Mr. Know All /by W. Somerset Maugham“Mr. Know All” is a story about culture, manners, outward appearances,values and – most importantly – prejudice. Prejudice exists because it isthe human nature to stereotype people we meet based on race or howthey look before getting to know them. The moral of the story can besummed up by the English proverb: “You should not judge a book by itscover”, since appearances may be deceiving.PART A – THE STORYPart One:In part one the reader is introduced to the narrator who considers himself to be an Englishgentleman. He considers his “breeding” to be superior to non-white English citizens fromthe colonies held by England during this period in history. From the beginning of the story,we are told that the narrator was a highly prejudiced man who was prepared to dislikeMax Kelada, even before he met him.Once the narrator voices his dislike for Mr. Kelada, he leaves the cabin to play solitaire onthe boat. There he is approached by Mr. Kelada. When Mr. Kelada introduces himself to thenarrator, Mr. Kelada is described as having, “a row of flashing teeth.” White teeth should bea sign of good hygiene ( )היגיינה , but our narrator uses them to make Mr. Kelada looksinister) )מרושע . The narrator uses any attribute of Mr. Kelada to make him look bad inorder to justify his attitude. As a result, his interpretation is sometimes presented in atwisted manner ( )בצורה מעוותת .When Mr. Kelada tells the narrator that he is an English citizen, the narrator is quitesurprised. Although he accepts the fact that Mr. Kelada is a British citizen by law, becausehe has a passport, he does not accept himas a true Englishman. He thinks he isn'tworthy of being called a gentleman, andcertainly not equal to him.Mr. Kelada is a Levantine. A Levantine is1 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

someone who comes from the Levant, the former name for the geographical area of theeastern Mediterranean that is now occupied by Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Mr. Kelada ispresented with all the typical stereotypes of a person from the Middle East. He is portrayedas informal, loud, dogmatic and pushy. He cannot help but interfere in the lives of otherpeople.During the period between 1920 and 1933, the US government forbade the saleof any alcoholic drinks. This period was known as Prohibition. Since the shipwas sailing from San Francisco, it was "bone-dry". That is, no alcohol was sold onthe ship. Although the sale of alcohol was illegal, it was possible to buy it on theblack market, as Mr. Kelada obviously did.Maugham, the writer, establishes the racist hypocrisy ( )צביעות of the narrator. When Mr.Kelada offers him an alcoholic beverage, the narrator quickly accepts and takes advantageof Mr. Kelada’s stock of alcohol. This is symbolic of the hypocrisy of racists who pretend tobe friendly to those who suffer from prejudice and bigotry ( )גזענות , but indeed detest( )שונאים them. In fact, they are even willing to use the resources ( )משאבים of those theyconsider inferior ( )נחותים when it suits their personal interests.Nevertheless, Maugham, the author also criticizes Mr. Kelada who seems to ignore thecultural norms ( )נורמות תרבותיות of the narrator and acts in a manner that causes others todislike him:He talks too much.He acts with ill manners when he doesn’t use the term “Mister” to address the narratoras is expected between two total strangers.He interferes in the narrator’s solitaire card game.He reserves a seat for the narrator in the dining hall without permission.Part Two:Mr. Kelada took upon himself to arrange all the social affairs of the cruise. WhileMr. Kelada appears to think that his efforts are appreciated, the narrator is quickto point out that: “He was certainly the best hated man on the ship.”2 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

