INTRO TO LITERATURE LESSON # 2
Read the biography of Guy de Maupassant below.
2. Click here for the Review Analysis Questions.
These questions will be used to help you write
your character analysis.
3. Click here to read the story, "The Necklace"
4. Then go back and answer the Review Questions
in your Literature Journal.
Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
French author of
the naturalistic school that is generally considered the greatest French short
story writer. Maupassant took the subjects for his pessimistic stories and
novels chiefly from the Norman peasant life, the Franco-Prussian War, the
behavior of the bourgeoisie, and the fashionable life of
Guy de Maupassant was probably born at the Château de Miromesniel,
In his teens Maupassant was shown, by the poet Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909), a mummified hand. He used this haunting image in his early short story 'La Main Ecorchée (1875). In 1869 Maupassant started to study law in
Between the years 1872 and 1880 Maupassant was a civil servant, first at the ministry of maritime affairs, then at the ministry of education. As a poet Maupassant made his debut with DES VERS (1880). In the same year he published in the anthology Soirées de Medan (1880), edited by E. Zola, his masterpiece, BOULE DE SUIF (Ball of Fat, 1880). The story is set during the Franco-Prussian War. A well-known prostitute, nicknamed 'Boule de Suif', is traveling in a coach with bourgeois fellow passengers. They are detained by a Prussian officer who will not allow the coach to proceed until Boule de Suif gives her to him, which she refuses on principle to do.Later the story inspired John Ford's film Stagecoach (1945).
During the 1880s Maupassant created some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse. In tone, his tales were marked by objectivity, highly controlled style, and sometimes sheer comedy. Usually they were built around simple episodes from everyday life, which revealed the hidden sides of people. On several occasions were narrated in the first person or were tales told by a named character. In 'The Jewels of M. Lantin' the chief clerk of the Minister of the Interior, marries the daughter of a provincial tax collector. He is unbelievably happy. She has only two small vices - her love of the theater and her passion for artificial jewels. One wintry evening she comes from the opera shivering with cold and a week later she dies. Lantin is haunted by his memories, and plunges into poverty. He takes her necklace to a jeweler who tells that it is very valuable. Lantin has believed that his wife's jewelry were fakes because she could not have purchased valuable items. He realizes that they were gifts and the truth makes him weep bitterly. "As he walked along, Lantin said to himself, "How easy it is to be happy when you're rich! With money you can even shake off your sorrows; you can go or stay as you please! You can travel and amuse yourself." He sells her jewelry, resigns from his work, and enjoys the theater for the first time in his life. "Six months later he married. His second wife was a most worthy woman, but rather difficult. She made his life unbearable."
Among Maupassant's best know books is UNE VIE (A Woman's Life, 1883), about the frustrating existence of a Norman wife, BEL-AMI (1885), which depicts an unscrupulous journalist. PIERRE ET JEAN (1888) was a psychological study of two brothers. The novel was thought to be immoral because the hero succeeds by doing wrong. Maupassant's most upsetting horror story, LE HORLA (1887), was about madness and suicide. The nameless protagonist is perhaps a syphilitic. In the beginning of the story the narrator - a prosperous young
Maupassant had suffered from his 20s from syphilis. The disease later caused increasing mental disorder - also seen in his nightmarish stories, which have much in common with Edgar Allan Poe's supernatural visions. Critics have charted Maupassant's developing illness through his semi-autobiographical stories of abnormal psychology, but the theme of mental disorder is present in his first collection, LA MAISON TELLIER (1881), published at the height of his health. Maupassant's horror fiction consists of some 39 stories, only a tenth of his total. Recurring theme in these is madness: 'A Night in Paris' is a paranoid nightmare: its narrator feels compelled to walk the streets, in 'Who Knows?' the narrator sufferers from delusions about the furniture of his house, 'A Madman' is a story about a judge, who commits murder, just for the experience, and condemns an innocent man to death for the crime.
On January 2, in 1892, Maupassant tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat and was committed to the celebrated private asylum of Dr. Esprit Blanche at Passy, in