The Ant and the Grasshopper – Summary

In the satirical short story, The Ant and The Grasshopper, W. Somerset Maugham juxtaposes two brothers, the unscrupulous and carefree Tom and the hardworking, respectable George, who expects that Tom would end in the gutter. However Tom marries a rich old woman, she dies and leaves him a fortune.

Summary

The Ramsays were perfectly respectable people. George was the elder brother and his younger brother was named Tom. There was every reason that Tom would come to have a useful and respectable career. But he was like the grasshopper who wasted his life in idle,worthless, dissolute pursuits. His elder brother George on the contrary was like the ant, prudent, industrious. He was looking forward to retiring on a small income and leading a peaceful retired life. But Tom did not let his elder brother’s dream be realised. One day, without warning, Tom announced that he had no interest in work and he would not marry. He wanted to enjoy life. He refused to listen to anybody who gave him good counsel. He left his wife and office. With the little money he had he spent two happy years in various capitals of Europe.When he ran out of pocket, Tom borrowed money from others. He was very good at making friends and his friends found it difficult to refuse money when he asked for it.

Tom would often borrow money from his elder brother George for his luxuries. Once or twice when Tom promised to mend his ways, George gave him considerable money so that he might make a fresh start. Instead of mending his ways, Tom bought a motor car and some jewellery with that money. When George felt his brother to be incorrigible, Tom started black-mailing him. He took up a job in a bar or started driving a taxi. George had to oblige his brother with a couple of hundred pounds merely to save the honour of the family.

Once Tom nearly went to prison. He showed himself having cheated a man called Cronshaw, other scoundrel, with whom Tom was in league. Cronshaw threatened to take the matter to the court if his money was not returned by Tom.But George could not allow his only brother to go to jail. So he paid Tom the money. To his surprise, George heard both Tom and Cronshaw went off together to Monte Carlo soon after encashing the cheque. For twenty years Tom raced and gambled and made love, danced, ate in costly restaurants and dressed himself in spotless garments. Though he was forty six, he looked to be less than thirty six. And George who was only a year older than Tom looked sixty. The poor George worked hard in his office and never left his office before six. His only consolation was that Tom too was gettin gold and then he would not find life so easy then. George was dumbfounded to learn that Tom become engaged to a woman old enough to be his mother. After her death, Tom inherited her property and a house in London and another in the country. This provoked the elder brother to bitter resentment.

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