Of Human Bondage: Chapters 110-111

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Summary of Chapters CX and CXI
 
Philip spends the Christmas holidays with his uncle, who is dying. Philip has to keep pretending that his uncle looks good, but Mr. Carey is completely helpless and cared for by his housekeeper, Mrs. Foster. Philip thinks it strange that his uncle has been preaching eternal life for decades and yet is afraid to die. He looks around the house, gauging the worth of every item for sale. He thinks how easy it would be to kill the old man with an overdose of medicine and he is horrified that he had such an idea. His uncle, intuiting his thought, tells him he must not look forward to his death or it will not profit him. Philip hears that Miss Wilkinson has married, and he feels the loss of his own youth without the accomplishment he thought he would have by now.
 
In the summer he receives a letter that his uncle is actually dying, and he hurries to Blackstable. The doctor says he is keeping him alive on drugs, but it can’t last. The housekeeper thinks that something is on his mind, and he won’t let go until he has confessed. Finally, his uncle asks to have final communion. He holds Philip’s hand in fear. Philip is overcome with compassion. The vicar, Mr. Simmonds, comes to give communion, and to hear a final confession. Philip is astonished, for afterwards, his uncle is serene and happy. It seems a miracle to him. His uncle dies in peace.
 
Commentary on Chapters CX and CXI
 
Uncle Carey is the last of Philip’s family, and though he did not feel close to him and wished for his death so he could resume his own life, he feels compassion watching him die. He cannot understand how the final sacraments eased his uncle’s soul, but he is happy for him. This death pretty much closes out his past life.
 
Maugham is very honest with all of Philip’s worst emotions, as well as reporting his more unselfish ones. His desire to kill his uncle is momentary and born of frustration. His conscience will not let him do such a deed. Perhaps Maugham includes it because he wishes to show that a human being contains the whole range of life, from noble to bestial. Even his sensitive hero can be guilty of gross passion, stupidity, and mistakes, although what makes him differ from others is restraint and conscience, and above all, the ability to grow.
 
For all the philosophical discussions about morality and the meaning of life, there are some fundamental values that the book, through Philip, seems to endorse: love, compassion, respect, non-violence, work, and charity. These are Christian values, but Philip finds them after he loses his religion on a personal level. With the inheritance, he is able to finish his schooling and take up his right work. Nevertheless, the two years working with the rest of the masses at the department store has been valuable in teaching Philip what is worthwhile in life. It has connected him on a more intimate level with other human beings. The chip he has carried on his shoulder since school is gone.
 
 

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