William Somerset Maughams Biography English Literature Essay

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Every individual is unique and everything that is surrounding affects him/her directly or indirectly, but it is related to the kind of personality, depending on how weak or strong a person is.

An essential element in the human being to be analyzed is the social-psychological factor, and how the society influences them in different perspectives. That's why we decided to analyze this interesting novel, in which it is exposed that humans are vulnerable to be influenced by circumstances.

Larry, who is the main character in The Razor's Edge,shows the readers a peculiar behavior totally different from the people around him. He sees life from a different perspective, maybe because he has changed a lot after coming back from war, or due to all the confusion he is going through.

What makes this novel interesting and pleasant is that the author presents the facts in the same way that happened; he also takes the liberties to use the imagination in order to give gist to the novel.

As many critics focus on theoretical knowledge when analyzing literary works, webase our analysis in our own life experiences giving a more realistic point of view.Society has a powerful influence in human beingsand whenyou get involved in this type of novel you believe that times are coming back.

Chapter I

William Somerset Maugham's biography

William Somerset was born on January 25th, 1874 in Paris. He was a magnificent short story writer and playwright novelist, considered one of the most popular writers of his time, having the reputation of being the highest paid author during the 1930s. His father called Robert Ormond Maugham was an English lawyer who managed the legal affairs of the British embassy in Paris, France. Unfortunately at the age of ten he was orphaned and was sent to live with his uncle Henry Maugham.

He studied Literature, Philosophy, and German at Heidelberg University, where according to some critics he had a sexual affair with John Ellingham Brooks, an Englishman, translator, and unsuccessful pianist, ten years his senior. He wrote his first book there, a biography of the German Opera composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. He also studied in London as a surgeon at St Thomas's hospital where he found the material for his first novel Liza of Lambeth in 1897. After that, Maugham moved to Paris where he met Laurence Housman and they got along very well having the opportunity to create a great deal of plays together.

At the age of 40 he joined a British Red Cross ambulance unit attached to the French Army because due to his age and his small height could not be part of the Military Service. With his play Lady Frederick (1907), an interesting comedy, he accomplished a great fame and popularity for its topic of money and marriage. He had a particular sexual inclination that is reflected in the romance he had with person from both sex, he provokes the divorce between Henry Wellcome and Syrie Barnardo getting married with her and having a child after that event.

He had a cosmopolitan life characterized by his frequent travels around the world applying all the experiences in almost every novels and plays; one example is when he visited the island of Tahitiwhere he recreates the real events in the novel "The Moon and Sixpence" having an active participation as a writer in the whole development of the novel. The Razor's Edge also provides essential details of the different places he visited and the war experience he lived in France.

Most of Maugham's novels are characterized by his international outstandingness, using a clear, plain and humorous style closed related with society events showing his philosophical outlooks. He plays an essential role in many novels being omniscient in such a way that readers feel motivated to read without stopping.

He dies on the 16th day of December in1965, Nice, France because of Pneumonia.His ashes stood buried in Galpin's garden of King's College, Canterbury, England. [1] 

William Somerset Maugham's literary works in order of importance



Liza of Lambeth (1897) - A fiction novel

The Razor's Edge (1944)

Of Human Bondage (1915) - A fictional novel

The Moon and Sixpence (1919)- A fiction novel

The Painted Veil (1925)

The Making of a Saint (1898)

The Hero (1901)

Mrs. Craddock (1902)

The Merry-go-round (1904)

The Bishop's Apron (1906)

The Magician (1908)

Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard (1930)

The Narrow Corner (1932)

Theatre (1937)

Christmas Holiday (1939)

Up at the Villa (1941)

The Hour Before Dawn (1942)

Then and Now (1946)

Catalina (1948)


The Land of the Blessed Virgin (1905)


A Man of Honour

The Explorer (1908)

Lady Frederick

Caesar's Wife

East of Suez


Orientations (1899)

The Trembling of a Leaf (1921)

The Casuarina Tree (1926)

Ashenden: Or the British Agent (1928)

First Person Singular (1931)

Ah King (1933)

Creatures of Circumstance (1947)

The Mixture As Before (1940)

Cosmopolitans - Very Short Stories (1936) [2] 

Awards and Achievements

This prominent writer reached a profitable success with his books, and many of his works have been turned into film adaptations. His business ability allowed him to have a very suitable life. Being a weak and sensible boy he started writing. Maugham thought about himself as a writer with poor lyrical quality. [3] 

Maugham was contemporary of some important writers such as Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, James Joyce and William Faulkner. Maugham's most revolutionary novel Of Human Bondage (1915) was a semi-autobiography which is also considered as his exceptional achievement.

