The famous short story by William Somerset Maugham, The Luncheon, is about a lady who appreciates his writing a lot. The word luncheon means a light midday meal.
The story is about a forty-year-old lady who loves the author’s works and wins his favor, in which she expresses the desire to meet him at a high-class restaurant for a luncheon. The author humorously exposes the fake modest eating habits of middle-class people.
The Luncheon Summary
The author lived in Paris twenty years ago when a lady who admired his writings came to meet him. She had earlier met him at a play and had recently read a book that he wrote and sent a letter expressing her views on the same. She posted another letter about her proposed visit to Paris and her wish to have a little luncheon at the Foyots, the restaurant where the French Congressmen ate. However, Willian was humble and not very wealthy and had never imagined visiting the restaurant and could not decline the request made by the lady.
The author had only eighty Francs with himself, which was supposed to sustain him till the month-end. He anxiously estimated the cost of the luncheon and thought that it would not cost more than fifteen Francs and made the decision to cut down coffee from his order to save enough for the next two weeks. The meeting with the lady was fixed for Thursday, at half-past twelve, according to the letter.
When he met the lady, she was in his forties, not attractive, and spoke an awful lot. She had reassured him that she never ate anything for luncheons. However, she ordered Salmon and Caviar, and William had requested the cheapest possible dish on the menu- the mutton chops. After the meal, the lady placed an order for white champagne and enjoyed the luncheon and their conversation about art, literature, and music. At the same time, William was deeply anxious about the amount of the bill, which was higher than he anticipated. When the bill for the luncheon arrived, she waved towards the waiter and ordered the most expensive item on the menu, the asparagus. This made William’s heart sink and his mouth water, but he had to repress how he felt. She went on to add salt to his wound and ordered both ice cream and coffee. This was after she had said that she would not eat anything but a bite. William was contemplating how he would pay the bill or how he could put a pretentious act of his pick-pocketing.
To his bad luck, the head waiter approached their table with a large basket of fresh peaches. She picked up one of those and said that she had just had a snack and must enjoy a peach. After William paid the bill, he was left with only three Francs for the tip of the waiter and did not have any money left for the remainder of the month. In the end, William thinks he had his revenge when twenty years later, he meets the light luncheon-eating lady and finds out she weighs a hundred and thirty kilograms.
The Luncheon Analysis
The Luncheon is a delightfully humorous narrative and a slice-of-life story about the author’s luncheon date that a woman who supported his art proposed. The author had communicated with her through mail only and was surprised to meet a forty-year-old woman who gives “the impression of having more teeth, white and large and even than were necessary for any practical purpose.”
The author had only eighty Francs to himself for the remainder of the month and grew anxious about eating at the same restaurant as the French senators. The lady reassured him that she never ate anything at luncheon and definitely not more than one thing. However, what she really should have said was that she could not eat more than one thing at a time because she placed orders for several items, each one individually. Salmon, caviar, champagne, giant asparagus, peach, coffee, and ice cream had arrived at the table.
After paying the bill, Willian had only three Francs for the top and had no money left for the month ahead. His supporter offers him nothing but jumps into a cab and calls him happily.
The author says that he is not vindictive, but when the immortal gods take a hand in the matter, it is pardonable to observe the result with complacency. The woman who only had light luncheons now weighs twenty-one stones.
The Luncheon Character Sketch
The admirer was a forty years old, talkative and unattractive woman. She had read a lot of the writer’s books and congratulated him on his work. She wished to speak to him and have lunch at the high-class restaurant. She gave the impression of having white and large teeth. The irony was her saying that she barely ate and ordering the most expensive dishes on the menu.
The narrator was a young and inexperienced writer living in Paris. He was not rich and had to work hard to keep his body and soul together. When the narrator gets a letter from the lady, he cannot decline it. He was educated, polite, and came from a family with good traditions.
The Luncheon Theme
The primary theme of the story by Maugham is the difference between how things appear and how they are. The speaker wishes that the woman he had a date with was gorgeous and imagined her as a graceful lady. However, on the contrary, he was going out with a rather unattractive woman. The story is laced with humor and irony, which makes it comical in the truest sense.
The Luncheon Key Points
The humorous story by Maugham is about the narrator and an admirer of his work, who wishes to meet him for a luncheon at a rather expensive restaurant where the senators get their food. Despite assuring the narrator that she barely eats anything, the lady orders some of the most expensive dishes on the menu. The narrator is constantly panicking about how he will pay the bill. After clearing the bill and the tip, the narrator had nothing left on him for the rest of the month. He thinks to have avenged this incident when he finds out that the lady is extremely overweight.
This post was updated by Anjali Roongta on 07th April 2023.
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