Of Human Bondage
a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1915. Inspired by Goethe and Samuel Butler, Maugham's lengthy Bildungsroman was written in an attempt to free himself from the worries and obsessions which he carried into adulthood from his difficult early years. He described it as an autobiographical novel, and his protagonist, Philip Carey, suffers the same childhood misfortunes as Maugham himself: the loss of his mother, the breakup of his family home, and his emotionally straitened upbringing by elderly relatives. In addition, Carey has a club foot, a handicap which commentators equate with either Maugham's stammer or his homosexuality. The novel traces Carey's miserable schooldays, his happy escape to the University of Heidelberg, and his decision to become a painter in Paris. Failing to achieve artistic success, he returns to London to study medicine. His progress is a continual struggle against the sense of alienation engendered by his physical disability and against the women who entrap him, particularly Mildred Rogers, a shallow, dishonest girl who attracts Carey by her very indifference to him. Carey's eventual escape from Mildred and decision to marry the wholesome Sally Anthelny signifies his release from a sado-masochistic view of love, and a new enthusiasm for life.