The Razor’s Edge describes Elliottt Templeton as man who had class, elegance and good features. He was attractive at every aspect from dressing to his house and the meals that were served there. He was a man of high rank with good taste and knowledge as can be shown by his wardrobe which he kept with great detail. “He got his haberdashery at Charvet’s, but his shoes and his hats in London.” (4). Elliott was also a man of great social connections who liked meeting people with great names. He considered himself in a class where not everyone could fit unless they had something in common. This is demonstrated when the writer says that at the beginning, Elliottt was not interested in much acquaintance with him until he learnt that the writer had much good success as a playwright. This can be regarded as evidence of what Elliott’s friends considered him, a snob. Elliott in addition, liked parties which he prepared every once in a while, spending money on flowers, expensive chocolates and fine wine that manifested his superior judgment . He was also a generous person who liked helping people and as the writer puts it, he could go to every length to do as someone requested him. Elliott was furthermore a devoted Catholic who never missed the Sunday mass and regular confessions. He made occasional visits to Rome which earned him a reward of being made a papal chamberlain.
Isabel was Elliott’s niece who was so beautiful that there was no comparison with Elliott or her mother. She is a woman full of jokes and making fun. This is demonstrated by the remarks she would make, for instance in describing her fiancé Larry, “he behaved very badly” (19). From her description, one would think she considered Larry a complete failure which is contrary to the fact that she adored him. She was merely teasing him. Isabel was also a principled girl. She loved Larry so much that she was ready to wait for him for two years while he was away in France. “What can I do? I love him.”(37). She had decided to give Larry a benefit of doubt on his promise of coming back for her. Another aspect of Isabel’s life that is so visible is her sensibility towards life and social issues. When Larry told her that he would not take Henry Maturin’s job offer, she insisted he must get something to do for himself as a man. She even suggested that he could back to college and study. “Go into a law office or study medicine”. (44). Isabel was also a person who was very mindful of her honor before the society. She is very concerned about what people think about Larry’s career. “People would think you were crazy” (45).
Let us now look into Larry who was Isabel’s boy friend. Larry was an ex-army officer who did not find any interest in working. He was previously working in France as a pilot in the army. “He was an aviator in the war” (18). He always said that he was not sure of what he wanted to do. He was not the talkative type and preferred taking a passive role during a conversation. Larry however had a lot of secrets which he did not want to reveal even to his girl friend. “I’d rather not talk about it”, (45) is what he would say. He decided to go away to France to try and rebuild his life a fresh.
“The dead look so dead when they are dead”, these words were said by Larry to Isabel. The statement is referring to the situation he was in where his life was stuck in his past. Larry was suffering because of his past experiences especially the death of Patsy. Patsy was Larry’s colleague and close friend who died in the battle. He died while protecting Larry’s plane from being blown up and this explains Larry’s strange behavior. He had not been able to get over it though it had happened several years before. He therefore decided to go away to France and try to rebuild his life. In France, Larry got involved in learning. He learnt about the French literature, Greek and even religious things trying to find out whether God existed or not and other such things. He was not willing to go back to America since he felt there was still more to be learnt and France provided the perfect opportunity. He did not give any meaning to work or money. What he wanted to do was study for many years and to try to answer the many questions that were disturbing his mind. When Isabel broke up with Larry, the situation was not so good for her since she had always wanted to get married to him. She expected that after sometime, Larry would come back to his mind and forget about his outrageous ambition. She therefore tried to blackmail him by telling that if he didn’t go back to America, then she would not marry him “Yes, Larry, that’s just what it does mean” (69). She however didn’t push through with her plans because she loved him so much and she felt like it wouldn’t help make things any better.
Isabel did not like Larry’s suggestion of marrying him after ten years, “In ten years?” (66). She couldn’t wait for that long since possibly both of them would be too old. Isabel was badly affected by the stock market crash. She still believed that her family could push through in the hard times with the love of her husband Gary. This made her live a moderate lifestyle even if she was used to living an expensive one. “You know it tickles me to death to think that we’re living like quite rich people when really we’re absolutely broke” (131). Her picture of herself is true but what helps her is her positive attitude towards life. She could not be pushed down into self pity by the tough times. When the New York market crashed, Gary could not find a job and the stress drove him to a serious sickness. Elliott could not let him together with his wife Isabel suffer and therefore he decided to lend them his apartment in France in addition to providing them with a house maid until things cooled down. Larry met two women in the farmhouse he was working in who wanted to know more about him. They actually thought that he did not want to attract attention to himself possibly because he had escaped from the American army and therefore did not want to go back to America. He realized that one of them Frau Becker had fallen in love with him. This made him very uncomfortable because she was much older than him.
In the course of his stay in Paris, Maugham met with Larry unexpectedly. However, Larry was not ready to talk about himself. It looked as if he just wanted company of his old friend Maugham. This shows how Larry’s life was entangled in mysteries that he didn’t want to discuss with anyone. This shows that he was still suffering from the hallowing experiences he went through during the war in France. The second time they met, Larry was not in a very good shape. His clothes were tattered and he looked very hungry. Maugham could actually not recognize him, “I’ve never set my eyes on you in my life” (137). When he offered to give him some money, Larry refused making an impression that he was not as broke as he looked. This shows how proud he was to accept any form of help even from an old friend. Larry said that he knew already that Isabel had married Gary. He really wanted to meet them especially after he was told that they have two children and they were still living in France. He wanted to see them but upon parting ways with Maugham, he took several days before he went to see them. This could be probably because he felt like a failure when he learnt that his former girlfriend was doing very well with her life. When he finally showed up, everyone was very excited to see him. Isabel in particular was exceptionally happy and did much to control herself from crying. Larry had done some good job in tidying up and this made him look much younger.
The four took sometime to catch up with each other since it had been many years since they had been together. Isabel told of the market crash and how it had affected their lives but they had somehow managed to survive. It was quite clear to Larry that Isabel and Gary made a happy couple and together with their children, they made a completely perfect family. Larry took the time to tell his friends about life in India where he had just come from. He talked about the Yogi and the beliefs of the Indians which seemed very primitive and unbelievable. He had learnt Hindustani, as well as Tamil which enable him to communicate since not many people could speak good English in India. He also talked about the religion of the Indians which was composed of the Ashrama where he had spent two years learning. The whole story did not please Gary who interrupted it by asking whether the rest wanted a drink, “Gray moved uneasily in his chair.”(147). Isabel wanted to know whether there were other white men there and how Larry managed to stay there for two years. Larry said that he was the only white man and he could not even realize that time had moved. According to him the two years looked like a flash. He said that most of the time he read, made long walks, and went out on a boat the lagoon. Maugham wanted to know how Larry’s Yogi looked like and what made him special. Larry in response said that he was such a saint. He said that the yogi had made him experience so much peace that had eluded him for a long time. All of a sudden Larry rose to leave which made Isabel so uneasy because she felt like it was too early to go. He even made excuses why he did not want to give his phone number, saying that the telephone in his residence is “generally out of order” (149). This shows how Larry was an elusive and ungraspable and desired to stay like that.