The passengers called him “Mr. Know All” to his face. While this is clearly an insult ( )עלבון ,Mr. Kelada takes it as a compliment. He earned the nickname because he would argue anypoint, even the smallest one, until he had won the argument. Undoubtedly, many of Mr.Know All’s “victories” ( )ניצחונות came as a result of his ability to wear-down ( )להתיש hispartner in a debate.It appears that Mr. Kelada’s annoying habits are not motivated by ill-will ( )רצון רע , but bycultural codes which are unacceptable to the narrator who is a snobbish English gentleman(another stereotype). Yet, these mannerisms prevent Mr. Kelada from assimilating fully(. )להיות חלק מ into the English culture and being accepted as a true Englishman.Somerset Maugham is making an important point about the difficulties of foreigners inbecoming part of their newly adopted cultures. The only way Mr. Kelada will be able tobecome accepted as a true Englishman, is if he deserts ( )נוטש the ways of his native culture–a heavy price that requires him to give up his cultural identity.Being around Mr. Kelada was an unpleasant experience during the course of the day, butthe meal times were the worst because the diners were a captive audience ( )קהל שבוי whocould not just get up and leave the table as well.Despite being a clear annoyance, it is obvious that Mr. Kelada has gained a place ofrespectable status on the ship. This we can see from the fact that he arranges for himself tosit at the table of the ship’s doctor. The ship’s doctor, in the era in which the story waswritten, played a key social and professional role on the ship. The high status of sitting atthe doctor’s table is reinforced ( )מחוזק by the fact that an American diplomat, Mr. Ramseyjoins the doctor’s table.Mr. Ramsey is quite annoyed at Mr. Kelada’s attitude of being right about everything.Therefore, he argues with Mr. Kelada. It appears that Mr. Ramsey’s problem with Mr. KnowAll’s attitude and self-confidence is connected to his ethnic background. While Mr. Ramseyhas a certain social status as a member of the American Counselor Service, he is certainlynot rich and has a quite neglected appearance: He is a heavy man who dresses poorly. Thisis in sharp contrast to the description of Mr. Kelada who is well dressed. Their physicalcontrast is an expression of their contrasting mental and cultural attitudes.3 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

The reader is also introduced to Mrs. Ramsey who is described as a simple person with amodest personality and appearance. Her modest behavior is what makes her stand out.Mrs. Ramsey is also described as a “very pretty little thing.” Her physical incompatibility( )חוסר התאמה with her husband might represent the differences between them.Part Three:Mr. Ramsey decides to start an argument with Mr. Kelada just for the fun of it. Theargument centers on whether the development of artificial pearls will have a negativeimpact on the price of the real pearls. This argument is very heated, even more than pastones and Mr. Kelada loses his temper.Mr. Kelada reveals ( )חושף for the first time the nature of his business and says that he istravelling to Kobe, Japan, to investigate the cultured (artificial) pearl business.Then, Mr. Kelada looks at Mrs. Ramsey, who is wearing a beautiful string of pearls, and tellsher that her necklace will maintain its value despite the influx of cultured pearls in themarketplace. In other words, he is saying that Mrs. Ramsey’s pearls are genuine.Mr. Ramsey slyly asks Mr. Kelada how much the pearls cost. Mr. Kelada estimates theirprice at between 15,000 to 30,000 dollars. Thus, Mr. Ramsey jumps and says that thepearls are artificial and cost only 18 dollars. Mr. Kelada claims Mr. Ramsey is wrong sincethe pearls are real.Mr. Ramsey, who is sure the pearls are fake, offers to bet a 100dollar about the authenticity of Mrs. Ramsey’s pearls. Mr. Ramseyagrees willingly to let Mr. Kelada judge the authenticity of thepearls despite Mr. Kelada's obvious conflict of interest. Again,despite having a negative opinion of Mr. Kelada whom Mr.Ramsay sees as a member of the “inferior race”, he is willing tomake use of his expertise.Surprisingly, Mrs. Ramsey tries to convince her husband to call the bet off. She claims it isnot fair to bet on something that is absolutely known. When she realizes that this is notgoing to prevent the bet, she pretends to be unable to take off the pearls so that Mr. Keladacan examine their authenticity. Despite the fact that it is obvious to all that Mrs. Ramsey is4 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

uncomfortable with the bet, Mr. Ramsey is persistent and takes the string of pearls off andhands it to Mr. Kelada.Mr. Kelada is about to announce that the pearls are real,when he notices Mrs. Ramsey’s pale face. He sees her distressand decides to tell the people at the table that he has beenwrong and that the pearls are fake, although they aren't. Theirony of this is that Mr. Kelada, who apparently lackssensitivity to other people, is more sensitive to Mrs. Ramseythan her husband.The huge sacrifice that Mr. Kelada makes in order to save Mrs. Ramsay's marriage andreputation is surprising. Mr. Kelada who boasts about being correct all the time, "admits"to be wrong in a field he is considered to be an expert. He is also willing to lose a 100, a lotof money at that time. After dinner the story spreads all over the ship and everyone laughsat Mr. Kelada.The next morning, an envelope with a 100 note is placed under the door of the cabinwhich the narrator and Mr. Kelada share. At this point, it becomes clear to the narrator thatMr. Kelada was correct about the pearls being authentic. Thus, we can infer that Mrs.Ramsey received the pearls from a secret lover in New York while her husband had been inKobe. It is at this moment that the narrator understands Mr. Kelada's sacrifice and hisdislike of Mr. Kelada decreases, "I didn't entirely dislike Mr. Kelada".5 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

