Mr. Know All - Essay

596 WordsDec 17, 20123 Pages
This story by English author W Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) is about culture, manners, outward appearances, values and – most importantly of all – prejudice. Prejudice exists because it is human nature to stereotype new people we meet based on race or how they look before getting to know them. Themoral of the story can be summed up in the English proverb: “You should not judge a book by its cover”. Maugham was a popular English author of plays, novels and short stories, and is said to have been the highest paid writer in the world during the 1930s. He traveled widely, and was one of the best known writers of travel stories in the period between the first and second world wars. This story, which takes place on a ship, is one of those travel stories. The central theme is stated in very first paragraph. From the start, the narratorexpresses his prejudices against the man with whom he must share a cabin on the ship (Mr Kelada). Later, we learn that he dislikes Kelada’s name, his belongings, his appearance, his manners and even his pride in being British. In this story the prejudice has nothing to do with class as the narrator and Kelada are sharing a room and so must be traveling in the same passenger class. In fact, the narrator’s comments about the number of travel stickers on Kelada’s suitcases, the size of his wardrobe trunk, and his expensive toiletries and monogramed brush suggest that the narrator may bejealous because Kelada appears to be either more wealthy or moresophisticated than he is. As the story develops, the narrator changes from referring to Kelada by name to using the term “Levantine”. When Britain took over part of the Levant at the end of the First World War, some in the new government used the term “Levantine” as an insult to local people of mixed Arab and European blood. This suggests that the narrator’s prejudice against Mr Kelada is an

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