Of Human Bondage: Chapters 10-14

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Summary of Chapters X-XIV
 
The Careys decide the boy must go to the prep school attached to King’s School, Tercanbury, where the clergy send their sons to prepare for Holy Orders. Philip is a little frightened for he has read stories about going to school. Even driving up to the building is a bad omen, for it looks like a prison. They are greeted by the headmaster, Mr. Watson, who is unbearably and forcefully cheery and loud. He shows Philip to the playground and introduces him to another boy, Venning.
 
Venning asks about his clubfoot and asks to see it. When Philip refuses, the boy kicks him hard in the shin. Philip is so surprised he does nothing. Other boys arrive and talk about cricket. Philip explains he can’t play because of his clubfoot.
 
He is awakened in the morning by a bell in his own dormitory cubicle that contains a bed, chair, and washstand. There are fifty boarders and many day students. After prayers with Mr. Watson, there is a sickening breakfast of bread and poor butter. The other boys have treats from home like potted meats or can buy bacon and eggs. Philip decides he will write to Aunt Louisa for some extras.
 
On the playground, he sees the day-boys, considered inferior because they are from local people or merchant families. Philip is put into the lower-second form class with Master Rice, who has a nice manner with the boys. On the playground, however, the boys play a running game, and because he limps, Philip cannot play well. The boys imitate his clumsy run and torment him. He is frightened and does not understand why he is being attacked. When the boys go off to play football, Mr. Rice kindly shows Philip the way to the field where he watches them. He is excused from sports because of his foot.
 
At night, in the dormitory, the boys beat up on him until he shows them his clubfoot. They express disgust. He stifles his tears in his pillow in his humiliation. In time, they lose interest in his deformity, but he becomes extremely sensitive and withdrawn. The biggest bully, Singer, dislikes him and gives him a hard time. In one way he is triumphant and that is at the game of Nibs, when the boys gamble for nibs or pen tips. Philip wins from Singer, but Mr. Watson had forbidden this form of gambling. When the two are caught, Watson canes or hits Singer as punishment, but he doesn’t hit Philip, saying “I can’t hit a cripple” (XII, p. 48). The other boys scorn him because he got off for being a cripple. In fights with the other boys, he is forced into backing down, and this misery makes him dread the future.
 
Two years pass, however, and he has earned a different kind of respect as being almost at the top of his class. He will be head boy, with all his collection of prizes. Yet this is a difficult time of life, for he is twelve and entering adolescence, where the narrator explains, a person becomes aware of himself as an individual. This is not a pleasant awakening for Philip who finds himself cut off from others because of his disability. He is forced to think for himself.
 
He is surprised to find himself making up stories to another boy who breaks his pen-holder. He begins to cry and says it was given him by his mother before she died. He cries as if the lie were true, and then feels remorse. He is worried that the Tempter is forcing him to sin.
 
In a wave of religious feeling that sweeps the school, he joins a Bible League and discovers the verse about prayer being able to move mountains if one has the faith. He decides to pray for his foot to be healed. He gives a date for the miracle, by the end of Christmas break, and prays with his whole heart. When it does not heal, he asks his uncle why prayers are not answered. The vicar says it means faith is not great enough. Philip is disillusioned, thinking probably no one ever has enough faith, for he had truly tried.
 
 
Commentary on Chapters X-XIV
 
The narrator shows us the formation of mind and character as Philip begins to grow up. We see the seminal incidents in his life. For instance, it is only at school that he truly becomes aware he is a “cripple.” Until school, he has been around few people and none his age. In English schools, as in most other private or public schools, children can be cruel to one another. They engage in power struggles without sympathy or understanding. This was even worse for Philip, who is sensitive, and made to feel different, shut out from society. He does not have a chance for the same give and take with others, to get a perspective on his life, or find common ground. This mirrors Maugham’s own difficulty with his stammer.
 
As before, his outlet is through the imagination and intellect. He excels at his studies, and yet, he cannot understand why he made up the lie about the pen to get sympathy.  He believes his own lie because he has a good imagination to act out his part, and as was said before, the line can become blurred between imagination and reality. In fact, when he is bullied, “It seemed to his childish mind that this unhappiness must go on for ever” (Chpt. XI, p. 46). He thinks he is living in a bad dream, and that one day he will wake to find his mother. This motif is repeated when he is unhappy: life is a bad dream; it is unreal.
 
Philip is terrified by his own temptation to manipulate others for sympathy, since he can’t win their admiration. The admirable thing about Philip is that he is unusually reflective for a young boy. But is this a blessing or curse? The narrator intrudes with his analysis. He says that although every child becomes aware that it is a separate and individual body, not every one becomes fully conscious enough to be an individual personality. The luckiest people are not conscious of themselves, for “their activities are shared by all” (Chpt. XIII, p. 50). Philip is forced to live the inner life of the mind; “he was forced to think for himself” (Chpt. XIII p. 50). In this way, he is alone, though conscious, able to come to his own original conclusions about life. This is both good and bad, for he may not be accurate in his assessment: “He made his own experience into a general rule” (Chpt. XIV, p. 56).
 
This ability to form his own conclusions is seen when he prays to God to heal his foot. When it does not happen, his uncle’s explanation that a rejected prayer means there was not enough faith does not make sense to him. He knows he tried with every ounce of innocent faith he had. He concludes his uncle doesn’t know what he is talking about or else God demands too much: “I suppose no one ever has faith enough” (Chpt. IV, p. 56). While he was praying, he tried to be as uncomfortable as possible, freezing in the cold, assuming that prayers were more acceptable to God if he was uncomfortable. These are all the remnants of the Victorian religious belief he is about to slough off, making him too full of doubt to take Holy Orders.
 

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