In his story "The Luncheon" Maugham focuses on depicting a single character, as he does so often in his short stories. The woman the narrator takes to luncheon at one of the most expensive restaurants in Paris is exploiting him mercilessly by pretending an interest in his writing which she probably doesn't really feel. At the same time, Maugham, who was twenty years younger at the time of the luncheon he is describing, is pretending to be urbane, gallant, and sophisticated. He has to keep up a smiling, insouciant facade while inwardly he is suffering agonies when his guest, who claims she never eats anything for luncheon, orders some of the most expensive things Foyot's has to offer, including salmon, caviare, and champagne. The fact that she orders everything a la carte probably makes her feel she is just nibbling tidbits.
Part of the irony derives from the fact that the narrator has never dared to go to Foyot's by himself because he is living on a very small income; and further, he has to watch his voracious guest devouring gourmet comestibles while he has to pretend he only wants a mutton chop and a glass of water.
No doubt Maugham is writing about a real-life incident that occurred many years earlier when he was a struggling writer. As he says in his story:
I had a tiny apartment in the Latin Quarter overlooking a cemetery and I was earning barely enough money to keep body and soul together. She had read a book of mine and had written to me about it.
He must have realized, after the fact, that he had been "taken" by this greedy woman who completely understood his financial circumstances. He concludes his tale by saying:
But I have had my revenge at last. I do not believe that I am a vindictive man, but when the immortal gods take a hand in the matter it is pardonable to observe the result with complacency. Today she weighs twenty-one stone.
A "stone" is fourteen pounds, so the woman would weigh 294 pounds--which is not surprising, considering her appetite and what she regarded as "never eating anything for luncheon."
Maugham actually did become a man of the world. He traveled all over the globe looking for interesting characters and picturesque settings. In his day he was the world's most successful writer. His fans enjoyed his writings because he shares his curiosity about human nature and his love for far-away places. In "The Luncheon," the reader has the feeling of having visited one of the best Parisian restaurants and perhaps even having sampled some of the best French cuisine.
The Luncheon - William Somerset Maugham
1646 WordsMay 17th, 20137 Pages
I caught sight of her at the play and in answer to her beckoning I went over during the interval and sat down beside her. It was long since I had last seen her and if someone had not mentioned her name, I hardly think I would have recognized her. She addressed me brightly.
“Well, its many years since we first met. How time does fly! We’re none of us getting any younger. Do you remember the first time I saw you? You asked me to luncheon.” Did I remember?
It was twenty years ago and I was living in Paris. I had a tiny apartment in the Latin Quarter overlooking a cemetery and I was earning barely enough money to keep body and soul together. She had read a book of mine and had written to me about it. I answered, thanking her, and…show more content…
“I see that you’re in the habit of eating a heavy luncheon. I’m sure it’s a mistake. Why don’t you follow my example and just eat one thing? I’m sure you’d feel ever so much better for it.” “I am only going to eat one thing,” I said as the waiter came again with the bill of fare.
She waved him aside with an airy gesture.
“No, no, I never eat anything for luncheon. Just a bite, I never want more than that, and I eat that more as an excuse for conversation than anything else. I couldn’t possibly eat anything more—unless they had some of those giant asparagus. I should be sorry to leave Paris without having some of them.”
My heart sank. I had seen them in the shops and I knew that they were horribly expensive. My mouth had often watered at the sight of them.
“Madame wants to know if you have any of those giant asparagus,” I asked the waiter.
I tried with all my might to will him to say no. A happy smile spread over his broad, priest-like face, and he assured me that they had some so large, so splendid, so tender, that it was a marvel.
“I’m not in the least hungry,” my guest sighed, “but if you insist I don’t mind having some asparagus.” I ordered them.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” “No, I never eat asparagus.”
“I know there are people who don’t like them. The fact is, you ruin your palate by all the meat you eat.”
We waited for the asparagus to be cooked. Panic seized me. It was not a question now how much money I should