Of Human Bondage  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Of Human Bondage (1915) is a bildungsroman by William Somerset Maugham. It is generally agreed to be semi-autobiographical in nature, although Maugham stated in a signed inscription: "This is a novel, not an autobiography, though much in it is autobiographical, more is pure invention." The novel is considered a classic, and is mentioned by Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. Maugham alludes to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the title of his novel, Of Human Bondage.


Unrequited love and love hate relationship

In Of Human Bondage - The main character Philip Carey becomes enticed by a woman named Mildred Rogers, who does not care an ounce for Philip. He becomes masochistic, willing to put himself in the line of pain to gain Mildred's affection. In the end, he realizes that this is a one-sided love and that he is controlled by his own passions. Mildred is a tawdry waitress at a local cafe. After they break apart and come back together a few times, mostly when she is in desperate need of money. It is an example of a love-hate relationship fueled by a strong physical attraction, also termed as passionate love.


Maugham had borrowed the title of his book from Spinoza, the Part IV of his Ethics is titled Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions. In this part, Spinoza names the people's inability to control their emotions which, thus, serve as a bondage. He also defines good and bad categories basing on the people’s general beliefs, connecting it to their “emotions of pleasure or pain”. He defines perfectness/imperfectness starting out from the desire, in its meaning of particular aims and plans. Philip Carey, the main character of Of Human Bondage, was seeking for this very useful end, and became satisfied only after realizing what his useful end, aim, had been and having found a person to share this aim with.

Film versions

See also

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