Of Human Bondage: Chapters 69-72

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Summary of Chapters LXIX-LXXII
 
When Philip goes to his rooms one day, he finds Mildred waiting for him. She cries and says her husband left her, and she is expecting a baby. Philip’s heart opens, for he has never stopped loving her and now he pities her, for she is more humble. Philip offers to help, but she soon admits she was never married to Miller, for he was already married with children. She claims Miller lied to her.
 
Philip is so happy to be with Mildred, he misses his appointment with Norah. She sends a telegram, and he replies coldly, not wishing to see her. The next day he wires her again that he is busy. He becomes absorbed again with Mildred. It becomes clear to him, however, that she ran off with Miller because she preferred him to Philip. She promises to do anything he wants now, and he is amazed to see her humbled. They become companions again, and he sets her up in an apartment, though he can’t really afford it.
 
Philip feels guilty about Norah and forces himself to go to her place to say good-by. He knows she loves him, and he doesn’t want to hurt her but is suddenly repulsed by having been with her. When they talk, he realizes she is worth ten of Mildred, but he loves Mildred and not Norah. He isn’t able to tell her.
 
He helps Mildred move to the new apartment where she will await the arrival of the baby. He likes to sacrifice for her and renews their intimacy, as though they were married, spending happy days with her.
 
Finally, he fights with Norah, and she tells him not to come back. He is glad it ended so easily. He sees Mildred reading one of Norah’s silly romances. He speaks to his friend Griffiths about Norah and Mildred and thinks he has handled it all quite well.
 
Norah, however, tries to make up, and finally Philip has to admit that Mildred is back. Norah is devastated and so shaken that Philip has to see her home in a cab. She does not reprimand him, but he feels heavy. He goes to see Mildred every day, pretending to be her brother. When she is afraid of the birth, he comforts her. She begins spending too much of his money, but he is generous. He worries that she doesn’t want the child, and she even hints she wishes it would be still-born.
 
They arrange to go to Paris together afterwards, when she will give herself to him for all his generosity. He says she owes nothing, but he still wants her. She has a baby girl, and Philip says, “Now I feel you’re mine at last” (Chpt. LXXII, p. 384).
 
Commentary on Chapters LXIX-LXXII
 
It is a bit shocking that without a thought Philip throws over a woman who sincerely loves him and makes him happy for one who is merely using him. It illustrates his point that humans do not behave rationally, and that when love strikes, one will do anything to satisfy it. Though Maugham tells the story like a reporter, mostly from Philip’s perspective, it is clear to the reader that Mildred has not changed that much.
 
Philip thinks she has changed, for she is gentler and agreeable, not so rude. In fact, there is plenty to suggest she is just looking for a way out of her situation. He is troubled by certain clues but doesn’t think about them. For instance, he once thought Mildred wanted security and marriage with Miller, but he begins to wonder why she went off with him, suspecting it could have more to do with her passion. He had thought her cold. Her “new thoughtfulness” (Chpt. LXIX, p. 365) is no doubt her manipulation to play on his sympathy. He is also surprised by her skill in lying to others about her situation.
 
When he contrasts Mildred and Norah, he chooses Mildred though she is not the better person for him: “the important thing was to love rather than to be loved; and he yearned for Mildred with his whole soul” (Chpt. LXX, p. 369). He admits that Mildred is “heartless, vicious, and vulgar, stupid and grasping” (p. 369), and yet, “It delighted him to perform menial offices” (Chpt. LXX, p. 370).
 
Philip tells Norah that one always loves, and one is loved. This idea of love as a cruel and one-sided game is a tragic view of life (“human bondage”). Norah is in shock because she perfectly trusted her love for Philip, and the end is not her fault. Maugham portrays love as a hit and run affair, like a car accident that has no logic. Norah concludes that men only treat a woman well when she is beastly to them. It is incomprehensible why Philip prefers Mildred’s vulgar gossip and selfishness to Norah’s intelligent and cheerful kindness.
 
The most disturbing thing for Philip is not Mildred’s lack of love for him but for her coming child. He is puzzled by Mildred’s lack of motherliness. Norah is a mother who has done all for her child, but Mildred considers it will be a burden to her getting a job. In Philip’s chivalry, he is willing to take them on as his own wife and child. One knows that the irony of his seeing Mildred as a Madonna is surely going to lead to some tragic discovery. He is consumed with the “desire for self-sacrifice” (Chpt. LXXII, p. 383).
 
 

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