The Painted Veil (Dialogue)
—To tell the truth I liked The Painted Vail by Maugham very much but I am not quite sure that I understood it well. Let’s discuss it and try to find out answers to all the interesting questions.
—Not a bad idea. It’s important to understand all the personages in order to get a full picture. What can you say about Kitty? In my opinion she’s rather a contradictory person.
—Well, Kitty is the major character in the book and all the events go through her feelings and emotions. The author tries to describe the events from Kitty’s point of view.
—I agree with you. I want to touch upon Kitty’s personality. She is an ordinary woman, not enough educated, takes everything for granted, doesn’t understand other people’s feelings, thinks only about her happiness. It’s not very important for her to be loved. Her husband bacteriologist from her point of view is a complete bore.
—Yes. She is a shallow person. We see that she got nothing at the end and maybe it’s a revenge for her attitude towards everything. But I think that she is a dynamic character. She saw a lot. She went with her husband to the infected town, tried to help him, met different people there, worked at the convent, saw hundreds dying. Her husband’s death was a great sorrow for her.
—Well I think Walter Fane is also one of the major characters. Unlike Kitty, who doesn’t care two pins for anything, he is devoted to his work, he is ambitious, he wants to do people good. He has honourable intentions to go to Meitanfu and fight the cholera.
—I know that Maugham once said that there were fewer and fewer true English men who can sacrifice their lives for other people. I think the author tries to depict an ideal English man.
—To my mind it is wonderful when one is absorbed in his work. I am glad that Kitty realized that Walter was the only one who could support her and was such an amazing person only after his death.
—Don’t you think that they had to start their relationship from the very beginning?
—I think that love is a very complicated thing. At first we don’t want to understand anything but then it is too late, I mean the death of Walter destroyed the very possibility of it.
—I think that the theme of unrequited love goes through the whole book. Take Charlie, for example. He seems quite an interesting man but it turns out that he aims only at his career and he doesn’t feel affection for Kitty. Kitty suffers greatly. She is thinking of committing suicide. Who would think that Charlie could be so cruel? To have a family meant only to fulfill his career plans. He had a heart of stone.
—To my mind he is the only static personage in the book. I liked Mother Superior. She is a reasonable woman and she helped Kitty to understand many things. Kitty became a new person. She realized that life is wonderful and there is no need in grieving.
—I don’t agree with you here. I think that Kitty did not change. I think she used all people around. She wanted only them to comfort her. She was not able to stand difficulties herself. Mother Superior and Waddington were to give her support and care. She thought that everyone cheated her.
—Maybe you are right. At the end of the book we see that there is a challenge for her. To stay alone or to go the Bahamas with her father so that he could give her his support. She chose the first way.
—But she is not to blame. She was in the family way. She stood much grief.
—And who do you think can be the author’s mouthpiece?
—It is difficult to answer. All the personages can be the author’s mouthpiece but I think Maugham seldom expresses his thoughts giving us the opportunity to decide who is right and who is not.