link provides a fairly good exploration of Maugham's play and how the plot line of that play, written twenty years before the novel's publication, parallels so much of the The Razor's Edge and WHY.


William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris, France on January 25, 1874. His father, Robert Ormond Maugham, was a lawyer and English ambassador to France, while his mother, Edith Mary Snell Maugham, was a captivatingly beautiful cosmopolitan woman. Maugham had begun to form a close relationship with his mother, but this was cut short after she died in complications of childbirth in 1882. Utterly distraught and deeply in debt, Robert Maugham died two and a half years later of stomach cancer, leaving ten year old Willie (which was what Maugham preferred to be called at the time) and his three brothers orphaned. He then went to live with his paternal uncle, Henry Maugham, and his wife. While with his uncle, Maugham was educated at King's School, Canterbury, Kent. His uncle wanted Maugham to enter the ministry, but the death of Maugham's parents had turned him toward atheism. He instead attended the University of Heidelberg, Germany for a year, where he received his first true taste of literary works. However, in a year his German sojourn came to an end and Maugham went back to England to study at St. Thomas' medical school, London. He qualified as a doctor in 1897.

Maugham had no desire to practice medicine (he actually had only studied it as a fallback career), and he began his literary career. From 1897-1914, a period which Maugham called this combined apprenticeship and transition period, Maugham wrote eight novels, fifteen plays, one collection of short stories, and a volume of non-fictional prose. His first success came in his novels, when Liza of Lambeth was published in 1897. The first of his true novels, Liza of Lambeth displayed the formula that the rest of his novels would consist of, a mixture of personal experience, tradition, and instinct. His main published works up to 1908 were all either novels or short stories. However, in 1908, Maugham had his first successful attempt with drama, and three of his plays, A Man of Honor, Schiffbrüchig, and Mademoiselle Zampa, received acclaim. Maugham then abandoned fiction for the next few years and continued to work with his drama. He wrote a handful of new plays, but they were not as well received as his first few. Maugham was financially stable from his early success, and his failure in drama only drove him back to fiction.

Maugham entered his finest period as an artist with the release of Of Human Bondage in 1915. This semi-autobiographical cathartic tale of Maugham's childhood and school years gained great critical acclaim and pushed Maugham into the forefront of fiction writers. The next years of his life were a flurry of personal and creative happenings. He released The Moon and Sixpence (1919) and Cakes and Ale (1930). He also published a large amount of short stories throughout the twenties that gave him authority as a short fiction writer. Meanwhile, in Maugham's personal life, he began to have an affair with Gwendolyn Maud Syrie Barnardo Wellcome, and although still married to her husband, she bore Maugham a child in 1915. The two eventually married in 1917, but ultimately divorced in 1929.

Maugham began writing plays again in the mid-twenties, culminating with Sheppey in 1933. However, it was proven again that Maugham the playwright was not as effective as Maugham the fiction genius, and he once again turned to fiction. WWII had a great effect on Maugham, and from his enforced domicile came the novel The Razor's Edge (1944). The novel was the story of a young American war veteran's quest for a satisfying way of life, and once again Maugham put great amounts of his own personal experience with his disenfranchisement with life and the way society lived it. The novel became the fourth of Maugham's classics, and would be his last great work.

In the later years of his life, Maugham attempted essay writing and an autobiography entitled Looking Back. Before his death, Maugham burned all the unpublished manuscripts that he had and he begged friends to destroy his letters. He died in Nice, France on December 15, 1965.






After its release in April of 1944, The Razor's Edge was panned by many reviews, which found the novel as shallow and implausible. The writers of The Punch, a London literary magazine, called the lost American turned Eastern prophet Larry Darrell an "implausible, flat character." Malcolm Cowley states of the novel, "But for all its sex and saints and high society, Razor's Edge is one of Maugham's weaker novels; better than The Honor Before the Dawn, but a long step down from even Cakes and Ale. When you consider that his first book was published in 1897 and that, during a career of almost fifty years, he has produced very little first-class work… you sometimes wonder why people go on reading and reviewing him seriously." Cowley goes on to describe the heroine in the novel, Sophie MacDonald, as overly degraded and Larry Darrell as an unconvincing "Hindu Saint." However, Time Magazine contrasts this view of the character by saying, "even to those readers whose concern with the Absolute is strictly limited, Larry's quest will be neither implausible nor ridiculous. Despite his interest in extraterrestrial matters, Maugham remains throughout on very good terms with the world."

