Salvatore Summary and Analysis by W. Somerset Maugham (2023 Update)

In this Salvatore summary, we will present the plotline of the story. A young and carefree Salvatore, who spent his days swimming in the sea, climbing rocks, and caring for his two younger brothers, grows up to fall madly in love with a woman from Grande Marina. However, before the couple could gratify their passion through marriage, Salvatore had to leave for military service to serve as a sailor in the army of King Victor Emmanuel. Draft duty was a dark period in Salvatore’s life when he faced the most crushing homesickness from missing his native place and the love of his life. While serving in the military, Salvatore traveled extensively to the strange cities of Spezzia, Venice, and Bari. And it was during service in China that he was afflicted with a form of rheumatism that threatened lifelong disability. Salvatore received this unfortunate development as good news, for it meant that he could finally go back home and unite with his family and love.

However, things did not work out as Salvatore had planned. Upon returning to his island, he discovered that his betrothed did not wish to marry him anymore due to his disability. Despite being crushed at the beginning, Salvatore dealt with this turn of events gracefully. He began working in his father’s vineyard and fishing business. One day, his mother told him about Assunta – a woman who had fallen in love with him and wished to marry him. Salvatore then married Assunta, and with her money, they bought a fishing boat and leased a vineyard. Two children were born to this happily married couple. Life went on beautifully for this hard-working fisherman, despite his lifelong disability, for he showed up for life with endurance and grace.

Salvatore Story Summary by W. Somerset Maugham

In this Salvatore story summary, we will go over the events in the story in detail. The story begins in Salvatore’s boyhood days on the island of Ischia. The writer shows how the thin and agile fifteen-year-old boy spent his carefree days of youth swimming in the sea and climbing rocks to dive into the water. From a young age, Salvatore showed the loving responsibility of a caretaker as he looked after his two younger brothers, dressing and feeding them and taking care of their safety. As he grew older, he fell passionately in love with a beautiful girl from Grande Marina, “who had eyes like forest pools and held herself like a daughter of the Caesars.” They were soon betrothed; however, military service came in the way of the consummation of their love. Salvatore had to depart from his island, which he had never left before, estranged from his home and the woman he loved madly, to serve as a sailor in the army of King Victor Emmanuel.

Draft duty presented terrible challenges in Salvatore’s life. From being a carefree young lad who lived amongst the vines, he now found himself in a life where his freedom was curbed by the ones in authority. He had to spend his days among strangers in battleships, and when on land, the lack of warmth and friendliness in the crowded and noisy unfamiliar cities frightened him. And through this period of intense homesickness, he realized that the islands of Ischia and Vesuvius, where he had grown up, had become an intimate part of him. Above all, he missed his beloved deeply, and like an estranged anxious lover, he wrote long love letters telling her how much he longed to be with her.

Draft duty took Salvatore to a host of places such as Spezzia, Venice, and Bari, and then finally, in China, he was struck by a mysterious illness that quarantined him to a hospital bed for days. He endured his ailment with tremendous patience. And when the doctors informed him that he had been diagnosed with a form of rheumatism that would render him incapacitated for the rest of his life, instead of being disheartened by the news of possible lifelong disability, Salvatore’s heart exalted because his illness meant that he was unfit to serve in the army and could finally be home to be united with his family and the love of his life.

Upon landing home, he was met with the emotional greetings of his family, but his beloved was nowhere to be seen. His mother had not seen her for days, and so, unable to wait a day longer, he went over to her house in Grande Marina. But instead of a passionate reunion and the happy ending he had hoped for, Salvatore was handed a rude heartbreak. The woman he loved coolly stated that she did not wish to marry him anymore, for his illness meant that he would never be a strong enough man who could provide for her. The news crushed Salvatore, and he cried terribly on his mother’s bosom. But he soon took this misfortune in his stride with amicable understanding. Despite feeling dejected, he did not grow bitter towards the girl or his life. Instead, he made peace with the fact that a woman needs a strong man and that he could not be that strong man for his girl because of his illness.

Life moved on for Salvatore, and he began working in his father’s vineyard and fishing business. From being a thin boy, he had grown into a well-built man with big strong hands and legs. One fine day, his mother told him about a woman named Assunta, whose fiancé had been killed in service. She had fallen in love with him after seeing him at the fiesta and wished to marry him. As a first reaction, he said, “She’s as ugly as the devil,” but then, after seeing her at the Sunday church, he decided to settle down with her. With the bit of money that Assunta had, the couple bought a boat and assumed the tenancy of a vineyard. And with two children, they spent their days as a happily married couple in a tiny white-washed cottage. Assunta was devoted to Salvatore and his “most beautiful manners” and “gentle sweetness,” Salvatore was an ever-loving husband to her and a great father to his two children.

Salvatore lived the hard life of a fisherman, spending his evening and nights catching fish during the fishing season and his mornings in the vineyard. There were days when his rheumatism took a heavy toll on him. These days, he would calmly endure the debilitating pain by lying on the beach and exchanging pleasant words with everyone he met.

Maugham ends his narration of Salvatore’s life story with a moving picture of the middle-aged fisherman bathing his sons in the sea. The ending scene shows Salvatore as a doting father who loved his children with so much tender love, care, and affection that they seemed like little flowers in his rough hands. His laughter of an angel and the child-like happiness in his eyes as he played with his kids on the beach after drying them touches the reader’s heart.