In spite of his sexual preferences he achieved a great recognition among the most influential writers becoming in 1954 a Companion of Honor. It is essential to say that Maugham was fond of collecting wonderful paintings, which some years before his death began their exhibition life in the Trustees of the National Theatre.

Maugham established the "Somerset Maugham Awards" in 1947. This is a British literary prize that honors the best writers under the age of 35 that had published a book the year before. He is considered one of the most influential writers in the movie because most of his works turned into film.

In 1961, he became the honorary senator of Heidelberg University. Likewise, in 1998 his masterpiece Of Human Bondagewas ranked in the number 66 of the list of the best 100 English Language Novels during the 20th century.

Chapter II

Backgroundof the author

The prominent writer William Somerset Maugham had to face difficult moments in his life since his childhood; most of his novels are inspired on his life experiences pointing out to his parent's death when he was only 8 years old.This novel is close related with his background, not only because he appears in the development of the novel, but also because in his real life he overtook similarevents asLarry, the main character of this novel. For example, the author was orphaned athis early age like Larry. Both of them participate in the World War I playing different roles, even though throughout the development of the novel Maugham changes Larry's original name in order to protect his real identity. In the novel Larry plays the role of an aviator and Maugham in his real life was part of the Red Cross Ambulance Unit in France.

Maugham enjoyed writing and had good feelings toward society. In almost all his novels he states aspects of human psychology, most of the time he was rejected because of his sexual preference. Additionally, he had a great appreciation toward those people who could not express their feeling. As a result, he identified himself at least in three or more aspects of every work written by him.


The Razor´s Edge is a fantastic novel written by the authentic and brilliant author William Somerset Maugham published in 1944 at the end of World War II (1939-1945).Some factors made this period one of the most catastrophic memories of the world. First the death of many civilians and second the economy declined due to the people´s involvement in the war. However, in 1945 after the war the economy grew up pretty fast.

Spots where the novel takes place are various. Beginning in Chicago and itsnarration continues in London, Paris and India. Nonetheless, an important theme to mention is that Larry who is the main character participates in the World War I (1914-1918). It means that the story is developed after a difficult moment of the humanity where people feel insecure and the economy was unsuccessful. Furthermore, the story comprises a period of twenty four years from 1919 to 1943. In the opening section, the society is happy because the war is over and they are trying to recover from any kind of lost. The combination of the United States, France and Great Britain by establishing new members in their governments and taxes increased to redo the countries' economy. Meanwhile, in the mid of 1919 the economy falls down and employment too.

It's important to mention that soldiers coming back from the war were demanding jobs to fulfill their needs. Another point is that the influenza disease caused the death of approximately 20,000 people creating an environment of preoccupations. But later on,it was over.

According to James R. Grossman on July 27 a stone-throwing incident between white and black residents at the 29th Street beach led to the drowning of Eugene Williams, a young African American swimmer. His death erupted into a riot that ultimately claimed the lives of 23 blacks and 15 whites and left 537 wounded or maimed. [4] 

Identification of the Characters

Laurence Darrell: represents the protagonist of this novel, commonly called "Larry", as an American nickname. With the peculiarity that he is an unconventional person. He is an American young man seeking for spirituality, peace, and happiness. Physically speaking he is not very good-looking; regardless, he has something that makes him special. He decides to go to the war after his parents' death.

Isabel Bradley: she is Larry's fiancée. She is a pretty, gorgeous and charming girl who has beautiful eyes, and good hands. She is a typical girl who is passionate with luxury. Her perspective of life was different from Larry´s because she placed money over love.

Elliott Templeton: He is Mrs. Bradley's brother and Isabel'suncle. He is a handsome and tall man around his 50s or his early 60s years old. He comes from a poor family, but through his craftiness he builds an unbreakable and powerful relationship with the upper class. He plays a great role in the novel because he influences the other characters. His personality makes him one of the most outstanding and enthusiastic member in the high society in Paris, being a faithful lover of the French culture.