The two main reasons for the bad press were Maugham's representation of American life and his attempt at religiosity. Maugham is quoted in a Time interview as saying, "I don't think one can ever really know any but one's own countrymen… I do not pretend that [the characters] are Americans as they see themselves; they are American seen through an English eye." Maugham's portrayal of American high society was depicted by critics as flat and unimaginative, and they stated that this detracted from the protagonist's rejection of the aristocracy and embracing of his new "faith."

This "faith" is questioned by many critics because of the fact that Maugham is a man who denounced religion at a very young age, following the death of his parents. Cowley writes that "it is hard to imagine anyone more unsuited by temperament to write a religious novel," and he says that "his new book is advertised as 'the story of a man who found faith,' but the faith is unconvincing in itself and extraneous to the rest of the story." The Punch also harps on the fact that the religious discovery is unfulfilling and lacks the power to become an essential aspect in the novel. However, the times once again counteracts this review by stating that "Perhaps twenty years ago Maugham could not have written about either mysticism or Americans… Now age and art have refined his feelings to a vanishing point. The Razor's Edge is a crowning triumph of that virtuosity."

The Razor's Edge became an instant commercial success. Receiving relatively poor reviews from critics seemed to have little effect on sales, which totaled 1,367,283 copies by the middle 1950's. It was Maugham's best selling book in the states, over Of Human Bondage and The Moon and Sixpence, which both received greater critically acclaim.


Although much has been written on Maugham's life and works since his death in 1965, except for the online works by the Wanderling, whose thesis relates how he met and knew the person in real life that Maugham used as a role model for the Larry Darrell character, backed up with tons of documentation and footnotes, there has been little else written specifically on The Razor's Edge. However, in a collection of essays on Maugham's writing style and influences, his works have been compared with Joyce, Elliot, and Woolf. In "Somerset Maugham as a Writer," Frank Swinnerton relates Maugham's work with these great authors by displaying his definite realism in contrast to their metaphysical nature. Maugham found semi-conscious writing as "distasteful." Swinnerton states that "Maugham did not want to psycho-analyze those whom he met in his travels and brought to book. They were simple." Maugham states of his own work, "On talking though it seemed to me that I aim at lucidity, simplicity, and euphony. I have put these three qualities in the order of the importance I assigned to them." Swinnerton states that this style of writing is "exactly what intelligent people now need in an author."

In "MAUGHAM AND THE WEST: the Human Condition: Bondage," author Mildred C. Kuner writes, "the oblique construction of the book is one of Maugham's happiest inventions… in Maugham's unique use of first person, the narrator is an entertaining host describing to his quests a series of events which he witnessed and which are indisputably authentic."(see) This technique, used in The Razor's Edge, became a popular writing style in the mid-fifties and early sixties.

Maugham's adoption of eastern culture was considered very exotic for the times. His focus, as explained in Klaus W. Jonas' "Maugham and the East," was to achieve freedom from the boundaries of western contemporary thought. Many of his plays and other novels take place in the east as well. Maugham's use of Hindu philosophy has since been acclaimed by critics as forward thinking and expansionary. Although still considered somewhat flawed, The Razor's Edge has gained more esteem as a novel as the years have progressed, keeping it in the forefront of American bestsellers.


The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over;
thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.


This opening quote sets the tone for W. Somerset Maugham's final novel, The Razor's Edge. The quote is actually a translation of a Vedanta text, the Katha-Upanishad of the Taittiriya school of the Yajur Ved, which is a religious story in the Hindu culture that culminates with a poor and pious Brahmana's search for Enlightenment. In Maugham's work, this quest is carried out by the novel's protagonist, Larry Darrell. However, the story is not only a search for faith, but also a satirical view of high society and a reaffirmation of the American spirit. These factors thrust The Razor's Edge onto the bestseller list, and made it the most successful work of Maugham's great career.

