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Collected Short Stories Volume Three Summary & Study Guide Description
Collected Short Stories Volume Three Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Collected Short Stories Volume Three by W. Somerset Maugham.
Ashenden, appears in Various Stories
Ashenden is an English writer who is approached by R. at a party in London, England. When Ashenden meets with R. he is given the opportunity to work for the British government as a spy for the British Intelligence Department. Since he is a writer, Ashenden will be able to pass back and forth into enemy territory without raising suspicions. In a way Ashenden is an alter personality of author Maugham. In fact, in the preface of his book Maugham indicates the character of Ashenden is loosely based on himself and his own experiences as a spy in World War I.
Ashenden is both the writer and narrator of these stories. All of the stories are written from Ashenden's point of view. Ashenden describes himself as one who observes human nature and does not become tied up in relationships and expectations. Ashenden demonstrates this power of observance in his cool relationship with Caypor. Although he dislikes Caypor because Caypor caused the death of one of Ashenden's fellow spies, Ashenden must befriend the man in order to bring justice.
Ashenden's personality and keen ability to observe the actions of others also help to keep him safe in the spy business. For instance, in the story "Miss King", Ashenden suspects that someone may have turned his name into the police. Instead of running scared, Ashenden observes closely those around him to see which of his acquaintances might be holding something against him. He avoids people who might question his motives or think his actions odd.
R., appears in Various Stories
R. is the colonel in the Intelligence Department who first approaches Ashenden about a job as a spy. R.'s real identity is never revealed in the course of the short stories. He is known simply as R., with the exception of one letter to Ashenden where he refers to himself with the pen name of Raymond. R. has a habit of telling Ashenden that one should do what he can to "mitigate the hardships of war" (p. 86). Although R. is respected by Ashenden, it is indicated by the story "The Hairless Mexican" that he does not always choose his employees wisely. Although R. believes that the Mexican will be able to do his job as instructed, the Mexican instead kills the wrong person.
R. appears in almost every story with the exception of "Sanatorium" and "Mr. Harrington's Washing." He generally appears at the beginning of each story where he introduces Ashenden to his new job or assignment. In these meetings R. usually gives Ashenden some important information about his upcoming job, then disappears for the rest of the story. It is shown in R.'s letter to Ashenden about the fictional "Aunt Maggie" that R. does have a sense of humor. However, R. does not seem to exercise this sense of humor very often.
Manuel Carmona, appears in The Hairless Mexican
Manuel Carmona is the comical character known as the Hairless Mexican. He claims to have been a General in Huerta's army. This Mexican's outstanding characteristic is that he has no visible body hair. No eyebrows, no arm hair, no hair on his head. He wears wigs, which Ashenden considers comical. R. admits to Ashenden that he does not completely trust the Mexican but that he believes that the Mexican will do the job he had been hired to do. R.'s belief is unfounded because the Mexican winds up killing the wrong man. Ashenden suspects from the beginning of the story that the Mexican is not capable of doing his job. In the end of the story Ashenden refers to the Mexican as what he really is, a bloody fool.
Giulia Lazzari, appears in Giulia Lazzari
Giulia Lazzari is a dancer who goes by the stage name of La Malagueña. She is described as being a terrible dancer. Her crime is that she has fallen in love with a dangerous Indian conspirator, Chandra Lal. The agents with the British Intelligence Department hope they can use Giulia to convince Chandra to cross into French territory where he can be captured by the British government. Unknown to the British authorities, Chandra has sworn that he will never be taken alive by the British. Although he does cross into French territory, Chandra has with him a dose of prussic acid which he takes and dies before he is taken into custody. Giulia is pleased that Chandra has managed to kill himself. Giulia, however, makes an unusual request at the end of the story. She requests that she be given back the watch that she gave Chandra as a gift.
Grantley Caypor, appears in The Traitor
Grantley Caypor is the main traitor in the short story "The Traitor." Caypor is an English man who is married to a German woman. By some twist, he is suspected of working for the German Intelligence Department. Caypor attracted the interest and dislike of R. when he reported to the Germans the identity and location of an English spy. This information given by Caypor caused the young spy to be caught and killed.
In his story Ashenden's purpose is to try to persuade Caypor to go back to England where he can be taken care of by the British Intelligence Department. It is already known that Caypor has not been working as he should for the German Intelligence Department. These agents are not happy with his work. Caypor begins talking with Ashenden because he believes Ashenden works with the Censorship Department. Caypor indicates that he wants to start earning a living working in the Censorship Department also. Instead Caypor falls into a trap when he goes to England with a letter of introduction from Ashenden.
Ashenden describes Caypor as a very complex person. Ashenden wonders in one part of the story if Caypor was a "good man who loved evil or a bad man who loved good" (p. 147). He describes Caypor as a pleasant, upbeat person who appears to care about his wife and his dog. Even as he talks to and gets to know this amiable man, Ashenden has to keep reminding himself that it was this man who caused the death of a fellow English spy.