Salvatore Analysis by Somerset Maugham

In this Salvatore analysis, we will delve deeper into the short story– Salvatore by Somerset Maugham is a heart-warming short story about the life of an Italian fisherman. The latter, despite facing debilitating tribulations such as a crushing heartbreak and a painful lifelong illness, showed up for life with extraordinary grace, acceptance, and endurance. This simple story, in its essence, is a study of the virtue of goodness. It shows how this rare quality in a man adds beauty to everything, even a world full of difficulties and misfortunes.

This story is a chronological narration of the events in the life of an ordinary fisherman, from his boyhood days to his life as a middle-aged father and husband. The third-person point-of-view narration of the story has been framed in a manner that places the presence of the omniscient narrator at the forefront. We view Salvatore and the events of his life – falling in love, serving in the military, facing heartbreak, and settling down in his role as a responsible family man – all through the eyes of the narrator, with his point of view and opinions becoming ours. Even the style of narration is akin to the oral tradition of storytelling. The flow of the story is lucid, and dialogues are replaced with reported speech. The language of the story is also devoid of ornamentation but makes for a pleasant read because of the similes and metaphors used beautifully by Maugham.

Salvatore has a straightforward plot structure. Instead of providing a complex plot with twists and a noticeable character arc, the story offers a biographical sketch of the fisherman with the sole objective of exemplifying the virtue of goodness. The only uncommon aspect of the plot development is the beginning, where Maugham catches the readers’ attention at once by telling him he is unsure whether he can accomplish a task. This beginning thread of the story is tied neatly into the story’s framework in the end when Maugham reveals that the study was to hold our attention through a simple story about humane goodness. And by successfully meeting this objective through his short story, Maugham delivers the message that life cannot promise fair play and might be full of injustices. Still, people with goodness in their hearts will always create a fantastic happy ending for themselves against all odds.

Salvatore Character Sketch

In this Salvatore character analysis, we will study the character of the main protagonist, Salvatore, after whom the story is named.

At the outset, Salvatore seems to be a narration of the events in a man’s life – right from his boyhood days to his married life as a loving father and husband. However, after reading the story, we realize that the whole short story is a masterly character sketch of a simple man with extraordinary qualities.

The most prominent among Salvatore’s qualities was his goodness – something which is also the central theme of this story. Salvatore only had the honor to offer. This is why when the love of his life rejected him because he had a lifelong disability, instead of getting bitter toward her, he accepted the situation as fair and moved on, consoling himself that a woman needs a strong man. It is this same goodness of Salvatore that enables him to be a loving, dutiful husband to his wife and a profoundly affectionate father to his children. Even on days when Salvatore’s rheumatism took the better of him and rendered him incapacitated to work, he always had a good word to say to whoever passed him.

Another noticeable character trait of Salvatore is his endurance and grace. When unfortunate news of his engagement falling apart was delivered to him rudely, he endured the pain and allowed time to heal him instead of fighting with his betrothed or blaming her for his misery. We also get a glimpse into Salvatore’s endurance powers when he fought his illness patiently in China, waiting to return home to his loved ones.

Another quality of Salvatore’s that stands out is his power of acceptance. Salvatore accepted all misfortunes that life threw at him with grace, which is why he could craft a happy life full of many little joys, like bathing his sons and taking care of his family.

Salvatore Theme: Theme of Goodness in Salvatore

The goodness of the heart is the overarching theme of Salvatore. Throughout the short story, what Maugham has attempted to do is show us how one can stand firm in the face of challenges and misfortunes by staying true to the innate goodness that all humans have. A real test of Salvatore’s integrity came when the love of his life refused to marry him. It was the thought of uniting with the love that had made him accept his lifelong illness of rheumatism happily – for it meant that he could stop serving in the military and marry his betrothed. Salvatore was crushed when the silver lining to his misery was snatched from him. And this is the first time we get a glimpse into just how extraordinary Salvatore’s quality of goods was. Instead of blaming his fiancé or thinking bitter things about her, he extended tremendous understanding toward her. He understood that a woman needs a strong man, and with his lifelong disability, he could not be that man for his love. Salvatore then, instead of growing bitter towards the world, continued to live a life of goodness – being an excellent family man to his wife and children. It was this goodness alone that made us view a life that many would call unfortunate as a happy one.

Other prominent themes of the short story are endurance and acceptance. Through Salvatore’s character and the patient and graceful manner in which he handled the misfortunes that befell him, we discover the power of accepting whatever life throws with endurance. This, in turn, enables one to act gracefully through life.

Salvatore by William Somerset Maugham is a beautiful short story documenting the life of a man who lived by goodness. Life was anything but fair to Salvatore. He got afflicted with rheumatism, lost the love of his life to his illness, and intermittently suffered due to his illness. However, despite being full of these tribulations, Salvatore’s life appeared happy because he showed up for it with goodness, acceptance, endurance, and grace.

This post was edited for grammar and spelling errors by Anjali Roongta on 8th April 2023.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The story Salvatore is about the life of the protagonist Salvatore and the trials he faces. Despite his tribulations, he remains positive.

Salvatore is a short story.
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