Of Human Bondage: The Women In Philip Carey's Life

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Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham The Women in Philip's life In the novel Of Human Bondage, the main character, Philip Carey, has a myriad of people whom are very influential in his life. William Somerset Maugham portrays Philip as having three women in his life that are of great importance to Philip's character. These three women are Mildred Rogers, Norah Nesbit, and Sally Athelny. Mildred is a negative influence on Philip whereas the other two women serve as positive influences in Philip's life. Of the three, Philip loves Mildred the most, though Mildred loves him not.

Mildred is a negative influence on Philip. Though he loves her, she doesn't love him back. She is grateful toward Philip and rewards him with various degrees of affection. This forebodes the fact that she becomes a prostitute later on in the novel. While with Philip, Mildred distracts him from studying and causes him to spend all his money to take her out to eat and see musicals.

This causes Philip to fail his two very important medical examinations. Mildred is a snobby, stupid, callous, shallow, vain, and selfish woman. Aware of Philip's feelings for her, she takes advantage of him. She accepts his gifts and seeks his protection, but thwarts his affection. Philip forgives her for her deceitfulness and helps her when she is in trouble. In return for Philip's love, kindness and generosity, she gives him pain, abuse, and misery. She proves her heartless nature when she runs away with Emil Miller, has an affair with Griffiths, and destroys Philip's home. She also abandons her infant to the care of a stranger in order to enjoy life. This demonstrates her selfish nature. Mildred seems to be Philip's foil. They're so different from one another that Mildred doesn't even understand Philip. Philip's generosity, kindness, and love cannot be understood by such a selfish, vicious, hateful woman. It's a wonder how Philip is bonded to this human anti-epitome. Philip chose Mildred because she is the type of woman that was a challenge for him. He had just begun medical school and was feeling bored when suddenly he came upon this ill-mannered slut of a waitress in a tea shop. From that moment on, he couldn't get enough of her. He always tried to get back at her but never quite could. It was as if he was doomed to spend the rest of his life bonded to her. It was too much to bear for him. Her indifferent attitude toward him drove him mad over the brink of obsession. He tortured himself to try and get a woman that he could never have and she would never love him back. He was even willing to marry her to get back at her for all the evil she inflicted upon him. Philip finally breaks through the bonds of "love" and sees Mildred for who she really is - a conniving, callous prostitute.

Norah Nesbit is another influential woman in Philip's life. Though Philip doesn't love Norah, she is a positive influence in his life nevertheless. Norah pampers Philip using her motherly instincts and encourages him to do what he can for himself: go on vacation to take a break, and study hard for school to pass his exams. She is successful in convincing Philip to focus on his studies rather than herself. Therefore when he's with her, he passes all three exams without any trouble and has earned his vacation that he is reluctant to go on, but is persuaded by thoughtful Norah to do so. Unlike Mildred, Norah appreciates Philip and doesn't allow him to waste his money. Philip intentionally chose Norah's ilk because Norah is nurturing, kind-hearted, and loving. Philip chooses her in his time of need, after he is hurt by the harshness and pain that Mildred has inflicted upon him. She ameliorates him back to life after the thought and sight of Mildred has tormented him for many dreary months.

Sally, the third and final influential woman in his life, helps Philip establish his identity in the world. The eldest child of Mr. Athelny, she is sensible, maternal, pretty, charming, and responsible. She is the pride of her family and wins the heart of everyone with her pleasant manners and warmth, including Philip. Sally falls for Philip's simplicity and unassuming manner, but does not force herself on him. She patiently waits for him to recognize her appeal. While Philip vacations with the Athelnys in Kent, he begins to notice Sally and he realizes that he is attracted to her. He begins to see her regularly and decides to spend the rest of his life with her. She accepts his proposal of marriage. Sally is a contrast to Mildred. Sally's presence calms Philip, while Mildred's presence troubles him. His passion for Mildred had disrupted his life and career, but Sally's love gives him hope for a bright future. Philip learns to love Sally, though not like Mildred, and she loves him back. Therefore Sally is the best woman for Philip since they both love one another. Sally is there when Philip needs her. She's not pushy or demanding, so Philip chooses her because he needs someone of her ilk to depend upon after Mildred ruins his life yet again by making him homeless and penniless.