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William Somerset Maugham, England (1874-1965)


The characters may be divided into different groups:

  • The major characters: Mr Kelada and the narrator 
  • The minor characters: Mr And Mrs Ramsay, and the doctor
  • The prejudiced (being biased or having a belief or attitude formed beforehand): the narrator and Mr Ramsay
  • The non-prejudiced: Mr Kelada, the doctor and Mrs Ramsay
  • The Oriental (Denoting or characteristic of countries of Asia): Mr Kelada
  • The Westerners: Mr And Mrs Ramsay and the narrator

The characters are described by their appearance and characteristics, except for the narrator.


  1. The story is told in the first person – the narrator sees everything and is a part of the plot.
  2. In the first episode, where he meets with Mr Kelada, the narrator is more active and involved. He observes, comments and judges Mr Kelada as he sees him through his own eyes. Since he is influenced by his prejudiced society, his judgments are subjective.
  3. In the second episode, involving the necklace examination, the narrator is less involved. He is like a cameraman who takes photos and writes down what he hears objectively. After the chain examination is over, the narrator becomes subjective again.
  4. In the last episode, the narrator discovers Mr Kelada’s true character. As a result, he undergoes a change – he realises that people should not be judged by their looks but by their actions and character. It is the narrator who closes the story.


Mr Know All is a story with a moral lesson. The subject is simple. A rich British merchant of oriental origin, called Mr Kelada meets a group of Westerners on a ship sailing across the Pacific Ocean. His cabin mate, a British citizen who is the nameless narrator of the story, dislikes Mr Kelada even before he sees him. However, at the end of the story Mr Kelada, the Levantine jeweller, proves to be a real gentleman when he sacrifices his own pride and reputation to save an American lady’s marriage. As a result, he earns the respect of the narrator.

The narrator in the story dislikes Mr Kelada because of his name, luggage, appearance and nationality. However, when he sees the true character of Mr Kelada, he realises that prejudice is not the right way to judge people. Therefore, the saying DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER is relevant here.


It was after World War II and the narrator was on a 14-day-long voyage from the USA (San Francisco) to Japan (Yokohama) on the Pacific Ocean. As accommodations were difficult to get, he had to share a room on the ship. On entering his cabin, he encountered his roommate's luggage and toilet things which had already been unpacked. He immediately disliked his roommate because all these items seemed to be very kitsch (cheap). To top things off, he noticed the man's name Max Kelada did not appear to be British. This is the first sign that the narrator is prejudiced against non-Britons.

When the narrator finally met Mr Kelada, he disliked him immediately. Kelada was very chatty, he seemed to know everything and was involved in everything, not sensing that he was disliked by everybody. He was very proud of his British passport although it was clear that he was not English by birth but a native of one of the British colonies.

Although he despised (hated) Mr Kelada, when he was offered a drink (something that was difficult to get in those days because of prohibition), the narrator gladly accepted. This shows that if he can gain something from this relationship, he'll take advantage of it. The narrator is being two-faced.

There was another dogmatic person on the ship, Mr Ramsey. Once Mr Kelada, the writer, Mr Ramsay and Mrs Ramsay chanced to sit for lunch at a table. Mr Ramsay was in the American consular service posted in Kobe Japan. He was going to Japan with his beautiful wife. Mr Ramsay has stayed one year alone in Japan leaving Mrs Ramsay in New York. The couple did not like the way Max Kelada behaved.

While talking Mr Kelada said that he knew everything about jewellery and he was going to Japan for the business of pearl. At that time, he saw a pearl chain worn by Mrs Ramsay, he said that the chain was really original. At that time Mr Ramsay asked him to guess its price. Max Kelada confidently said that it would cost 15000 dollars in general trade but on 5th avenue, it would even cost 30000 dollars. But Mr Ramsay laughed grimly (implacable manner) and said that it was a duplicate pearl and they had bought it in a departmental store for 18 dollars. But Max Kelada did not believe and they bet for 100 dollars. When Mr-Know-All took out a magnifying glass from his pocket, he noticed a desperate appeal in Mrs Ramsay's eyes. He then realised that Mrs Ramsay got the pearls from her lover. Since Mr Kelada didn't want to destroy Mrs Ramsay's marriage, he ruined his reputation instead - he told everybody that he was wrong and that the string was an excellent imitation. He gave Mr Ramsay a hundred dollars.

The story spread all over the ship and everybody mocked Mr Kelada. Later, while the narrator and Mr-Know-All were in their cabin, an envelope was pushed under the door. It contained a hundred-dollar bill from Mrs Ramsay. It was then that the narrator learned to value the dark-skinned Levantine. He was amazed at Mr Kelada's generosity.

This story shows that first impressions are often misleading and that appearances are sometimes deceptive. Mr Kelada who is described as a disgusting person who shows off all the time and knows everything better than others is in reality a sensitive, brave gentleman who wouldn't hurt others. On the other hand, Mrs Ramsay, whose modesty and good qualities no one questions, has been unfaithful to her husband.


Maugham, W. S. (2013). Mr Know All. In s. Lohani, & M. Nissani, Flax Golden Tales: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning English (pp. 225-232). Kathmandu, Nepal: Ekta Books.


  1. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," said Nelson Mandela. Education has been the most important part in the progress and prosperity of nations. online classes


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