Sir Herbert Witherspoon, appears in His Excellency
Sir Herbert Witherspoon is a British diplomat whom Ashenden initially dislikes because of his coolness. Ashenden later finds it necessary to inform Witherspoon that an American ambassador resents Witherspoon because of his inability to be anything but polite, polished and cool. Witherspoon tells Ashenden he was right to tell him about the American ambassador's feelings, then invites Ashenden to dinner. During this dinner Witherspoon tells Ashenden about the time he had an affair with an acrobat by the name of Alix. Although Ashenden tells Witherspoon that he feels that position is more important than love, Witherspoon uses his story to try to help Ashenden understand that happiness is more important than status. Witherspoon describes his relationship with Alix as being trashy. They stayed in trashy hotels, dealt with low class people and fought constantly, but Witherspoon was happy. He recalls to Ashenden that although he has power and a great position with his current wife, he had never been able to make her happy. Even with the power and prestige that he had always wanted to have, Witherspoon himself is also not happy in his position.
Mr. John Quincy Harrington, appears in Mr. Harrington's Washing
Mr. John Quincy Harrington is the American businessman with whom Ashenden travels to Petrograd, Russia. During the 11 day train trip Ashenden learns all that he believes there is to know about Harrington. Harrington considers himself a top rate speaker and story teller. Ashenden, however, does not enjoy Harrington's slow monotone and is frustrated by his traveling companion's inability to be quiet. Harrington even prefers to read aloud, a habit that Ashenden finds very distasteful. During the span of the trip, Harrington tells Ashenden about his wife, his children, his business, and his education. Ashenden feels there is nothing left for him to learn about Harrington. Despite his incessant talking, Harrington does have the endearing quality of taking good care of Ashenden while he is sick during the train trip.
In addition to his frustrating habit of talking, Harrington is also very particular about cleanliness and his clothing. While others on the train become grubby, Harrington cleans himself and puts on clean clothes daily. It is this habit, however that leads to Harrington's death. Instead of leaving Petrograd when he first learns a revolt has broken out, Harrington insists that he walk to the laundry to pick up some clothes he had sent off for washing. On the way back from this trip, he is shot and killed.
Ivy Bishop, appears in Sanatorium
Ivy Bishop is the pretty, young English girl whom Ashenden is introduced to after he meets McLeod. Since she has been in and out of sanatoriums for nearly 10 years, Ivy looks much younger than she actually is. Ashenden is told by McLeod the day they first meet that he believes there is a relationship between Ivy and Templeton. As Ashenden watches the two together and notices the soft look on Ivy's face as she smiles at Templeton, he agrees with McLeod's observation. Although she knows that her new husband will not live very long, Ivy still agrees to marry Templeton when he asks her. Ivy agrees that when Templeton dies, she will return to the sanatorium.
Major George Templeton, appears in Sanatorium
Major Templeton is described as being a man of extreme leisure and a ladies' man. He appears to be as unconcerned about his coming death as he is about the amount of money he has lost playing cards. Although he begins to flirt with Ivy only because she is the youngest and most attractive lady in the hospital, he soon finds he is falling in love with her. Templeton and Ivy decide to go ahead with their wedding plans despite the fact that the wedding will drastically shorten his life.
Henry Chester, appears in Sanatorium
Henry Chester is the middle-aged business man who contracts tuberculosis. Although it is clear to the other patients that Chester loves his wife, it becomes more and more obvious that he is unhappy when she comes to visit him in the hospital. Soon Chester requests that the doctor tell Mrs. Chester that she is not to come back to the hospital any longer. Chester admits to Ashenden that he asked the doctor to do this because he was beginning to feel hate toward his wife. Chester is angry because he is sick and will probably die while she is well. At the end of the story after Ivy and Templeton's wedding, Chester and his wife manage to put this difference between them and realize that they do still love each other despite the fact that Chester is sick.
Alix, appears in His Excellency
Alix is the acrobat with whom Witherspoon falls in love in the story "His Excellency." Although she is described as not being pretty, Witherspoon is mesmerized by Alix's voice. Alix is very devoted to her job although Witherspoon believes the performance is tacky. When Witherspoon suggests the two spend the time before his wedding together, Alix refuses to give up her job to do so. Instead she suggests that Witherspoon go along with her.
Chandra Lal, appears in Giulia Lazzari
Chandra Lal is described as a fat Indian who is a dangerous conspirator against the Allied forces. Although he has a wife and children in India, he has fallen in love with the dancer Giulia Lazzari. Ashenden and other employees of the Intelligence Department attempt to convince Giulia to lure Chandra across the French border where he can be arrested. Although Chandra does allow himself to be lured to France, he has brought a dose of poison with him. When he realizes he has been trapped by British forces, Chandra takes the poison and kills himself.
