An Analysis of "The Appointment in Samarra"
Death speaks: There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.
Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me
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4) towards them? I believe that the author was trying to illustrate the inescapability of Death by showing us that Death walks among us, so to speak. It is easy to accept death when it does not affect you directly. We know that death is very real, and also inevitable, but unless we are threatened by death, like the servant, we can graciously accept death’s presence. The final point that Maugham makes is one of predestination. When the merchant confronts Death about the apparent “threatening gesture”(pg. 4) that she made towards his servant, she denies it. She claims that it was merely a “start of surprise”(pg. 4) because she was not expecting to see him there because she had an appointment with him later that evening in Samarra(pg. 4). Earlier we read that the servant, believing that Death was at the marketplace for him, fled to Samarra in order to escape Death, but ends up running into the very thing that he was trying to escape. Had the servant stayed in Baghdad he would have avoided the meeting with Death, but the events transpired in a way that ultimately led to his death. Maugham seems to challenge the reader in the final sentence with a very serious question: are we all predestined to die at a particular time or will we be able to stop death when she comes for us?
W. Somerset Maugham. The Appointment in Samarra. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. Compact