Synopsis: One of the great novels of the twentieth century. Of Human Bondage tells a fascinating tale of sexual obsession. The story follows Philip Carey in his search for freedom from the strict, oppressive Christian upbringing he suffered as an orphan in an English vicarage. Philip sets out on a journey that leads him to Heidelberg and to Paris. But it is back in London that Philip’s enthrallment with Mildred – the slatternly, pale waitress who makes him slave to her desire – awakens him to the world of obsessive love, deep passion, and true self-discovery. The unforgettable love story is as timeless as it is involving, an intimate tale of human relationships that Theodore Dreiser called “a work of genius.”
Pages 51 to 89: The first 10 to 15 pages aimed to point a transitional phase in the school which Philip attends. I was less interested in the way the school became more religious, and more intrigued by what Philip goes through during that phase which lasts a few years of his life.
Philip meets a new friend; his last name is Rose. And unlike all the other kids who make fun of Philip and his birth defect, Rose likes Philip. Without going into much details and spoiling the story, let me just say that I found myself in the pages I reference.
We have all experienced loneliness, and all of us cling to that one thing or person who makes us feel less lonely; hence, driving that person away. I love how Somerset describes his protagonist as he makes belief that he’s one of the popular kids, or when he over thinks about Rose’s innocent actions. Loneliness makes us oversensitive, and sometimes it even makes us mean to people as we overcompensate to being needy. The way Somerset describes this conflict of the human soul made me feel like I was back in high school when I was reading.
There’s another interesting description, which also resonates with me since I live in a strict and orthodox society, which is Philip’s relationship with religion. At first, Phillip’s pristine mind absorbs all the religious knowledge that is thrown at him. He begins to have high expectations from his relationship with God. Philip prays to God to eradicate the disability of his foot, but is met by disappointments. His uncle, however, relates those disappointments to the lack of Philip’s faith, urging Philip pray harder and face further disappointments. Isn’t this the vicious religious cycle we are all faced with?
There’s a point when Philip accepts that his defect is a test rather than a curse – a burden given for his broad shoulders to carry. And at the end of those lovely pages, the story takes a beautiful turn by Philip realizing that he doesn’t want the life of a pious man such as the one his uncle leads. He knows that there were far more beautiful things in the world; he read about those things in books, and heard other people’s stories about them. He is determined to live another kind of life.