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The Moon and Sixpence

W. Somerset Maugham


The Moon and Sixpence tells the story of English stockbroker Charles Strickland, who abandons his wife and child to travel to Paris to become a painter. First published in 1919 in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, the story is inspired by the life of the French artist Paul Gauguin. It’s told in episodic form from a first-person perspective. The narrator, who came to know Strickland through his wife’s literary parties, begins the story as Strickland leaves for Paris. Strickland’s new life becomes a stark contrast to his life in London. While he was once a well-off banker living a comfortable life, he must now sleep in cheap hotels while suffering both illness and hunger.

Maugham spent a year in Paris in 1904, which is when he first heard the story of Gauguin, the banker who left his family and profession to pursue his passion for art. He heard the story from others who had known and worked with Gauguin. Ten years later Maugham travelled to Tahiti where he met others who had known Gauguin during the artist’s time there. Inspired by the stories he heard, Maugham wrote The Moon and Sixpence. Although based on the life of Paul Gauguin, the story is a work of fiction.

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