Maugham begins the story by confessing his apprehension about writing it. He states, "I have never begun a novel with such misgiving. If I call it a novel, it is only because I don't know what else to call it. I have little story to tell and I end neither with a death nor a marriage." In fact, Maugham's beginning is not totally true. Maugham wrote The Razor's Edge in utmost confidence, as he was at the pinnacle of his career as both a playwright and a novelist. He was already well renowned for his two great works Of Human Bondage and The Moon and Sixpence, and he was living at the expense of his publisher, Nelson Doubleday, in South Carolina, to create a suitable environment for writing. Maugham already had the main plot for the story devised. He combined the idea for The Razor's Edge from two of his previous works, a short play by the name of The Road Uphill and a short story entitled The Fall of Edward Barnard after a scroungy young American that Maugham describes as having unkempt, uncut hair, his face concealed by a thick brown beard, wearing a frayed shirt, threadbare coat with holes in the elbows and shabby grey slacks, a man that he "never set eyes on before in his life" stepped up to his table at a sidewalk cafe in Paris in the early 1930s and they began talking.(see) This gave him, following a series of meetings with the American, the main character that he needed to drive the tale, and in South Carolina, after Maugham travels in India, he was able to create the medium for his players to perform.

Bestsellers have certain consistent qualities that help generate their success. Maugham's novel utilizes these themes to the utmost. They style of a great majority of bestsellers is a narrative style. The Razor's Edge takes this one step further in that Maugham himself is the narrator. Being a well renowned author, Maugham creates a greater sense of credibility with narrator. An author's "objective point of view" is brought up by characters throughout the novel, thus making the reader believe that the narrator is simply an observer of the situation rather than a judge. The development of the characters in the novel is done through Maugham's interaction with them. As Maugham the narrator becomes more aquatinted with the characters, it filters directly to the reader, slowly opening his or her eyes as the story progresses.

Maugham also uses another best-selling technique by incorporating the sentiments of the time into his novel. He taps into the wartime attitude of the nation by making Larry a veteran of WWI. Though WWII brought the country together, it also created new doubt in the mentality of the nation. America was trying to balance its social and economic accomplishments with a spiritual fulfillment that it had lacked since the dawn of industry. Accompanied by the eruption of the Second World War, following WWI, the supposed war to end all wars, these feelings left many American's questioning their faith in life. Larry, as well, comes to question life and society after his good friend Patsy, who had taught him everything he knew about how to survive in the war, gives his life to save Larry's. Seeing his friend die in front of his eyes subsequently throws Larry into a quest for a new faith in God and life. He states of the event that, "the dead look so terribly dead when they're dead." Maugham uses this quote to explain Darrell's dilemma, if there is nothing when one dies, then what is the point of living life. This captures the emotion of the time very well, with many young soldiers having the same feelings of longing for a meaning in life.

When the war ends, Larry comes back a shattered man, and must rebuild his life through his quest for faith. Instead of striving for economic satisfaction in "the roaring twenties," Larry entrenches himself in philosophy books and great literature, searching to bring some sort of meaning into his life. When Larry is discussing his quest with Isabel, his fiancé at the onset of the novel, he tells her, "I want to make up my mind whether God is or God is not. I want to find out why evil exists. I want to know whether I have an immoral soul or whether when I die it's the end." Isabel replies with, "But Larry, people have been asking those questions for thousands of years." This is exactly Maugham's drive. In a time of increasing secularism and doubt in American society, Darrell becomes Maugham's everyman, and the author tries to make Larry's quest universal to the questions that all humans hold. Joseph Warren Beach writes in his review of the novel, "The startling regression to savagery which has marked our time is a challenge to the spirit which literature cannot ignore. We may look in fiction as elsewhere for efforts to set up a faith that can stand against the tides of history, supporting the will and conscience of man against all dismal demonstrations of Malthusian economics and Machiavellian ethics." Darrell is Maugham answer to this call.

