Book Review: “The Casuarinas Tree”
Somerset Maugham’s ‘Casuarinas Tree’ is a collection of stories that revolves around the perception of the ancient relationships that existed between the natives and the expatriates and the colonizers of the various parts of Australia and other parts of South East Asia. The book has a collection of six profound short stories whose themes revolve around these relationships. In its immediate context, the six short stories in the ‘Casuarinas tree’ gives an incisive look at the different connotations and the relationships that were formed and how these relationships affected very coexistence of various communities that were a concern in these areas. For example, the plot of the short story ‘Before the Party’ is one that elucidates how a woman by the name Skinner becomes irritated by the husband’s behavior of high-level drinking and ends up killing him. Skinner is fast to accentuate the cause of death to be as a result of high level of alcohol consumption. She hides this notion to the council and easily gets away with it, but this haunts her until she tells parents and sister. The next story, ‘P& O’ is another one that gives an account of two people coming home. In this story, the man, Mr. Gallagher is coming going home ( British Isles) after retirement from 25 years work and lives her native wife behind who bewitches him and he dies while still on board. The second person, Mrs. Hamlyn is getting back home due to the high level of infidelity that her husband has shown her for many years on end. In this story, it’s very critical to note that the relationships brought here are given a diverse way of thinking concerning cultural differences and the societal background. The remaining stories like ‘ The Yellow Stick’, ‘The Forces Of Circumstance’ and ‘ The Letter‘ also revolves around of relationship that exists between individuals and how they affect the very lives of those people whole uphold such relationships.
Marriage has been prevalently brought out as a vital measure of relationship that gives a leeway to various kinds of character postulations. In this prospect, it is quite imperative to note that author depicts the relationship between the west and the east as that which is antagonistic in nature. This notion is because, a closer scrutiny of the story ‘P&O’, the marriage between the Mr. Gallagher and his wife was that of convenience. Since the man was a Briton and the lady was a native, the Mrs. Gallagher had a high sense of protection emanating from his husband who was on the colonial government’s side. Similarly, the man had to meet his conjugal rights while at work and he had to be with a woman at his workplace. Even after working for 25 years, the man still did not have even a tinge of love that could make him remain in the natives of Federated Malay States. To make it worse, the wife was so bitter with him until she ended up killing him with charms even before he landed to his destination. The vital message that the author is trying to relay in this piece is that the relationships that were uniting the west and the east were just for convenience purposes. In other words, there was no value for humanity at any point in time. The quarreling that transpired before the husband decided to leave for British Isle meant that there was a rift long before the decision was reached. On the account of Mrs. Hamlyn, the fact that the husband was an infidel made her move and went back to her native country. This notion gives a picture of the cause of the conflict between them as the difference in cultural beliefs of every society. For the husband, having concubines was not a problem since this was a culture of the native. The white woman who resolved to get to her natives realized that she could not bear anymore with the type of cultural difference that was being depicted to have changed the behavioral conduct of her husband. In this light, I tend to believe the relationships between the west and the east was quite antagonistic in nature in all circumstances.
There are differences in cultures and societal makeup that have been depicted by the author in these six stories. The author is keen to give an account on the various behavioral characteristics that have been postulated by different characters of the books. Cultural difference has made most of the character in the book to have varied perceptions about the verify tenets of the socialism of human beings. In the story ‘The Force Circumstance’ the author gives a direct comparison of the two societies, the white community, and the native Malaya society. In the argument, we see him assert the fact that the residents even after impregnating women in the native lands, they do not take any responsibility for their actions instead they only compensate them for the services given to them. Guy in the story who is the lover of Doris the British lady is very much comfortable with these ideas while for Doris, this is quite unheard. The scenario simply shows that in the native Malaya cultural setting, the women are not much valued and in fact they are viewed as those who have the sole responsibility of bearing the child and making sure that they carry out the daily chores in the house. However, in the British cultural setting, the women have the same rights as women. They have equal opportunities as men and are treated the same. In the Malaya cultural context, the women have accepted their placement in the society of being seen and not being heard. It is also imperative to not that the west have the belief that marriage and childbearing and intimate relationships are founded on the profound advent of love and trust among the couples. This notion is depicted when Doris is surprised at the way her husband to be has treated the native lady who has his kids already.
In the story ‘The Outstation’ there is two incompatible rivals which depict the rivalry between the blacks and the whites. , the story is about the accurately disciplined local officer, Mr. Warburton, and his recently arrived, uncivilized assistant, Mr. Cooper. In a scuffle of the differences of class, the aggressive Cooper, despite his proficiency in his job, succeeds in repelling his more refined superior and to create enemies of the indigenous helpers. Each man is exceptionally feeling alone for the company of another Whiteman; however their reciprocated dislike is such that each one of them wishes the other deceased. The story gives a quite unprecedented rift that occurs between the whites who are the colonizers and the natives who are the colonies. The inside wish for death is a clear indication that indeed every person in this arena are divided in various ways. In this same story, the author is keen to give a profound analysis of how racism, discrimination and high level of the rivalry have brought the rift between the whites and the blacks. The only thing that brings them on board is the advent of convenience at the workplace.
In a nutshell, the Somerset Maugham novel is a great depiction of the rift and the antagonism that affected the relationships between the whites and the natives. The cultural differences are also some of the areas that have created the division. There is a clear cut difference between the white and the native culture. One prevalent distinction that is very evident here is the placement of the women in the society. We see that the women are lowly valued in the native context while in the whites cultural setting; every woman is given the equal rights as their fellow men. This notion was another source of antagonism which makes the author describes how the women in the Federated Malaya were treated. The fact that they could bear children without their fathers who whites being responsible is a real menace that needed an address. In general, the author has described the relationship between the west and the east as that which was not only deemed to tamper with the lives of the East but also to antagonize their peace.