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A FRIEND IN NEED by Somerset Maugham | Retelling & Summary (Школьные сочинения)

The abridged story I would like to speak about is written by Somerset Maugham and is entitled "A FRIEND IN NEED". The extract under study opens with Old Burton's giving a detailed description of his namesake. Of particular interest is the fact, that Old Burton remarked that he was going to tell a rather funny story, however having read it I realized that the story turned out to be tragic.

I felt tension increasing when Old Burton burst out laughing. You see, young Burton's story didn't touch him, besides seeing bad condition, old Burton wasn't going to make his namesake an offer of a job. Trying to conceal his indifference, he wondered if he could do something, except playing cards, and to his greatest surprised the namesake confessed that when a student he used to be a good swimmer.

I suppose, it was the most insane answer to give, but it must have intrigued the man.

He agreed to give him a job on condition that he would swim round the beacon, and old

urton knew it for sure that it was impossible to do in such a bad condition. The young man funked at first, but he had nothing to do but accept the challenge. Old

urton wished him good luck and they drifted apart.

The story logically comes to its climatic point when old Burton drove up to the beacon in order to meet his namesake, but there was no finding him anywhere. It isn't surprising, that on account of the strong currents he drowned, but what shocked the storyteller most of all that old Burton didn't express any regret about it. He just turned out not to have a vacancy at his office.

The plot of the story is built round 2 main personages, they are Mr. Burton and his young namesake. They are described by the author both directly and indirectly through their actions, appearance and attitude to each other

Old Burton Produced an impression of cruel, indifferent and false man. Moreover, I daresay he was a murderer, because he sent his namesake to the certain death. At first they seemed to be friends, as they used to spend much time together playing cards, however when young Burton applied for help old Burton showed his true face. He considered him to be a failure, and he despised such people. Of course, there is no justifying him, but he was a businessman, and I suppose there is no place for compassion in business, and as a rule businessman aren't sentimental at all. He might have given young Burton some money, but he preferred getting rid of him by such a cruel way.

Reading the story for the first time, I thought young Burton to be rather a good chap.

But when I learnt that he didn't work and he earned his living playing cards only, I understood he was an idle and light hearted person.

Besides, he spent them on women and alcohol, that's why I can assert that he didn't care for his future. Moreover, it's evident that his parents were guilty in it, because they gave him free hand in money. He was also an addicted gamer, because his desire to swim was reckless, he wanted to try his luck.


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