W. Somerset Maugham: He is the narrator who at the beginning of the novel is in Chicago to be interviewed about his most recent book. In this journey he meets the main characters of the story.

Gray Maturin: He's Henry Maturin's son, and Larry's best friend, who has a good position in the society. He is a hardworking man who later marries Isabel and has two children with her being a good husband and great father.

Louisa Bradley: She is Isabel's mother and also Elliott Templeton's sister. She is a widow who lives in Chicago. After being a widow she runs out of ideas or plans for the future, so Isabel comforts her.

Henry Maturin: He is an important and influential person who is very knowledgeable about business. Even though he is not good-looking, his behavior presents him into the society as an honest man.

Gregory Brabazon: He is an English man, short, very fat, and bald. He also has quick grey eyes, sexual lips and a heavy jaw. He works as an interior designer burning his eyes, and through his efforts he becomes into the most important decorator in London. Furthermore, he makes people pleased and comfortable by his job.

Dr. Nelson: He is an intelligent and pleasant man who was in charge of Larry during his childhood providing him security and a better world.

Kosti: He is Larry's friend who works with him in the mine and then in the farm. He came from Poland and speaks different languages. He isalso good making tricks, playing cardsand enjoys all types of gambling.

Father Ensheim: He is a man of a religious community that Larry met in one of his spiritual searching. Ensheim teaches him the life in the monastery where Larry usually talks with him in order to feed his desire of knowledge.

Suzanne Rouvier: She is a young girl with a well-built body and attractive blue eyes who has an active sexual life with artists. She meets Larry in one of her painter's lover´s house, then she gets sick and Larry takes care of her without sexual interesting.

Sophie MacDonald: She is a girl who has to face a hard situation in her life because she loses her family in a terrible accident. The circumstances force her to become an addictive to drugs and sex. She did not care about life.

Shri Ganesha: He is a mentor for Larry who guides him in the spiritual life. He teaches him that silence is another way to establish communication.

Patsy: He is courageous pilot who was with Larry in the war. His death causes a high impact in Larry's life changing his conception about the world.

Frau Becker: She is Mr. Becker's wife who was a servant in the past. She is hardworking not very good looking that helps her husband in the farm. She falls in love with Larry.

Ellie Becker: She is a young woman who teaches Larry German and tries to seduce him one night when he was sleeping.

Summary of the novel

The Razor's Edge written by one of the most controversial writers, William Somerset Maugham, is an interesting and realistic novel that relates the story of a unique and special person named Laurence "Larry" Darrell, an orphaned boy, who after coming back from the war has to deal with significant changes in his life. It takes place in different cities, mainly in Chicago and Paris. The story begins with the exposition of Somerset who narrates his stay in Chicago for several days where he gets in contact with Elliott Templeton, who started a good relationship fifteen years ago. They remember how they met during an opera concert and the wonderful moments they spent together in London.

Maugham describes Elliott as a handsome and tall man around his 50's or his early 60's years old who comes from a poor family. However, through his craftiness he builds an unbreakable and powerful relationship with the upper class. Maugham explains that what makes Elliott's personality unique and popular is his generosity, kindness, attentiveness and good taste. In details, he refers to the way he treats people around him. Elliott is devoted to the Catholicism having a great influence in churches. Nonetheless, the author asks himself about Elliott's snobbishness in spite of being gentle, smart, and a truthful person.

One night Maugham agrees to have dinner with Elliott where he encounters the opportunity to meet Elliott's Sister, Mrs. Louisa Bradley, and his niece Isabel. Mrs. Bradley is a widow with three children, two sons and a daughter; her husband occupied a high position in Rome as a first minister, his sons inherit elements of diplomatist's performances from their father by getting involved in the diplomacy service and in the government posts in Philippines. That night Mrs. Bradley introduces Gregory Brabazon, a great decorator from England that is in charge of the decoration of Mrs. Bradley's house, to Elliott and Maugham. Elliott asks her sister about Isabel and she explains that Isabel is playing golf with Larry who is apparently engaged with her.