The story is begins in the mid 1920's, and carries through the Great Crash of 1929 into the 1930's. It takes place in both Europe and America, with the main focus on Chicago, Paris, and London. There is a concentration on high society and elitism in the get rich quick era of the twenties, but Maugham ridicules it instead of glorifying it, coinciding with the feelings of the mid-forties. He does this by creating a cast of supporting characters who, each in his or her own way, show the faults of elitism in contrast to Darrell's purity of life. They are his tests, and he fights these temptations in a Christ-like manner. The most prominent of these personalities is Elliot Templeton. Rather than first introducing Larry, the great seeker of the novel, Maugham first chooses to present Templeton. In a masterpiece of static character drawing, he paints the clear picture of Templeton, who is deeply entrenched in the world of the French aristocracy, the Paris high life, and the elitist society of the Riviera. At the onset of the novel, Templeton is described as a distinguished man in his fifties, always well dressed and well mannered. Maugham describes his social endeavors as pretentious and self-serving, writing, "He was a colossal snob. He was a snob without shame. He would put up with any affront, he would ignore any rebuff, he would swallow any rudeness to get asked to a party he wanted to go to or to make a connection with some crusty old dowager of great name." After seemingly creating a poor image of Templeton, Maugham writes, "If I have given the reader an impression that Elliot Templeton was a despicable character I have done him injustice. He was for one thing what the French call serviable...helpful, obliging, and kind. He was generous, and though early in his career he had doubtless showered flowers, candy, and presents on his acquaintances from an ulterior motive, he continued to do so when it was no longer necessary." Maugham's satirical apology gives the reader an even stronger sentiment of Templeton's snobbish social attitude. He is a supposed devout Christian, but even uses that to his benefit, gaining financial advice from well-to-do members of the cloth. Throughout the novel, Templeton criticizes Darrell as a "lazy" character, unfit to marry his niece, Isabel, because he will not conform to his socialite background. Templeton rejects Darrell's quest as foolish and believes that he should conform to "the traditional ways" of society in order to make millions and achieve a high social standing, Templeton's view of success and fulfillment.

Isabel Bradley is the next character that Maugham uses to challenge Darrell. Isabel is Larry's fiancé. At the onset of the story, she is supportive of his decision to turn down the jobs he is offered in favor of his "loafing," which involves studying philosophy and literature in search of his answers. However, after Larry moves to Paris, she begins to lose patience with his idea of life. She confronts him about it, and eventually breaks off the engagement, telling Larry that she must live the life that she is accustom to. She turns away love in order to marry Larry's best friend, Gray Maturin, because he is a millionaire and will support her in her lifestyle. Through this, Maugham shows the pettiness of socialites. Eventually, Isabel regrets leaving Larry, and confesses to Maugham that she still loves him. However, she is molded by the conditions of moneyed American life, and becomes a chic, beautiful, greedy, heartless woman, typical of the well dressed, machine-tooled cosmopolitans that rule the "American aristocracy." When Larry plans to marry Sophie MacDonald, Isabel devises an underhanded scheme that eventually winds up breaking them up, displaying evidence that the money has changed her. She is Maugham's portrayal of a good natured woman destroyed by the greed of wealth.


Larry, in the early throes of a deepening quest seeking answers to his questions, begins a sojourn through Europe. During his travel he takes a job at a coal mine in Lens, France and befriends a former Polish army officer and mystic named Kosti. In the process of their friendship Kosti encourages Larry to look toward things spiritual for his answers rather than in books. Larry and Kosti take leave of the coal mine and travel together for a time then part ways. Larry soon meets up with a Benedictine monk and former philosophy teacher Maugham calls Father Ensheim. The two first encounter each other in Bonn, Germany while Father Ensheim is on leave from his monastery doing academic research. When his leave is up and he has to return he convinces Larry to join him at the monastery and continue searching for answers in the spiritual. Although Larry finds the monks at the monastery both brilliant and dedicated he becomes convinced his answers will not be found among their ranks. Father Ensheim, apparently having certain insights other than strictly western spiritual influences, using the Hemis Manuscripts as a ploy, suggests Larry go to India to find what he was seeking. Which he does.

