But he only remained a few months. When he had enough money to buy paints and canvases he left me. The place had got hold of him by then, and he wanted to get away into the bush. But I continued to see him now and then. He would turn up in Papeete every few months and stay a little while; he'd get money out of someone or other and then disappear again

Source: This passage comes from "Moon and Sixpence" by Maugham.

I am confused about the expressions "something get hold of someone" and "to get away into the bush" - what do they mean? The second I suppose means "to roam" by the first don´t have exact explanation.


1 Answer 1


If I change some words (here in italics)

The place had got hold of him by then, and he wanted to get away into the bush.

while trying to keep the meaning close to Maugham's, I get

The place had firmly grasped him by then, and he wanted to free himself from it by escaping into the wilderness.

Alternatively, if in Maugham's text "getting away" is not from "the place" (which held him) but from some other situation (like life in a town, for instance), then substitute the "it" in my second sentence with that from which "he" wanted to get away.

  • 2
    Are you sure his intent was escape? Usually when someone says "the place got hold of me" it's more of an attraction or obsession. Couldn't it also be "Tahiti had got hold of him, and he shirked his work and took every opportunity to run off into the wilderness to paint (the landscapes of Tahiti)."?
    – ColleenV
    Aug 28, 2015 at 20:34
  • No, I didn't read the text; it could be that "he wanted to get away" from his life in the city to "it" that "had got hold of him"... I'll add that variant. Aug 28, 2015 at 20:37

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