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Appointment in Samarra

Death in W. Somerset Maugham's very short story "The Appointment in Samarra" is a woman who seems to be matter-of-fact about her "work," which in this case specifically involves keeping an "appointment" with a servant. Maugham's Death is not fleshed out, so to speak, in part because of the brief nature of the story. It is not even a story, but rather a fable, as long as a joke, although not the sort of joke the reader will likely laugh at.

The feeling given by the tale is a cold one, but also one eased by a sense of the inevitability of death and the sense that no matter what we do, when it is our time to keep our appointment, it will be kept, however we might try to avoid it. Maugham's Death, then, draws on the feelings and thoughts of the reader with respect to death, and uses those pre-existing feelings and thoughts to ground his rather thin message about death's inescapability.

The oddest aspect of Maugham's Death is the fact that the merchant and the servant both knew Death on sight. It might be expected that the servant, about to die, would recognize Death and would even misinterpret Death's surprised look as "threatening." It seems strange, however, hat the merchant could simply go to the marketplace and immediately recognize Death. Does this mean that any individual could recognize Death wandering about in the marketplace, but that they were not afraid unless she gave them what they interpreted as a threatening gesture? It is a peculiar and unlikely touch to the fable, but is probably included simply to have Death have someone to explain the point of the story---that Death will find you when it is your time.

We come to know much more about death in the portrait by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm in their tale "Godfather Death." The Grimms' Death is a much more personal, much more involved entity than Death as portrayed by Maugham. Death in Maugham's sketch, as we have seen, is a more or less detached creature who goes abou...

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Appointment in Samarra. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:06, May 24, 2017, from