An Analysis of "The Appointment in Samarra" Essay

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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 …show more content…

Maugham writes of the merchant going to the marketplace to confront Death about the encounter with his servant. This gesture shows that not only did the merchant care for the life of his servant, but it also shows that he had a certain curiosity about Death and her intentions. The act of confronting Death also shows that the merchant did not fear Death since he believed that Death posed no threat to him because she was here explicitly for his servant. Death is the main character, as well as the narrator of this story, yet the author provides us with no real description of her other than calling her a woman. Death narrates this tale in a way that leads us to believe that she is almost an omniscient being in the way that she is able to describe the dialogue between the servant and his master, but an omniscient narrator is incapable of being surprised himself or herself and we find this not to be the case in this story. I believe the author intended to do this in order to make Death appear mysterious, yet also familiar to the reader. Once Death is given human elements, like the ability to be surprised, it gives the illusion that one can cheat death. I find it rather peculiar that in this tale we are led to believe that Death was very easily recognizable. The servant knew immediately that the woman that “jostled”(pg. 4) him was Death. We also read that the merchant went to the marketplace and could see Death standing in the crowd(pg. 4).

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