Author: W Somerset Maugham

Plot Summary

About the life of Charles Strickland, a fictional artist modeled after Paul Gauguin. Narrator talks about uniqueness of Strickland and his intensity for work.

  • He meets Amy Strickland who said that her husband, Charles, was a very unremarkable stock broker, but a dependable husband and father. (while narrator was with various artist circles in London)
  • narrator learns that Strickland has abandoned his wife and children
  • visits Amy, finds out that Strickland has departed for Paris and left a brief note that says he is not returning and is providing them with nothing
  • Amy’s brother Col. MacAndrew is enraged; they ask narrator to track Charles
  • narrator finds Strickland in a run-down hotel in Paris
  • he shows no indication of guilt or remorse
  • narrator and Strickland dine together. A woman shows interest in Strickland but he rejects her
  • narrator returns to London and tells Amy that Strickland didn’t leave for another woman but to dedicate himself to painting
  • Amy works as a typist to provide for family
  • Narrator travels to Paris and visits Dirk Strove, a kind man but an average painter. Goes to his house
  • meets his wife, Blanche who Dirk loves. Blanche treats him poorly
  • Dirk thinks Strickland has potential, Blanche tells how he insulted Dirk’s paintings when he came to ask for money
  • Strickland mocks Dirk constantly
  • One day, Strickland is mortally ill. Dirk against Blanche’s wishes gets him home to nurse him back to health
  • Strickland shows no gratitude
  • Strickland recovers and runs away with Blanche. Dirk harbors no ill will but is devastated
  • Blanche attempts suicide, is hospitalized, then dies
  • Narrator goe sto meet Strickland. He tells the narrator that he was only interested in Blanche physically and as a model for his paintings

third part

  • Narrator tries to piece the rest of Strickland’s life together
  • finds out he spent last years of his life in Tahiti
  • Narrator meets Captain Nichols there
  • Finds out that Strickland married a local woman named Ata
  • he was relatively happy, until he contracted leprosy and died
  • meets Dr Coutras who tells him Strickland was in extreme pain; one of his children died and then he died
  • Ata, and their children were shunned by the native community
  • Before dying, he painted his greatest work on the walls of his house and then insisted his wife destroy it after his death


unnamed narrator Charles Strickland Amy Strickland

Dirk Strove Blanch Strove

Dr Coutras Ata

Similarities between Charles and Gauguin

spent last years in Tahitispent last years in Tahiti
married a native (Ata)married a native(Hiva Oa)
abandoned life in LondonAbandoned life in Paris
Died of leprosyDied of Syphilis
abandoned his wife and childrenabandoned his wife and five children
had child brides; gave them and a lot of women syphilis

tldr; both massive jerks who thought art>everything else, screwed over others


Paul Gauguin

”Teha’amana was much younger than [Gauguin] and their ability to enjoy anything like a marriage was extremely limited,” said Ms Thomson. “They couldn’t even speak the same language. It was not an equal relationship, and it wasn’t a clear cut professional relationship … He justified his children by saying that Tahiti always welcomed [the birth of] children. They were something to be celebrated.

  • Belinda Thomson, chief curator of Gauguin’s work at Tate Modern in London

Noa Noa, his semi-fictional travel memoirs and traditional island stories which he claimed to have gleaned from Teha’amana’s ancient tribal lore, turned out to be copied from a textbook of Polynesian life. Inspired Picasso to exploit women