Maugham describes Isabel as a pretty, gorgeous and charming girl, who has beautiful eyes, and good hands. During the night they were talking about the different changes that they consider essential in Mrs. Bradley's house arrangement. Larry suggests that the decorator has to make the changes according to Mrs. Bradley's will, attitude that calls the attention of Maugham in a positive manner, while Isabel and Elliott say that Larry's attitude is due to his lack of experience in arts. The narrator continues giving a brief description of Larry who is as young man under six feet, thin and lose limbed, through his performance he notices that he is shy and also a curious man with a suspicious sight. Subsequently, Isabel tells Maugham about Larry background as aviator and his participation in the World War I fighting in France at the time of the Armistice; furthermore, she tells to everybody that she is madly in love with Larry.

After dinner Elliott accompanies Maugham to visit an art gallery on their way they talk about the young couple. Elliott says "they're much too young to marry". [5] Meanwhile Maugham doesn't have the same confidence. During Isabel's party Maugham was introduced to many people such as Sophie a timid girl, Dr. Nelson, who is Larry' guardian, Gray Maturin a rich boy and Larry's best friend, among others. Mrs. Bradley gives a great deal of details about Gray and his family, emphasizing that he is in love with Isabel.

One day, when Maugham visits the Library, surprisingly, he finds Larry reading a book called ¨Principles of Psychology¨, a significant and standard work in the history of psychology by William James. In addition Larry tells Maugham that he doesn't like school, but he enjoys reading interesting book.

Since Larry is not interested in following social stereotypes, he rejects Henry's job offer to work with him as stockbroker in his company. After refusing that job, he decides to travel to Paris in order to clarify different doubts he has. Isabel doesn't like the idea, but she promises to wait for him and not to interfere with his plans. In that way she shows the profound love she feels for him.

The conflict of the story starts at the moment Larry leaves Chicago and goes to Paris. So Isabel feels lonely and depressed. Elliott takes advantage of her state and tries to convince Isabel to redo her life with Gray and forget about Larry, and at the same time offering her the things she needs and likes. When Elliott sees that Isabel is not so easy to convince about forgetting Larry, he starts to make up things about Larry.

After that Isabel meets Maugham and they talk about Larry's characteristics and good taste of things. Between the talk Maugham asks Isabel why is the exactly thing that makes her to keep waiting for Larry if he neither like to work nor to study. So she says that Larry is an easygoing person who doesn't care about material things or anything, she likes the way he treats her and the way they enjoy being together though. This is the time when Maugham realizes the type of person Larry is and he confess that to Isabel at the very moment.

By the time Larry is in Paris, Elliott offers his help, but Larry refuses the idea of being helped by him. Instead he prefers to live in shabby and not very comfortable apartment in the Latin Quarter, having the opportunity to keep on his reading life. Maugham and Larry get together in a restaurant in London to have lunch and talk about each one life. As Maugham asks about Isabel, Larry tells him that they have been barely in contact through letters and that they are going to visit her uncle Elliott the next spring. But they arrive earlier.

After Isabel's arrival they decide to get together the following day at a restaurant and Isabel insists to visit Larry's apartment, once there she realizes the kind of life Larry is having in Paris, so she tries to convince Larry to go back with her to Chicago. Consequently they agree to break their engagement, her argument is that she can´t live in the situation Larry is currently living and he states that he is not ready enough to have a marriage responsibility because it is not the kind of life she deserves. However, they remain being friends.

Mrs. Bradley and Elliott do not agree with the kind of relationship Larry and Isabel decide to have, because it will affect Isabel's chance to get another opportunity with other man; as a result they take her to London. When Elliot, Mrs. Bradley and Isabel go to London they make an arrangement with Maugham to have a drink. Maugham is confident to Isabel and he becomes her advisor. Isabel confesses him that in spite of she had agreed to Larry, she doesn't understand his behavior.

Ten years passed and Maugham neither sees Larry nor Isabel for a long time, later on Larry encounters Maugham and tells him about what he had been doing all this time. He says that during summer he stayed in Paris working until autumn in a coal mine in France in the North part, gathering the blocks of coal and loading a basket with them and dragging the basket through the tunnel to its mouth. [6] There he meets a hardworking and educated man coming from Poland named Kosti who is very clever in gambling specially doing cards tricks. They become best friends; Kosti helps Larry in the mine labors and teaches him German and how to acquire experience in mysticism. They decide to leave the mine and take the traveling adventure throughout Belgium and Germany appreciating the nature, something they never did before. One day they venture to get a job in a farm where they meet Old Becker, his wife and the Beckers' widow daughter-in-law Ellie, to whom accidentally one night Larry has a sexual affair with.

