The short story “Footprints in the Jungle” is one of six that comprises Somerset Maugham’s 1933 collection titled Ah King. The unifying theme that connects all six stories is the psychological effect of Britons in living in the far flung distant lands that were part of the England’s imperialist colonies. The stress from trying to maintain a properly ordered British lifestyle in among civilizations and societies in various states of disorder results in a violent murder that leaves a body with half its head shot off in “Footprints in the Jungle."
Maugham claims the events related in the story reveal no creativity or imagination on his part; they all actually took place. He set the story in a fictionalized Malay state where the narrative unfolds as a story of social scandal involving adultery, the discovery of an illegitimate pregnancy, and the subsequent murder of an inconvenient husband by cheating couple. The most striking element of the story is that the passage of each year without their crime being detected reduces their feelings of remorse and increases their enjoyment of a comfortable life together.
Real life seems to mirror fiction in this case. Just as the murder goes unsolved and fades into memory as merely a social scandal, so has the focus of the story shifted from the rare presentation of murderers getting away with their crime to the story’s setting as it relates to issues of post-colonial fiction and the portrayal of indigenous people by colonialist writers.
In 1950, “Footsteps in the Jungle” was adapted as a presentation for Somerset Maugham TV Theater.