Comment on the appropriateness of the title of the short story “Salvatore” by William Somerset Maugham. Suggest another title for the story.
The title of a literary piece generally represents its theme, a particular character or sometimes symbolically refers to something deeper than what it actually says. As far as our present story “Salvatore” is concerned, the author has not had much trouble, it seems, finding a suitable title for his story. In fact, the title here represents the protagonist of the story, Salvatore, a fifteen year old boy when the story begins and a middle aged man with a wife and two children at the end of the story.
Maugham’s short story here has actually been a biographical narrative of a common fisher boy from an Italian island. It is a narration of events in a chronological order, perhaps the simplest form for a story.
At the beginning of the story, the narrator describes Salvatore’s life before joining the military service — how Salvatore passed his days lying about in the beach, his expertise at swimming, his love and care for his two younger brothers and his love affair with a girl who lived on the Grande Marina. Then the story goes on to tell us how homesick he was during his service on foreign lands, how he wanted to come back, how he fell ill and finally reached home, disqualified to work any longer due to rheumatism. The story narrates how Salvatore was then rejected by his lover, how he got over the twin shocks of his life by his mental strength, calm and accepting attitude, Salvatore’s marriage with another woman called Assunta and how he was spending his life happily with his wife and two children.
The story of Salvatore ends here. The narrator then directly addresses the readers to covey his message about why he told this story. He says, Salvatore is an epitome of goodness, the inner beauty of a man. This is a rare quality of a man’s character which makes Salvatore so special in the eye of the narrator and the readers alike.
Now, to return to the discussion about the title, the story does nothing but tells the story of a good human being, the titular character Salvatore, who has set an example by his virtues of calmness, forgiveness, broadmindedness, mental strength and ability to stay happy and positive in all situations. Salvatore never complains against anything or anyone in life, but takes life how it comes to him. He has shown the inner beauty of his heart what makes him uncommon and rather heroic despite his common, mundane life of a fisherman.
What could be a better title than the name of the character when the writer’s sole purpose is to present a character before the readers and show a special quality in his character? This is to say that the title of W. Somerset Maugham’s story “Salvatore” has been just and apt, given the purpose of the piece, i.e., to highlight the life of Salvatore and the rare quality he bears.
Suggest another title.
If I really have to suggest another title for this story, the best one should be “Goodness“, I guess. This is the rarest quality that Salvatore bears according to the author.
A title of a literary writing of any genre is a key to the whole subject of the writing. So far as the story “Salvatore” is considered, the title of the story is set according to the protagonist of the story, Salvatore.
The very word “salvatore” means ‘a savior’, and It can’t be denied that the protagonist here justified his given name because with the development of the plot we come to realise that he has survived himself in life with his hard labour and mental patience after overcoming the trauma of his former life which is full of pain both mentally for his unrequited pure love for the girl who lives in Grande Marina and physically for his mysterious deadly disease Rheumatism.
By the way, the whole story is nothing but a story of an ordinary simple fisherman with his ups and downs in life. He is none other than this Salvatore of the title”Salvatore”. At the beginning of the story, the narrator describes Salvatore’s life before joining the military service — how Salvatore passed his days lying about in the beach, his expertise at swimming, his love and care for his two younger brothers . The Narrator states at the very beginning , he is
“a boy of fifteen with a pleasant, ugly face,
a laughing mouth and care-free eyes”.
As a human being , Salvatore is passionate, very emotional and quite careful. He falls in love with a lady of Grande Marina. Leaving his love and his lovely favourite island when he sets out for the military job under Sir Victor Immanuel, he behaved like a child. He “wept like a child” during his military job abroad. His passionate and emotional self is is evident in the fact that he wrote to his beloved “in his childlike handwriting”.
But, quite pathetically, he was caught by a mysterious disease rheumatism which leads to the denial of marriage proposal to his beloved.
Anyway, the passage of his life which creates an inspiration is his life after marrying Assunta, a widow of sacrifying character. He develop a happy family life with their two children. Salvatore cares a lot of the children. He gave then a careful bath and enjoyed the time laughing at them for their smallness. The narrator says,
” … his laugh was like the laughter of an angel.
His eyes then were as candid as his child’s.”
The fact is that, he is a perfect father, a perfect husband, a perfect son, a perfect lover. Above all, he is a good human being with tender and clear heart. He performs all his responsibilities with hard labour throughout his life for the sake of other’s well-being. And, all these he can do only by force of one very rare quality: that is “goodness. Just goodness”. The narrator states, he does not know how this man achieved this quality.
” All I know is that it(goodness) shone in him with a radiance “
So, the whole depiction is nothing but an inspiring life of an ordinary being with his extraordinary quality, “Goodness” by which the writer probably intends to impart the message that instead of money, status , aristocracy, man should have this quality to present himself/ herself in the society. So, needless to say, the title is out and out apt and just.