Due to Larry's confusion and discomfort by the previous event, he leaves the farm and goes to Bonn, staying there for a year. On the other hand, Isabel gets marry with Gray Maturin, a year later after the break up with Larry, building a beautiful and cheerful family with two daughters, Priscilla and Joan, living in Astor Street, Chicago in the house Henry gave them as a wedding gift, for Christmas he gives Gray a plantation in South Carolina. One of most critical economical crisis takes place in the United States in October 1929. After becoming broken Henry dies by a thrombosis caused by high-blood pressure. Due to the ruin Isabel and Gray are forced to sell their jewels and most of their properties. Gray faces this situation alone, falling in depression because he is not able to find a job and he cannot afford for a loan. They only keep the plantation in South Carolina. When Elliott visits them after Mrs. Bradley death, he notices the unfavorable situation they were facing, and suggest them to live in his apartment in Paris.

Isabel continues having a close relationship with her friend Maugham. They get together one another week in order to be updated about her family's matters. Now Maugham notices that Isabel has changed a lot, not only physically but also psychologically. She is much pretty now; they feel comfortable there because they acquire again their circle of acquaintances. They turn back to Larry's topic. Even though Isabel is so happy with her husband memories of Larry comes to her mind. While Maugham is in Paris suddenly a man with a shabby physical appearance touches him in the back and at first he doesn't recognizes that man, but the man identifies himself as Larry. In this moment Larry tells him about what he has been doing lately, that during the crash of 1929 he stayed in with Yogis in an ashram in India, where he acquires interesting experience and secrets about life. Maugham tells Larry about Isabel who is living in Elliott's apartment in Paris with her husband and daughter. Then Maugham tells Isabel and Gray about his encounter with Larry. After that, Isabel tells Maugham that she would like to see Larry, so Maugham invites him to come over. When Larry arrives they share together reestablishing a good relationship with the whole family. In one of Larry's visits he finds Gray with a terrible headache, that have been affecting him for a long time, he helps him with a hypnotism to cure it because of the experience he acquired in India with the Yogis.

Larry, Gray's family and the narrator decide to dine together in a restaurant in Paris; there they make acquaintance with their old friend Sophie, who is too drunk and high. She becomes an addict after losing her husband and child, and cannot withdraw herself. Isabel says that Sophie got addicted because she wanted to, even though she has lost her husband and child. [7] Since they were friends from childhood, Larry asks her to marry him in order to take her out of this addiction. All of them drink Zubrowka to celebrate the new engagement. And Isabel invites Sophie to try on a dress for the wedding, but she has a second thought, by tempting Sophie with another bottle of alcohol. Sophie drinks it and escapes. Later on Maugham encounters Sophie again on the Riviera and she explains that she ran away because she was afraid of getting married with Larry because he was a perfect and correct man, something that she is not able to stand.

Turning the subject, Elliott is very sick of the kidneys, and also his social status falls down. He is totally depressed not only because of his sickness, but also because he is not invited to important events in the upper class. The author tries to help him by faking an invitation for him. When he receives the invitation, he is willing to attend but his physical condition does not allow him to go. A short time later he dies with his last will.

Subsequently to Elliott's death, the author narrates Larry's version of the story throughout his journeys, giving details why he goes to India and the interesting things he learned about. He also talks about his experience in a coal mine with the farmers' widow daughter-in-law. Certain time he is invited by Father Ensheim, a kindly man, to stay a couple of days in a monastery with the purpose of clarifying Larry's doubts about God and divine issues. Larry spends three months there having a good time with the monks and the abbot.

Six months later, Maugham is at his house on the Riviera and the police call him asking about his relationship with a girl called Sophie MacDonald, who was found dead in the harbor, naked and with her throat cut. They wonder the type of relationship Maugham has with her, after finding a book dedicated by him in her apartment and a photo of Larry; then Maugham go over Sophie's background. Larry leaves to America where he gets involved in writing. He mails Isabel and Maugham copies of his book.

Maugham goes to England a few days after Sophie's funeral, but he decides to visit Isabel before leaving. They meet for dinner, and have a long conversation; she tells him that they are selling Elliott's possessions; and with the money they will settle down a new business in Dallas. Maugham tells Isabel that he saw Larry on Sophie's burial.

