Salvatore Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of Maugham's many descriptions of Salvatore's face?

    Maugham repeatedly describes Salvatore's face because it is symbolic of Salvatore's fundamental goodness. When the narrator first meets the fifteen-year-old Salvatore, he has "a pleasant face, a laughing mouth and carefree eyes." The gentle innocence of his expression stays with him even when he is heartbroken by his fiancée's rejection, maintaining a "sad smile" despite having the eyes of a punished dog. Even though he thinks Assunta is "ugly as the devil," Salvatore has a "sweet smile" when he considers her interest in him. That contented smile stays with him when he marries her and has children. Although he works all night fishing and suffers from rheumatism pain, he retains "that ingenuous smile and those trusting, kindly eyes that he had as a boy." At the end of the story, Maugham reveals the significance of the several descriptions of Salvatore's face by commenting directly on the man's inherent goodness, a goodness that shines out from his spirit through his smile.

  2. 2

    What role does economic hardship play in "Salvatore"?

    As one of the story's major themes, economic hardship plays a subtle yet significant role in "Salvatore." Weaving the theme into the background of the story from the beginning to the end, Maugham depicts Salvatore's family's poverty through descriptions of the manual labor (fishing and vine cultivation) the family engages in and by emphasizing the modest home they live in and the ragged clothing Salvatore wears. The pervasive poverty of the island emerges most significantly when Salvatore's fiancée refuses to marry him because her family will not let her marry a man who may not provide for her. Salvatore is not bitter about her decision because he is immersed in the same economic reality as the girl, and he knows men are expected to work physically demanding jobs to support their families. That Assunta has enough of her own money to buy Salvatore a fishing boat makes her an appealing wife, and he marries her despite not finding her physically attractive. Ultimately, the economic precariousness that defines Salvatore's life proves not to stand in the way of his ability to be content with what he has, and it does not extinguish the goodness that emanates from his spirit.

  3. 3

    What does Maugham's narrator mean when he writes that Salvatore possesses "goodness, just goodness"?

    The "goodness" the narrator ascribes to Salvatore encompasses a complex collection of qualities. Having spent the story attempting to show Salvatore to the reader, the narrator applies the label of "goodness, just goodness" to reduce to a simple sentiment the mixture of unconscious kindness, charm, robustness, happiness, and humility that emanates from Salvatore's spirit. Salvatore maintains these inherent virtues throughout his life, even when he is diagnosed with a debilitating illness, rejected by his love, and forced by economic conditions to work through the night, morning, and evening. Although his wife seems like a compromise option, Salvatore treats her well and develops a loving rapport. He is also never bitter, refusing to say anything negative about the girl who rejected him. In this way, when the narrator comments on Salvatore's goodness, he is commenting on Salvatore's rare ability to be content with the life he has despite the hardships he endures.