The Lotus Eater

The Lotus Eater

"The Lotus Eater" is a short story written by Somerset Maugham in 1945.


It is set in 1913 and the story begins when the narrator visits a friend on the Island of Capri in Italy. There, he is introduced to the character of Thomas Wilson, who came to the island for a holiday 16 years ago. Since then, Wilson had given up his job in London as a bank manager to live a life of simplicity and enjoyment in a small cottage in Capri. Since he had saved just enough money to purchase an annuity that would last exactly 25 years, he had also decided to commit suicide once his money runs out. The narrator of the story is stunned by such a bold decision and he decides to have a chat with Wilson. During their conversation over dinner, the narrator discovers that Wilson is so enchanted with life on Capri. What seems a dull life to the narrator is but pure pleasure to Wilson. The narrator then leaves Capri and nearly forgets of his encounter with Wilson until 13 years later, when he re-visits his friend on Capri.

It is during this visit that the narrator is told of how Wilson exhausted all his resources when he had reached 60 and then tried to continue his life on Capri by borrowing small sums of money. He, however, did not use this money to pay the rent but used it to sustain his carefree life. He continued living on the goodwill of the landlord who owned his cottage and did so for a year. By then, the landlord demanded that he pay the rent. In desperation, Wilson shut himself in his cottage and lit a charcoal fire in an attempt to kill himself. He survived the fire but became insane. The landlord was kind enough to let Wilson live in their shed and have him feed the animals. Wilson lived this miserable life for 6 years before he finally died, lying on the ground overlooking the beautiful Bay of Naples which he so loved.


The irony in this story is that Wilson traded a life of boring routine in London for an equally mundane life in Capri. However, this irony is only on the part of everyone else except Thomas Wilson, for he enjoyed his life on Capri thoroughly. What is definitely sad, is that he lived a wonderful 25 years of pleasure and ended the last 6 living like a wild animal. Somerset's stories are often rich with ironies, as well as other subtle lessons about human nature. Wilson's choice to leave his London life behind in exchange for a life of leisure on Capri is at once awesome as well as tragic. It is awesome because it resonates with every young traveler who has gone abroad and marvelled at the comparison between some wonderful new place and the routine dullness of his familiar life at home but it is also tragic because he did not provide himself with enough funds to live well into his natural time of death. In this, Somerset reveals the downfall of making such hasty decisions such as the one Wilson made. If Wilson had carefully planned his retirement from his banking job, saving enough money in the process, the last 6 years of his miserable life might well have been avoided.

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  • The Lotus Eaters — may refer to:* Lotophagi ( lotus eaters ), a race of people in Greek mythology from an island or peninsula near Northern Africa dominated by lotus plants. * The Lotus Eaters (television), a British television drama made by the BBC between 1972… …   Wikipedia

  • Lotus-eater — Lo tus eat er (l[=o] t[u^]s [=e]t [ e]r), Lotos eater Lo tos eat er (l[=o] t[o^]s [=e]t [ e]r), n. (Class. Myth.) One who ate the fruit or leaf of the lotus, and, as a consequence, gave himself up to indolence and daydreams; one of the Lotophagi …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lotus-eater — [lōt′əsēt΄ər] n. in the Odyssey, one of a people who ate the fruit of the lotus and consequently became indolent, dreamy, and forgetful of duty …   English World dictionary

  • lotus-eater — /loh teuhs ee teuhr/, n. 1. Class. Myth. a member of a people whom Odysseus found existing in a state of languorous forgetfulness induced by their eating of the fruit of the legendary lotus; one of the lotophagi. 2. a person who leads a life of… …   Universalium

  • lotus-eater — /ˈloʊtəs itə/ (say lohtuhs eetuh) noun someone who leads a life of dreamy, indolent ease, indifferent to the busy world. {from the Odyssey by Homer describing the Lotophagi who lived somewhere on the north African coast and who ate the leaves of… …   Australian English dictionary

  • lotus-eater — noun Date: 1832 1. any of a people in Homer s Odyssey subsisting on the lotus and living in the dreamy indolence it induces 2. an indolent person …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • lotus eater — person who lives in pleasure and luxury, lazy and indulgent person; person who lived in an indolent and languorous forgetfulness state from eating the fruit or leaf of the lotus (Classical Mythology) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • lotus-eater — lo′tus eat er n. 1) myt a member of a people in Homer s Odyssey who, from eating the fruit of the legendary lotus, lived in a state of languorous forgetfulness 2) a person who leads a life of indolent ease …   From formal English to slang

  • lotus-eater — noun someone indifferent to the busy world in the Odyssey Homer tells of lotus eaters who live in dreamy indolence • Syn: ↑stargazer • Derivationally related forms: ↑stargaze (for: ↑stargazer) • Hyper …   Useful english dictionary

  • lotus eater — noun a) One of the Lotophagi (see ). b) Someone with an easy life who does not worry about much …   Wiktionary