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Chapters 40-42

In these three chapters Maurice flees Penge, is terrified of the letters and telegrams he receives from Alec, and has it confirmed by Lasker Jones that he's not very likely to change.

The story Maurice told the Durhams about the girl he's supposed to have in town provides the excuse he needs to leave Penge immediately (and they can see he's feeling ill anyway). Clive drives him to the station, which gives Maurice the opportunity to probe him about Alec's background, but what he learns only upsets him more. How could he have fallen for a butcher's son? And he feels ashamed about abusing his hosts' kindness and hospitality. Getting back to home doesn't much help with his shame and guilt, as he's all too aware of betraying his mother and sisters with his lust. I'm not entirely sure if he's being a bit too hyperbolic there.

He's not prepared for all the communications from Alec that start arriving: a telegram, a letter, then another letter. In the first letter, Maurice's eyes are drawn to the sentence "I have key", referring to the boathouse, which in Maurice's mind turns into a great blackmailing scheme complete with accomplishes. But the sentence is also open to figurative meaning. At Lasker Jones's office, Maurice is trying to put into words what happened, and wonders how someone like Alec was able to press all the right buttons at the moment when Maurice's defences were down--so clearly, he did hold a key. To be honest, I find the fact that Alec writes a bit surprising. He feels deeply, that's clear enough, and clearly he respects the boundaries enough to write rather than turn up on Maurice's doorstep without warning, but still I can't quite reconcile the letters to the man. But it's largely a problem of Alec being so invisible in the book, a character whose thoughts we're not, on the whole, privy to.

A photo of an old letter by Lainey's Repertoire on flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence

Maurice goes to his second appointment with Lasker Jones with high hopes and a sense of urgency, but it is not to be. He's no longer open to suggestion, with the knowledge of having fulfilled his desires weighing on his mind. He's forced to confess all to Lasker Jones, who's still very nonjudgemental, but cannot offer any more help. He does, however, have a piece of advice: living in a country with a legal system derived from Code Napoleon, where homosexual acts are no longer a crime.

A photo of Code Napoleon volumes by umjanedoan on flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence

The mention of abroad prompts Maurice to explain his theory that in the past men had the wild woods of England to hide. While it might be a sweet idea, it's not offering much practical help at the moment.

With the hypnosis failing, Maurice is beginning to reassess his life. His work no longer seems a privilege but something pointless, providing a service to clients who are so conventional and utterly devoid of any sense of living joyous, exciting, fulfilled lives. At least he's had something. And he's going to be meeting Alec again, although on the neutral, respectable ground of the British Museum.


  • What do you make of Alec's letters?

  • Maurice goes through a wide spectrum of feelings in this chapter, but what do you think is the strongest/most important at this stage?

Photo credits:
Old letter by Lainey's Repertoire on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence
Code Napoleon, umjanedoan on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence
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