Of Human Bondage: Chapters 98-102

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Summary of Chapters XCVIII-CII
 
Philip has won a moral victory over his life, but he still has much testing ahead of him. He has not yet tasted the bitterness of poverty. He, like the rest of the country, is affected by events out of his control. The Boer War in South Africa drags on, costing Britain troops and money; meanwhile the stock market fails, and Philip, like many, loses all his money. He has no money to finish school or even to live on.
 
Hayward of all people, joins the military and leaves for South Africa. Philip questions Hayward about why he is going, since he doesn’t really believe in patriotism. He hardly feels himself English. War is a mysterious draw for men. Philip would go too, except for his lameness. Philip writes to his uncle of his situation and asks to borrow money. His uncle writes back, refusing. In panic, he writes again saying he is desperate. His uncle gloats over his own prediction that Philip is a spendthrift. Philip should be supporting himself.
 
Philip pawns his clothes and all his belongings. He falls short on the rent. He had never thought he would not have enough to eat. At least on Sundays he can get a meal at the Athelnys. He applies for medical posts, but he is not yet qualified. He looks for translation jobs in the papers and any other kind of work. He thinks of suicide if things get worse. He is ashamed of his poverty and tells no one. His landlady sees he is hungry and offers him dinner, but he refuses.
 
When he can’t pay his rent, he decides to sleep in the open. It is June, and he sleeps on benches for a few days. He is hungry, and he cannot believe someone from his class could starve. He has no idea what to do. He borrows a little money from Lawson for food but doesn’t tell him what is the matter. He starts joining lines of men who apply for every job, but he has no experience. He sees the same men each day. He wishes he could go to war with the others. Pride prevents him from going to the Athelnys for Sunday dinner.
 
Finally, in a state of starvation, he drags himself to the Athelnys the next Sunday. They are not fooled. Sally remarks, “He’s just skin and bones” (Chpt. CI, p. 545). The Athelnys understand poverty and take him in. He knows they live hand to mouth and that he must get a job. Athelny says he can get him a place where he works, at Lynn and Sedley, linen-drapers, or a large department store. Philip is hired as a shop-walker in a frock coat, directing shoppers to the right department in the store.
 
Commentary on Chapters XCVIII-CII
 
Though Philip has become flexible about class and class issues over the years, he still has been part of the privileged upper classes. He has treated the poor in his hospital work with sympathy, but he has never been subject to their problems. Now, he becomes just one of the masses, struggling for survival. All his thoughts, learning, refinement, mean nothing. He finds what Monsieur Foinet had predicted was true, that poverty is not romantic. It makes people stupid and stunted and desperate. Philip loses hope and contemplates suicide, perhaps understanding Fanny Price’s fate. Like Fanny, he is too proud to ask for charity and only goes to the Athelnys for dinner. He doesn’t think they will guess his real state. It is significant that Sally notices his thinness, for she will play a larger role in the story later on.
 
Philip has Thorpe Athelny for an example, for he is a learned aristocrat, reduced to working as a copywriter in a department store to keep his lower-class family, and yet he has adapted and remained cheerful. Athelny understands Philip’s position as Lawson could not. Lawson is a sort of social friend who might give him a handout, but Athelny knows how to give the kindness that can solve a problem and lift Philip up to become self-sufficient.
 

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