Finally, the author concludes the story telling that all the characters got what they wanted. "Elliott social eminence; Isabel an assured position backed by a substantial fortune in an active and cultured community; Gray a steady and lucrative job, with an office to go to from nine till six every day; Suzanne Rouvier security; Sophie death; and Larry happiness" . [8] 

Writing Style

William Somerset Maugham was a critical of himself; as soon as you read one of his works you identify it immediately due to the simple and plain style that characterized him. Most of his works are considered to be narratives and/or descriptive, where he relates his personal life and experiences through characterization. He also implements humor and satire in his work making readers to read straight up to the end.

His style was plain; his insights were rarely profound. Yet in clear, economical prose, he could accurately describe the small details of the everyday world. "Most people cannot see anything," he once said, "but I can see what is in front of my nose with extreme clearness; the greatest writers can see through a brick wall. My vision is not so penetrating." [9] 

From Maugham we can learn that to become successful we should first overcome our own limitations and identify our strengths and weaknesses.

Maugham said"Imagination grows by exercise, contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young." He also said "To write simply is as difficult as to be good. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." [10] 

Chapter III

Definition of society

"The society is defined as a part of a community that is unit distinguishable by particular aims, standards of living or conduct: a social circle or a group of social circles having a clearly marked identity". [11] Besides, it is an association for mutual or joint effectiveness or pleasure.

When thinking about the society, as an accurate definition, many interrogate come up to our mind because this term comprises a wide field due to the inseparable relationship of human beings with everything surrounding. Human beings compose social entities that require being in contact with one another developing their social relations. [12] There are norms and patterns to be followed in each society focused to achieve individual's integration with such norms. Otherwise, individual's behavior may not follow such norms; it means that they may be deviated from the current patrons. This deviation is caused because every individual is unique and not all human beings react on the same way in spite of their social circle; many are conformist and others independent.

Social influence is an interesting topic that must be explained when referring to the society. It implies the individual's or group social power in order to change the other's attitude or behavior in a particular aim. [13] Many people have special interest toward religion and politics and due to their inconformity always try to influence the others to separate both issues creating a great polemic in the society.

Definition of psychology

According to APA, Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental health care services "the understanding of behavior" is the enterprise of psychologists.

Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto (2001) explain that psychology is the scientific study of the mental process behavior based on the latest advances.

The personality psychologists study the individual's differences in certain aspects such as anxiety, sociability, self-esteem, depression and frustration.

Definition of socio-psychology

The socio-psychology is the scientific discipline that tries to understand and explain the way in which individuals' thoughts; feelings and behavior are influenced by the real, imagined, or implied to others. [14] 

The personality is the dynamic organization inside the individual of the psychophysics systems creating characteristic patterns of behaviors, thoughts and feelings. Socio-psychologists analyze people influence to one another, such as the first impression and interpersonal attraction on the way in which attitudes are formed, the fact of our different behavior or how and why Human Beings change. They usually describe human behavior as the product of the relations of psychological states and real social situations occurring at the current moment. [15] 

Socio-psychological factors

People are essential part in the society and every problem can affect them either direct or indirect. It is difficult to face psychological changes on your own, so when people are affected by certain issues they have the need to talk to someone about it because they want to be understood especially if those psychological problems interfere with their personal and labor relationships, emotional or physical health and work efficiency.

Among the psychological factors we can mention:

Depression - A psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, anhedonia, feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and thoughts of death. [16] 

Anxiety- General term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life. [17] 

Frustration- Stands for the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. Also as an event or circumstance that causes one to feel frustrated. Frustration prevents of progress, success, or fulfillment of something. [18] 


According to A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. It is also defined as a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. Many researchers believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain. This may be due to a problem with your genes, or triggered by certain stressful events. More likely, it's a combination of both.

The following factors are the principal causes of depression:

Alcohol or drug abuse

Death or illness of someone close to you

Job loss

Social isolation (common in the elderly).

The most common symptoms of depression are:

Thoughts of death or suicide, fatigue, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guiltiness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed.

