Abstract

This article elucidates an argument running throughout Somerset Maugham's major fiction that distinguishes individualist ethics from social morality in a manner inspired by and consistent with the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. This argument becomes apparent when Maugham's work is read figuratively as ethical parables that exhort readers to fulfill their unique individual natures and that condemn social moral intolerance that prohibits the free expression of our natural and best selves. Maugham's commitment in his fiction to ethical exhortation and moral critique distinguishes his work from that of the Modernist authors who were his contemporaries, prompting its critical neglect.

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