In a destiny laden turn of events initially set into motion by his own quest and bouyed by the suggestion of Father Ensheim, Larry eventually comes to escape the clutches of elitism and attain the knowledge and fulfillment he desires in India. After several years travel in the sub-continent and beyond, Larry ends up in the southern Indian temple city of Madura. A Holy Man in the temple suggests he go to a venerated Maharshi that, says the holy man, "(W)ill give you what you are looking for." Larry follows the holy man's advice and meets with Shri Ganesha, whose understanding of meditation, acceptance of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva point Larry onto a new spiritual path --- which Enlightens him to all the answers. After achieving his Enlightenment in India, Darrell goes back to his friends a content and fulfilled man. Many critics of the novel say that Darrell should not be entrapped in a single religion, but throughout his life, Maugham had not only been an agnostic, but an anti-Christian, as is shown by his portrayal of Templeton's religious values. In addition, these critics fail to see that Maugham's point is not that Vedanta is the means to salvation, but that a renouncing of elitism will not destroy economic success, and will help create spiritual contentment.

These anti-elitist feeling coincide with the newly developing American shift away from the Horatio Alger type "rags to riches" novels, which involve well-born men who fall upon hard times (usually by becoming orphaned) but eventually rise to the top because of their ingrained status and their lucky dispositions. After the depression, American's lost much of their "get rich quick" mentality and began to shift toward positive thinking and the power of the individual. Risk taking took new forms, drifting away from monetary speculation and going in the direction of personal searching. Risks were now taken in the development of the person, and job security and individual drive were beginning to achieve favor in America. Rather than striving to be a millionaire, American's now sought to achieve satisfaction in the ever growing middle class. Maugham has caught this exact concept by showing the shallowness of the elitist life and the true worth and value of the ever self-searching Darrell. In a roundabout sort of way Larry does come from a privileged sort of background. Although both parents died when he was quite young he was raised by a medical doctor guardian. He rejects his background and instead finds his happiness not through millions, but through personal worth and a steady living. However, the turn against elitism is more than just a backlash against the powers of money. Darrell's realization of the Vedanta principles led him to worldliness sought after by the American people.

Darrell has actually found the answers; he has come to terms with God and life, and found that he can live in society not in spite of this, but in accordance with it. Darrell completes the impossible task, he finds faith. In a review of the novel, Cyril Connolly, a leading English literary journalist of the age, writes, "The novel is a considerable addition to the literature of non-attachment, and ranks with Huxley's Great Eminence and Heard's Man the Master as powerful propaganda for the new faith." This faith is the realization of the new American Dream, to couple economic satisfaction with spiritual fulfillment. Maugham wrote this novel expressly for Americans, and he points out the weaknesses of their society through the characters of Templeton and Isabel. However, he creates Darrell as an element of hope, a savior of society. Connolly writes, " Mr. Maugham never forgets the spiritual dust-bowl which every American carries within him, and which he vainly tries to irrigate with alcohol, statistics or labor-saving devices." Darrell is Maugham's answer for America. He is their messiah, and, in Maugham's eye, by following Darrell's example America can be saved. See Larry Darrell's Spiritual Development

The Razor's Edge has been able to attain staying power in American literary society for the reason that its theme transcends time. As shown in other bestselling novels, such as Steinbeck's Winter of Our Discontent and Heller's Something Happened, the theme of America attempting to find the balance between economic success and moral and spiritual happiness. In addition, as the West becomes more and more educated about eastern philosophies, Maugham's Vedanta Enlightenment becomes more accessible to the general public. With greater religious acceptance in the later half of the twentieth century, the Hindu teachings have been embraced as feasible instead of disregarded as impossible. Through Vedanta, Darrell finds peace in God and the world. As long as mankind continues to question its place in nature and search for meaning in life, The Razor's Edge will captivate it and give it hope that a solution is attainable.

(click image for full length movie)



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.






WITH ASSIST FROM: the Wanderling

RESEARCH BY: Brian Scrivani

INSTRUCTOR: John Unsworth, PhD
Dean and Professor
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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  3. Stott, Raymond Toole.
    A Biography of the Works of W. Somerset Maugham.
    London: Kaye & Woodward. 1973.

  4. Weintraub, Stanley.
    Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 10: British Dramatists, 1900-1945 Part 2.
    Ann Arbor, Michigan: Braun-Brumfield, Inc. 1982.

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    (United State Code, Title 17)