Sometimes we confine in an intrinsic struggle losing the sense of life and feeling an empty space in our soul. Causing the need to look forward alternative in order to fulfill the emptiness in our lives. Furthermore, economical situation is a powerful influence in people´s depression. When someone is used to certain economical status and unexpectedly loses everything, it causes a shock; being difficult to many people to get used to this extreme change, especially if they have never worked neither gone through difficult situations such as Gray Maturin.

Gray Maturin, who is a millionaire well known because of his successful business and his important influence in the society, after New York´s market broke in 1929 loses all his properties causing him terrible effects like migraine, thus he avoid confronting the reality and gets into a big depression.

Another situation that could lead somebody to a depression is the loss of a family member or a close friend, more if you are too attached to that person. It happened because the real love last forever even after death.

There are also other cases of depression reflected in additional characters:

All over the world people are impacted by the causes and effects of the socio-psychological factors, for instance, in this novel Laurence Darrell (Larry), the main character, gets depressed after his companion lost his life saving him during the war. This event turns Larry into in a desolated person and without any interest in social person, who prefer being alone instead of sharing with people from his age. For instance, it is important to mention how the environment of the war changes Larry's life not only by Patsy's death but also, because of the aggressiveness of people during the war.

In addition to the personage of the novel mention above, we can add Sophie Macdonald who is a young woman that since the beginning shows attitude of shyness and lack of security in herself. The cause of her depression is the loss of her husband and child during a terrible accident. As the consequences of the impact of this event and her low self-esteem, she gets involve in the abuse of opium and alcohol, living an uncontrolled and promiscuous life. During the story she tries to conduct her life for a better way, but the depression in which she is involved does not allow her to make a profit of her life.

Concerning to the previous fact, it is very hard for a person who grows up with a very good concept of life and suddenly everything turns down changing his or her perception.

All of the aforementioned factors cause depression, even though some people receive professional attention or treatment it depends on them if they keep it or leave it away.

"One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul." [19] 


The famous psychiatrist Aaron Beck who is an expert dealing with psychological behavior, in the 1960s explored the human personality, depression and procrastination. He researched more into this theory and formulated the cognitive behavioral therapy for handling people with cases of depression disorders and anxiety. He got to the conclusion that many people suffer from depression and anxiety disorders because of a pre-form of negative evaluation of themselves that can be endorsed to a social aloofness, low self-esteem and prolong trauma.

When speaking about anxiety as a socio-psychological factor, it may be said that most of the people share aspects of it. All human being experiments anxiety for achieving something in his/her life, and if somebody doesn´t want to get success or make a profit in life, it´s because he/she is on depression.

Isabel is one of the characters that experiments anxiety because she wants to enjoy common life as the other girls and she wishes to have a pleasant and comfortable life. As a result of family influences, she gets marry with Gray Maturin because he offers her all the things she was looking for and she refuses Larry´s offer due to a wide difference among the life they are leading to. Larry thinks that life is an easy matter and runs out of complication; otherwise, Isabel cares a lot about money and family comfort.

During the novel Larry is anxious for answering the great deal of question he has about life, God and human nature. That's why he starts reading books and traveling around the world in order to get answers about the differences between spirituality and materialism. Through this process Larry rejected many material offers that could help him to ameliorate his social and economic status. Also Larry keeps far from his everlasting love, Isabel, because he is focused on spiritual issues and doesn't follow the common social rules that can interfere in achieving happiness. Larry wants to satisfied himself, that´s why the author says: "Often the best way to overcome desire it´s to satisfy it" [20] 

One of the aspects of anxiety is social anxiety disorder, which consists on the worry of being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule. As an example of this kind of anxiety can be mention Elliot Templeton, whose entire life is based on what society expects him to be. In order to establish a distinguish position in the society he used to prepared big parties. It was a costume in that time that when you were invited to a party you should return the hospitality by preparing another one. He is keen dependent of the society, so he goes to London after "The Season" is over in Paris, just not to be alone when everybody is out of the city. [21] 

"Some of us look for the way in opium and some in God, some of us in whisky and some of us in love. It is all the same way and it leads nowhither."  [22] 


According to Oxford Dictionary [23] frustration stand for the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. Also as an event or circumstance that causes one to feel frustrated. Frustration prevents of progress, success, or fulfillment of something.