PART B – Analysis and InterpretationSettingThe story takes place on a passenger ship sailing from San Franciscoto Yokohama, shortly after the end of the First World War. Theimportance of the ship is that it is a closed environment. On land the narrator could haveeasily avoided Mr. Kelada, but on a ship, this would be impossible. The significance ofWorld War One is twofold (double):First, it explains why the narrator and Mr. Kelada had to share a cabin. The passengertraffic on the ocean-liners was heavy, so although the narrator would have preferred asingle cabin, he had to agree to share a cabin with a person he didn’t know and dislikedjust because of his name.Second, it may help to explain the narrator’s use of the word Levantine in describing Mr.Kelada and supply a possible reason for the narrator’s antagonism towards him. Duringperiods of war, feelings of prejudice and dislike for foreigners grow stronger.Furthermore, the story takes place in “international waters” and not in a given country.This is significant in order to convey the message of the story: The writer implies thatprejudice is an international problem, and not a problem of any given place. Prejudice andracism are human traits and not the traits of any given culture. Although the characters arefar from their native societies, they still bring their racial and cultural prejudices andstereotypes with them on board.The PlotThe story consists of two plots:The main plot deals with the conflicting relationship between the narrator and Mr.Kelada.The sub-plot deals with the relationship between Mr. Kelada and Mr. Ramsay. Theydiscuss real pearls (nature-made) and cultured pearls (man-made), then they betwhether Mrs. Ramsay's necklace is made of real pearls or imitation.The two plots are connected. The sub-plot serves to bring the complications of the mainplot to its climax and solution. In other words, after the narrator discovers that Mr. Kelada6 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

is in fact a gentleman, he understands he has been prejudiced and changes his opinionabout him.The CharactersThe protagonist is the narrator. Although his main dislike and criticism is referred toMr. Kelada, he is also critical of each of the other characters except for Mrs. Ramsay.The narrator is British and admits he would prefer a cabincompanion with a name like Smith or Brown. Britishgentlemen at that time had typical characteristics. They weredressed in quiet colors; they did not talk very much and didnot use gestures when they talked. The narrator uses manywords and expressions to show that Mr. Kelada does not knowhow to behave 'properly'. For example: chatty, exuberant,hearty, jovial, loquacious and argumentative, acrimonious andinterminable, vehement and voluble. At the time of King George Britain was an empire,ruling many countries, such as India. The citizens of these colonies were given Britishpassports, but were considered second-class citizens.The antagonist is Mr. Kelada who is a successful, businessman. His informality canperhaps be attributed to trying a little too hard to be liked and accepted.Minor Characters: Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, the doctor.The characters are described by their appearance and characteristics, except for thenarrator.In behavior Mr. Kelada is the double of Mr. Ramsay: both are dogmatic and cocksure.Physically, however, Mr. Kelada is a contrast to Mr. Ramsay. While Mr. Kelada is “shortand of sturdy build”, Mr. Ramsay is a “great heavy fellow". Their physical contrast is anexpression of their contrasting mental and cultural attitudes.Mrs. Ramsay is not what she seems to be. Her quietness and outer appearance prove tobe deceptive. Physically, Mrs. Ramsay is a contrast to her husband. While he is “a greatheavy fellow with loose fat under his tight skin”, she is a “very pretty little thing.” Theirphysical contrast reveals their incompatibility – disharmony in their marriage.7 Composed of various sources by Dorit [email protected]

The Point of ViewThe story is told in the first person – the narrator sees everything and isa part of the plot.In part one, where he meets with Mr. Kelada, the narrator is