Salvatore Summary and Analysis by W. Somerset Maugham

In this Salvatore short 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 taking care of his two younger brothers, grows up to fall madly in love with a woman from Grande Marina. However, before the couple could gratify their love 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 was faced with the most crushing homesickness from missing both his native place and the love of his life. While serving in the military, Salvatore travelled 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. This unfortunate development was received as good news by Salvatore, 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 reaching back to his island, he discovered that his betrothed did not wish to marry him anymore due to his disability. Salvatore, despite being crushed at the beginning, dealt with this turn of events gracefully. He moved on and 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 the little money she had, 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 that take place in the story in detail.

The story begins in Salvatore’s boyhood days in 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 in passionate 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 as 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, Bari, and when finally in China, he was struck by a dreadful illness that quarantined him to the 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 awfully 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 little 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 happy married couple in a tiny white-washed cottage. Assunta was devoted to Salvatore and his “most beautiful manners” and “gentle sweetness” and 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 in the fishing season and his mornings in the vineyard. There were days when his rheumatism took a heavy toll on him. On these days, he would calmly endure the debilitating pain by lying about on the beach and exchanging a pleasant word 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 coarse 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.

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Salvatore Analysis and In-Depth Explanation

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, who, despite facing debilitating tribulations such as a crushing heartbreak and a lifelong painful illness, showed up for life with extra-ordinary 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, 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 that have been used beautifully by Maugham.

Salvatore has a very simple and straightforward plot structure. Instead of providing a complex plot with twists and a noticeable character arc, the story provides 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 caches the attention of the readers 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 task 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, but people with goodness in their hearts will always create a wonderful happy ending for themselves against all odds.

Salvatore Character Analysis

In this Salvatore character analysis, we will study the character of the main protagonist, Salvatore, after which the story has been named.

At the outset, Salvatore seems to be a narration of the events that take place in the life of a man – 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 who had some extra-ordinary qualities.

The most prominent among Salvatore’s qualities was his goodness – something which is also the main theme of this story. Salvatore only had goodness to offer, and this is why when the love of his life rejected him because he had a lifelong disability, instead of getting bitter towards her, he accepts the situation as fair and moves 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 deeply 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 was 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 for himself a happy life full of many little joys like bathing his sons and taking care of his family.

Theme of the Story Salvatore

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 strong in face of challenges and misfortunes by staying true to the innate goodness that all humans have. A real test of Salvatore’s goodness came when the love of his life refused to marry him. It was the thought of uniting with his 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. Needless to say, 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 extra-ordinary Salvatore’s quality of goodness was. Instead of blaming his fiancé or thinking bitter things about her, he extended tremendous understanding towards 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 graceful manner in which he handled the misfortunes that befell him, we discover the power of accepting whatever life throws with endurance, which, in turn, enables one to act gracefully through life.

Conclusion

Salvatore by William Somerset Maugham is a wonderful short story, documenting the life of a man who lived by the virtue of 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 to be a happy one, because he showed up for it with goodness, acceptance, endurance, and grace.


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