Catherine Pratt says, "When you get into serious frustration with a problem, you tend not to want to work on it anymore. It is hard, frustrating and you´re not getting anywhere. So, anything to avoid having to be in that situation may be far more attractive." [24] 

Nowadays life´s complications interrupt the process of achieving goals through hard working leading to sensitive reaction to opposition.Frustration can be shown when you are not able to fulfill what you want due to others´ resistance. Furthermore it is interpreted as a concern of behavior response; its effects will depend on the individual´s mental condition. [25] 

Turning to the characters in the novel, Gray Maturin shows evidence of frustration when after losing all his Money tries to get a job, but he does not find anything. What makes him really frustrated is the fact that even though he wants to work, he is not given the opportunity to demonstrate his ability as a working man. His family represents his treasure, and when he gets in bankrupt he thought that they are not going to overcome this situation, so Gray feels frustrated. People must enjoy good moments because bad times come unexpectedly.

Sometimes when a person has money he or she is surrounded by people who claim to be their friends, but when they are in bankrupt everyone disappears. It is exactly in that moment when that person needs all of his or her friends' help.

Another illustration of this kind of psychological disorder is the main characters Larry Darrel, whose involvement in the war causes him a frustration because it is a different culture and environment from the one he grew up. At home he was a lovely and kind person, but once in the war the disaster and dead people make him a tough person, his feeling are totally changed. That is why when he is back from the war, he doesn´t want to work or do anything to make profit of his life; he dedicates his life to travel and reading trying to understand how life works. After Larry's experiences the meaning of life has changed for him.

The aforementioned factors are related in an interesting way, because when we have one it is possible to acquire the others. For instance, if someone has an exam at university and fails it, could feel anxiety and later on, that person can fall down in a depression. At the same time if a person tries and tries to achieve a goal and do not succeed, he or she might get a frustration.

Furthermore, there is no way to know which of the matters occurs first, it is going to depend on the situation in which you are involved in and on the way to handle it. Those emotional disorganizations destroy human relationship not only by affecting sentimental level but also professionally. As a result, people who face this kind of situation have to find their inner strength with the interest to be healthy persons not only for himself or herself but also for his or her family and friends.

Chapter IV


The- Razor's Edge is one of the most impacting stories we have ever read. This story is close related with current events, which makes the readers be identified with at least one of the characters. Each character provides a clear and vivid example of the significant role that society plays in people´s life, so that, in a specific moment they seem to be affected not only in a social way, but also psychologically. We could understand that psychologically we are similar creature and that every situation can affect us in a different way; otherwise most of the time it has to do with the type of personality.

After reading this novel we have understood that the socio-psychological factors such as depression, anxiety and frustration are serious issues many people have to deal with because of different circumstances presented in daily life. It is appropriate to mention that many people are in the world trying to find answers about everything and the purpose of living do not taking into consideration that they are the only responsible of their own decisions building their own destiny. In the novel Larry, the main character, shows us that it is hard to take decisions, but not all the time we have to follow our thoughts, we sometimes should make a stop and listen to our heart; although he really loved Isabel and society demanded him to be a common citizen, he decided to do what he wanted.

Life is not easy and it is difficult to understand the human beings due to their complexity, for example something considered essential for somebody may be insignificant for another. Meanwhile most of the characters focused their life on the material aspects forgetting their own happiness. Thus Larry sees life from a different perspective after coming back from war. He saw himself in the "razor´s edge" when he was face to face with death. Referring to this event, the author at the beginning of the novel says"Death ends all things and so is the comprehensive conclusion of a story". It means that when we confront the reality and realize that death is the ends of everything (Family, Money, Social Classes) we make up our mind that drives us to a drastic change in our perspective about life totally different from the others. It is the moment when we become conscious about what to do in order to be a better person, not for being part of the stereotype, but for being unique.

We consider that Somerset Maugham wrote this novel based on many aspects of his own life. Even though he plays the role of a writer in the development of the novel, he shares multiple characteristics with the main character Larry. For example both had a similar childhood being orphan at a very early age; they were involved in the war revolution and traveled around the world trying to discover interesting and new things. Both had a controversial and cosmopolitan life leaving a great message to the readers. "You are you and your circumstances, not matter what the others think about it".

At the end the author says that all the characters obtained what they really wanted, showing us that in spite of the complications of life when we break all the obstacles and achieve what we have been looking for, life is more pleasant and fascinating.

"There are two good things in life- Freedom of thoughts and freedom of actions".