Mr. Know-All by-Somerset Maugham
This story deals with prejudice, hasty judgements and stereotypes. The story examines the relationships that develop when people are confined to a ship (which is a small sample of society) for an extended period of time. The writer criticizes the racial prejudices and snobbish attitude of the British people. He tries to show why people are disliked and prejudiced against and at the same time makes the reader look closely at the character of the narrator, who is the one doing the judging and through whose eyes we see the whole story. At the end of the story, we learn that we shouldn’t generalize according to our own prejudices.
The narrator- He is prejudiced. He observes the others and judges them. He doesn’t get involved. At the end of the story he realizes that Mr. Kelada is a real gentleman, but he still says: ”I did not entirely dislike Mr. Kelada.” He can’t really like him because of racial reasons, but he understands he isn’t as negative as expected.
Mr. Kelada- He is a rich oriental who has a British passport. He shows off his money and his knowledge. The British see him as pushy, vulgar and ridiculous. He is involved in everything that happens, he is sociable and needs to be accepted and liked. He behaves as if he were sure of himself and he isn’t sensitive enough to notice that he is laughed at. However, this man, who is so anxious to prove that he knows everything, gives up his pride for the sake of a woman he doesn’t even know. He turns out to be a considerate person and a real gentleman.
Mr. Ramsay- He is a dominant person who thinks he knows everything and needs to be always right. He is not gentle and he is not a gentleman. He is not sensitive and doesn’t even notice what the others do notice about his wife.
Mrs. Ramsay- She is a quiet and gentle woman. She is a contrast to her husband. She is elegant, but in a modest way. She is unhappy with him and obviously not very honest with him, but she is honest enough to return the money to Mr. Kelada.
1.Why is the story written in the first person? How does this affect the credibility of the story? Why doesn’t the narrator ever tell us his own name?
2.Why was the narrator prepared to dislike Mr. Kelada even before he met him? What does this tell us about the narrator?
3.Why does the story take place on a ship in the middle of the ocean and not in a city?
4.Why is the narrator surprised to find out that Mr. Kelada is English?
5.How did Mr. Kelada behave on the ship? What did the passengers feel about him according to the narrator?
6.Describe Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. How do you think the narrator feels about them?
7.Why did Mr. Kelada decide to protect Mrs. Ramsay? What does this tell us about him?
8.In the last paragraph the narrator says, “At that moment I did not entirely dislike Mr. Kelada.” Has the narrator changed at all during the story? What are your feelings towards Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Kelada and the narrator by the end of the story?
9.What do cultured pearls and real pearls symbolize in the story?
1.The story is in the first person so that we only see the viewpoint of the narrator. The viewpoint is completely subjective. We don’t know his name in order to make him represent anyone and everyone.
2.He was prepared to dislike Mr. Kelada because of his name, which sounded foreign. He also didn’t like the look of Mr. Kelada’s suitcases (the labels and size) and his toiletries (the brand and the fact that they looked dirty). This tells us that the narrator is a snob who only wants to mix with other English people and has prejudices against anyone who is not English.
3.The story takes place in a ship in order to confine people and force them to meet and to be together. It forces people who normally would not mix at all to be together. It does not give people a choice about whom they would like to socialize with.
4.He is surprised because the name doesn’t sound English.
5.Mr. Kelada was a good mixer; he knew everyone and organized everything on the ship. He talked all the time, was opinionated and acted as if he knew everything. According to the narrator he was the “Best hated man in the ship”. His supposed knowledge of everything and his incessant talking made his presence intolerable.
6.Mr. Ramsay was a big heavy man who wore cheap clothes. He was as opinionated a s Mr. Kelada. Mrs. Ramsay was a small, pretty woman who dressed simply but eleganly. Her most outstanding feature was her modesty. The narrator does not like Mr. Ramsay because he thinks he is as dogmatic as Mr. Kelada and the discussions between them seemed to go on forever. Mrs. Ramsay is described in a positive way showing that the narrator was impressed by her. He feels that not only is she pretty but she has a special modesty lacking in most women.
7.Mr. Kelada decided to protect Mrs. Ramsay because he saw the terrified look on her face and realized that she had lied to her husband. This shows us that he was an extremely caring, sensitive person who was prepared to sacrifice his own reputation, which was very important to him, in order to protect a stranger.
8.The narrator hasn’t really changed during the story. He doesn’t admit that he completely misjudged Mr. Kelada and that he was unfairly prejudiced before, he just says that at that moment at the end of the story he doesn’t really totally dislike him. …
9.Cultured pearls are pearls that are created or made by people- they are not natural or genuine as are real pearls. Cultured pearls look beautiful but are mass produced and not unique. The different sorts of pearls symbolize the different people in the story. Mrs. Ramsay is a cultured pearl, wheras Mr. Kelada is a real pearl.
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