Mr. Wilbur Schäfer, appears in His Excellency
Mr. Wilbur Schäfer is the American ambassador in the story "His Excellency" who finds Witherspoon and his proper manners tiresome. Schäfer is currently spending a great deal of time with a Swedish lady. Secrets have been being leaked to the Central Powers and it is suspected the leak might be found in this relationship.
Bernard, appears in Miss King
Bernard is the Swiss agent who demands extra money of Ashenden. He claims that the meager wages that he is paid is not worth the extent to which he risks his life. Bernard threatens to turn Ashenden into the police as a spy. If this happens, Ashenden would be arrested and put in jail. It is Ashenden's experience with this spy that puts Ashenden on edge for the remainder of the story.
McLeod, appears in Sanatorium
McLeod is one of the first sanatorium patients that Ashenden meets. McLeod tells Ashenden that he has lived at the sanatorium 17 years. He inhabits the best room there. Although he is well and could go home, McLeod has been in the hospital so long that he no longer feels comfortable in the outside world. McLeod dies immediately after victoriously winning a tense bridge game.
Campbell, appears in Sanatorium
Campbell is one of the patients at the Sanatorium who has lived there the longest. His competitor is McLeod, who currently believes it is he who inhabits the best room at the hospital. Campbell claims to be waiting for McLeod to die or move out so that he can inherit McLeod's room. As a way to frustrate McLeod, Campbell plays the same tune on his violin repetitively.
Lady Anne Witherspoon, appears in His Excellency
Lady Anne Witherspoon is the woman whom Witherspoon chose to marry in the story "His Excellency." He chooses Anne because her upbringing would make her an appropriate diplomat's wife. Before their wedding Anne travels to Africa with her father. It is during this time that Witherspoon has an affair with Alix, the acrobat whom he spends his life wishing that he had married instead of Anne. When Anne learns of this affair, she holds the knowledge of it over her husband's head.
Baroness de Higgins, appears in Miss King, Giulia Lazzari
The Baroness de Higgins invites Ashenden to play bridge with her and a group of her friends after dinner. The Baroness is an Austrian whom Ashenden believes might have given his name to the police as a spy. Later in the story "Giulia Lazzari" Ashenden indicates that he has had a brief fling with the Baroness. This fling is brought to an end when Ashenden learns that the Baroness de Higgins is indeed an Austrian spy.
Prince Ali, appears in Miss King
Prince Ali is one of the people that the Baroness invites to play bridge with her after dinner one evening. The prince does not speak much during the game but Ashenden feels the man's eye on him while he is talking with the others. When the governess employed by the prince is on her deathbed, it is not the prince that Miss King calls for, but Ashended instead.
Miss King, appears in Miss King
Miss King is the Englishwoman who served as the governess of Prince Ali's daughters. She is treated badly by the girls. Although Ashenden tries to befriend Miss King, she is hateful to him and discourages a friendship. One evening Miss King has a stroke that keeps her from being able to speak. She indicates she wants Ashenden with her. Although Ashenden believes Miss King has something important she wants to tell him, she speaks only one word to him, the name of their mother country England, before she dies.
Gustav, appears in The Traitor
Gustav is a spy employed by the British Secret Service. Although he writes excellent reports, it is soon suspected that he is not actually traveling into Germany to get the information. Ashenden is sent to Gustav's home to determine if this star spy is really doing his own work or not. Ashenden convinces Gustav to tell him that he is not really going into Germany, only getting information by word of mouth. As a bargaining chip, however, Gustav gives information about Grantley Caypor, a man believed to be an English traitor.
Byring, appears in His Excellency
Byring is a promising diplomat who is friends with both Witherspoon and Ashenden. Byring plans to marry Rose Auburn, a dancer and show girl who will not be an asset to a rising diplomat.
Rose Auburn, appears in His Excellency
Rose Auburn is the dancer whom Byring falls in love with and plans to marry. Byring is a promising diplomat but his marriage with Rose Auburn would severely damage his chances to be great in his field. Although Ashenden believes this union is a mistake, Witherspoon believes Byring should embrace the experience even if it makes him happy for just a few years.
Brown, appears in His Excellency
When Witherspoon tells Ashenden his story of his affair with the acrobat, he tells it as if it happened to a friend of his. Witherspoon decides to give this friend the name of Brown. Despite this intent to fool Ashenden, Ashenden realizes that Witherspoon is actually talking about himself.
Fritzi , appears in The Traitor
Fritzi is the dog in the story "The Traitor." He is a purebred who belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Caypor. At the end of this short story Fritzi howls a long mournful howl as if he realizes his master is dead.
This section contains 2,924 words
(approx. 8 pages at 400 words per page)