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Tom Ramsey in Maugham’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” Essay

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Updated: Jun 7th, 2021

Tom Ramsey is an excellent demonstration of a reckless attitude and human development throughout life. His brother, George Ramsey, and he are complete opposites of each other, where the latter is more stoic and hard-working. Both of them started their professional and private lives in a decent amount of prosperity because each of them had a family and career. Tom and George cannot be an outstanding example of “from rags to riches” because they come from a middle-class family. Originally, “The Ant and the Grasshopper” was written to emphasize the importance of hard work and planning to succeed, but W. Somerset Maugham adds a piece of realism into the given storyline. The author shows that there are shortcuts in life, which can be abused. In addition, he demonstrates that society does not care about the means but solely focuses on the result. Tom’s behavior pattern is an example of the realization that there are no rules in life and that financial success can be achieved not only through meticulous work but also in seemingly dishonest ways. Thus, Tom was motivated by the positive reinforcement behavior model, which was mainly fueled by his emotions and understanding of his speaking capabilities, and the author portrayed him as a highly persuasive person.

The story introduces Tom as a highly reckless and failing man who abandoned his normal life. He left his wife and job to lead an irresponsible and pleasure-driven existence, where Tom frequently causes troublesome situations. The writing pictures him as a representation of the grasshopper from “The Ant and the Grasshopper” story, who was not involved in hard work. Although the ant did not assist the grasshopper as frequently as George helped Tom, the older brother is a representation of the diligent insect. Tom’s general tendencies of behavior are driven by his urges and emotions rather than conscious and calculated decisions. He is also more inclined to heavily rely on his friends and brother to gain some financial assistance. Tom’s inner life philosophy is epicureanism, where he maximizes the number of pleasures and avoids pain and unpleasant experiences. The story portrays Tom as a liar and a dishonest person because he does not keep his promises given to George. The older brother was tricked and deceived by his younger sibling several times, who pledged to make some amendments in the way he lives. However, it is possible that Tom was undergoing major changes in his life by searching for things that would give him a passion and drive to not only survive but thrive.

It is important to note that Tom’s approach to life is highly immoral and not righteous because he was a heavy burden on George. The younger brother had a decent beginning in life – he was supposed to have a successful career path alongside his wife and children. However, something occurred to Tom that led him to abandon everything he had to enjoy life. For instance, Maugham writes:

The Ramsays were perfectly respectable people, and there was every reason to suppose that Tom Ramsay would have a useful and honorable career. But one day, without warning, he announced that he didn’t like work and that he wasn’t suited for marriage. He wanted to enjoy himself. He would listen to no expostulations. He left his wife and his office. (Maugham 1)

Therefore, it is clear that Tom realized that his life cannot be spent on something that he does not enjoy. Probably, he had no emotional connection with his family and career choice, which forced him to abandon everything. Human behavior is mostly guided by emotions because the process of reasoning and knowledge requires more resources and time to make a decision (Farnsworth). Tom’s entire journey of recklessness and irresponsibility was ruled by his emotional tendencies, which led to the behavior described in the story.

Furthermore, both George and Tom are outstanding illustrations of reinforcement differences. For example, the story states, “But he always said that the money you spent on necessities was boring; the money that was amusing to spend was the money you spent on luxuries” (Maugham 2). The given way of speaking shows that Tom is mostly driven and motivated by positive reinforcement, whereas his older brother, George, is a manifestation of negative reinforcement. The main reason is the fact that the younger sibling solely sought out the things that would give him maximum pleasure and avoided unpleasant experiences. However, George is more likely to be guided by negative reinforcement to keep him and his family from financial catastrophe and ensure early retirement. These two individuals are products of operant conditioning, where the older brother escapes punishment, and the younger one strives for reward (Farnsworth). It shows that Tom’s approach in life is not the same as his brother’s, although they were brought up in the same family.

Moreover, it is important to point out that the grasshopper from “The Ant and the Grasshopper” story does not fully resemble Tom. The main reason is that the younger sibling possesses a highly invaluable gift or talent to be charming and likable by people. Being this type of an outstanding extravert means that Tom could have been successful regardless of his choices in life, because being sociable boosts chances for achieving the goal (Duffy and Chartrand 1799). He managed to survive without any source of stable income by borrowing money from his friends and family regularly. For instance, the story’s narrator claims that although people did not approve of Tom’s behavior, most of them enjoyed his presence and company solely due to his charming personality (Maugham 2). If he had not possessed these positive qualities, he would not have ended up in the state where he had a financial freedom. Therefore, it is clear that Tom’s overall successful outcome cannot be replicated by a person who is not sociable or likable by other people. It means that there is a possibility that he realized that his talents were not appreciated in the corporate world, in which professionals are primarily valued according to their work ethics and knowledge. Thus, he might have decided to make good use of his communication skills by going out and meeting new people to build more connections.

In conclusion, it is critically important to understand the fact that Tom’s behavior tendencies are not random and chaotic, but follow a specific set of rules. His sudden abandonment of his family and career might have been motivated by the realization that his talents were not necessary for the corporate industry. In addition, Tom’s unethical and dishonest approach to life is mainly due to his emotions, which are the primary fuel of human behavior. This character is guided by the positive reinforcement model of operant conditioning, where he seeks out only pleasurable experiences.

Works Cited

Duffy, Korrina A., and Tanya L. Chartrand. “The Extravert Advantage: How and When Extraverts Build Rapport with Other People.” Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 11, 2015, pp. 1795–1802.

Farnsworth, Bryn. IMotions, 2019, Web.

Maugham, W.S. “The Ant and the Grasshopper”. The Language of Literature, edited by Arthur Applebee, et. al., McDougal Littell, 2002, pp. 1-3.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Tom Ramsey in Maugham’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper”." June 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/tom-ramsey-in-maughams-the-ant-and-the-grasshopper/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Tom Ramsey in Maugham’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper”'. 7 June.

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