If looked precisely, each individual life is a sugar coated tragedy. Sometimes “Sweet” and some other times “Sour”. But looking through a philosophical lens, we have got ample scope for turning the sourness, which occurs irritably at a fast frequency, to a mild sweet and laughable attitude.
In “Razor’s Edge”, Maugham himself is the narrator, rather the “Witness”.
All the main characters are introduced to the witness, by Mr. Elliott, who when Maugham began his literary life, didn’t care him much. But when Maugham began to establish as a writer, had a more warm relation with him.
To give us, a depth of the story, which lies ahead of us, Maugham in the very beginning itself quotes “Kaddopanishath” (a treasure in words for the wise, from the ancient India).
“The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass-over. Thus the wise say, the path to salvation is hard.”
Isabel is Elliott’s niece. She, in her teens now, has a fresh, aromatic approach to everything, and to everybody. The usually seen, typical girl of her age. She is beautiful and is in love with life, with all it’s greenery and freshness and loves to drink the freshness as and when it comes, paying deafness to the intellectual side.
With her we see Larry and Gray.
Gray is as much same as Isabel. He is the only son of a Millionaire, a Stock Market Player. Tall and virile, he can surely upset any girl’s mental equilibrium.
Larry on the other-side is gentle and smooth. May be because of the early war experiences, he is somewhat more matured than others. Later on, as the story goes on, he explains, how he felt the worthlessness of life, on seeing his best friend falling to the trap of death, while trying to save him! With all his coolness, kindness, sympathy and moreover the tolerance, he is an alien to the world around him! (Maybe, Larry is Maugham himself! The idealistic, philosophical inner self of Maugham!)
Who is walking through the razor’s edge here? Larry? Isabel? Gray? Or is it Maugham himself? Or is it we, the readers? Or is it the humanity itself?
The readers have to decide for themselves!
Larry has a mental liking for Isabel. Isabel is madly in love with Larry. It’s quite natural also, as they knew from childhood onwards.
Gray is in love with Isabel and wanted to marry her.
But it was almost decided, that Larry will marry Isabel. They were engaged.
Still, fate had it’s own hidden scenario. It had already created it’s own magic web!
In the novel, Maugham depicts a green picture of life, full of life, blended with vitality and uncertainties. We can see for ourselves, how, we the puny mortals, succumb to pressurizing, agonizing situations!
Elliott, Isabel’s mother and Isabel herself wanted Larry to go for work. As Isabel puts it, “It’s a man’s duty to work.”
But Larry had other inclinations and a totally different out-look of life. He was not ready for the blind play of life, in the true sense of the word!
He is keen on finding, at least some of the hidden truths. He wanted to find answers to some simple, basic questions such as, Life, Death, and God.
But, he simply says, “I want to Loaf.”
A man without an aim! A lost character! Everybody thought. They failed to understand, what he really meant by Loaf..!!
Larry himself explains the logic, the inquisitiveness, which he had experienced during that time, towards the end.
Apart from these main characters, we also can see how Suzanne and Sophie also succumb to situations!
Even-though Larry wanted Isabel and Isabel adored Larry, thing were to happen in a different way.
Isabel had a talk with Larry; regarding their marriage. He said he needed some more time before they get married. He wanted to loaf a little!
By loafing, he meant, not the pure dictionary meaning. He was in pursuit of knowledge. He was after the essence of life and death. He was asking himself very many questions, just like all wise men of all ages had asked. And men with the same mental wave length will ask again and again in years to come!
Larry went to Parris; as the first step towards his journey.
After a year Isabel and mother went to Parris, on Elliott’s invitation. There she met Larry and had another discussion. It was after this, both agreed, with heavy and gloomy hearts, to cancel their engagement! They had no choice! Life and Time have their own master game plans!!
There are many happenings again the novel. So many twists and turns!
Gray was proposed to Isabel and she accepted.
With the usual humdrums, with the usual monotonous melancholies…time flew…!!
Without any hesitations, without any compunctions, without any bewilderment...
With eternal peace in it….
With the magical medicine that heals all the wounds…..
With it’s tranquility….
Gray is broke, with the Securities Market collapse. Isabel, though a loving house-wife, still with her mental infatuation towards Larry, indirectly killing Sophie.
Larry is back, after gaining a lot of wisdom, still yearning for more…!!
All the characters are in pursuit of different things!
And finally what we see? As Maugham puts it, each of them has got a little bit of what they were looking.
Let us also assume that.
What a funny life…!!!