In 1925 William Somerset Maugham wrote a unusual love story about a married couple, a story so different from the typical ones we usually read.
Kitty Garstin marries a bacteriologist, Walter Fane, but within three months of her marriage she knows that she had made a mistake, even if it had been her mother's fault even more than hers.
Moreover her decision comes from her desire to be married before her sister and to be free from her family.
We understand that Walter Fane loves her madly. He would do anything in the world to please her.
He was like wax in her hands, but she doesn't love him, he leaves her indifferent.
In fact she falls in love with another man, Charlie Townsend.
Walter discovers their relationship and wants to punish his wife in the most atrocious way.
Of his own free will, he decides to go to the plaque-ridden city of Mei-Tan-Fu. Here there is a cholera epidemic.
He obliges Kitty to follow him as he wants to kill her: she can die of cholera.
It is the same situation we find in Dante's "Purgatorio", where the poet tells a tragic love story between Pia de' Tolomei and her husband.
The man suspects that his wife is unfaithful and he decides to kill her.
He brings Pia to his castle in Maremma where he hopes she will be killed by its noxious fumes, but as she takes too long to die, he throws her through a window.
Pia dies and she starts her purification after her death.
On the contrary, Kitty survives and she starts her moral growth like Pia.
In Mei-Tan-Fu there was a medical missionary ruled by nuns, where Kitty decides to work to help orphans.
Here we assist to her change. The past is finished; let the dead bury their dead. She can't know what the future has in store for her, but she feels in herself the strength to accept whatever was to come with a light and buoyant spirit.
The city of the pestilence was a prison from which she escapes. Freedom! Not only freedom from a bond that irked, and a companionship which depressed her; freedom, not only from the death which had threatened, but freedom from the love that had degraded her; freedom from all spiritual ties, the freedom of a disembodied spirit; and with freedom, courage and a valiant unconcern for whatever is to come.
Freedom from lust and vile passions, free from Charlie, from his vanity, from his worthless creature. She is not that hateful, beastly, lustful woman. She disowns her. It wasn't her that laid on that bed panting for Charlie when her husband was hardly cold in his grave and Charlie's wife had been so kind to her, so indescribably kind. It was only the animal in her, dark and fearful like an evil spirit, and she hated it.
“The dog it was that died.” says her husband to her before dying of cholera.
He quotes a line from a poem by Goldsmith, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog”, where the dog and the man are friends, but when the dog bites the man, people thinks the dog is going mad.
They believe the man is going to die, but it is the dog who unexpectedly dies.
We find the same circumstances in the " Painted Veil": Walter is the dog, Kitty is the man.
Walter's evil plan doesn't work and he dies like the dog in Goldsmith's elegy because the man, his wife, was more poisonous than the dog's bite.
Walter becomes a victim like the dog because of selfishness, superficiality and betrayal of the society.
His revenge plan is worse than Kitty's betrayal.
She thinks that perhaps a generous heart might pity rather than condemn her, now that she was free to live the clean and healthy life of the soul.
When she discovers to be pregnant, she wants a girl to not make the mistakes she made.
She is going to bring up her daughter so that she is free and can stand on her own feet. She is not going to bring a child into the world, and loves her, and brings her up, just so that some man may want to sleep with her so much that he is willing to provide her with board and lodging for the rest of her life.
Kitty had been foolish and wicked and hateful, but now the veil, the painted veil, covered by her mistakes and egoism has been unmasked, and she can see the truth.
We have to remember that the title of the novel comes from the sonnet " Lift not the painted" by Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the most important poet of the nineteenth century.
Shelley compares the reality and the appearance.
Lift not the painted veil which those who live / Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there, / And it but mimic all we would believe / With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear / And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave / Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear. / I knew one who had lifted it—he sought, / For his lost heart was tender, things to love, / But found them not, alas! nor was there aught / The world contains, the which he could approve. / Through the unheeding many he did move, / A splendour among shadows, a bright blot / Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove / For truth, and like the Preacher found it not. like in Shelley’s theme, as well as not wanting to see of veiling signifies hiding the truth.
bella storia, l'intreccio in cui l'autore fa giostrare i suoi personaggi in modo di catturare la tua attenzione e concentrazione, scritto in modo esseniale che non ti fa cogliere subito la profondità dei gesti, delle azioni e comportamenti dei vari personaggi così ben tracciati ma che ti lascia un senso di gratitudine e ammirazione per lo scrittore e per chi te lo ha consigliato...Continua
I found this story quite beautiful and loved the novel. Until it ended. It was not that the ending was bad, but that the ending wasn't in the right place. Obviously it is the author's prerogative to pick some segment of time in which to narrate a finite storyline, but I felt like the characters were just beginning to develop and the author just stuck a giant THE END sign at the bottom and called it quits. Despite the unsatisfactory ending I suppose I still liked the book a lot, though I say that a bit grudgingly because of the distress this untimely finish undoubtably caused....Continua