Great Writer Guy de Maupassant

Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant was a great French writer, who appeared in the world of literature like a meteor, becoming one of the most popular and sought-after writers of the XIX century. He was called Flaubert's follower and Zola's successor, but in reality, Maupassant was absolutely distinctive writer with his aesthetic principles and author's handwriting. He started writing rather early and, appearing primarily as an author of short stories, left an indelible mark in the literature. His work was very prolific: on Guy de Maupassant's account, there are sixteen collections of short stories, one volume of poetry, and six novels, written within eleven years of his literary career. The novels Une Vie, Bel-Ami, Mont-Oriol, Pierre et Jean, Fort comme la mort, Notre Cœur, and also unfinished ones The Foreign Soul and L'Angelus brought him a great fame. In all his works, Guy de Maupassant, being a realist, described an everyday life of different people: nobles and commoners, rich and poor, educated and illiterate. This paper focuses on the life and literary work of famous French writer Guy de Maupassant, a realist writer, recognized as a classic of French and world literature.


Childhood and Adolescence

Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant was born in Normandy, on August 6, 1850, in an impoverished noble family, who moved from Lorraine to Normandy in the XVIII century. Maupassant's childhood took place in Normandy, and using his full freedom, he ran through the fields and woods, climbed the coastal cliffs, went to the sea with the fishermen, learned to fish and sail, seized Norman dialect, and knew all the local attractions and customs. He was well acquainted with the life of the landed farmers, peasants, fishermen, and sailors. He could spend hours wandering through the green meadows, creating stories, or writing poetry. Even then, small Maupassant intuitively knew that he would be a writer. The main inspirer of his young and sensitive souls become his mother's friend and a famous writer Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert often visited their family and gave the first lessons to Guy.

When he was thirteen years old, his mother wanted him to go to the seminary in a small town Yvetot. Young Guy did not like strict discipline, and he often ran home, rebelled, and behave outrageously. He wrote a humorous message in the verse, in which the young poet declared that he was not intending to renounce all the joys of life in the seminary. It served as a pretext for his exclusion. In 1866, his mother sent him to Rouen boarding school. There he enjoyed more freedom and no one pursued him for writing poetry. 

After graduating from Rouen high school, Maupassant entered the law faculty of the Norman town of Cannes. But in summer of 1870,when the Franco-Prussian War began, he was called up for military service. He participated in the campaigns and the besieged Paris. After the war, accompanied by the economic crisis, the financial situation of Maupassant's parents deteriorated. Maupassant was unable to complete his higher education and had to enroll in the armed services. Later, he served in the Ministry of the Sea, leading a difficult, meager life. His salary was not enough to cover the basic expenses. Maupassant hated this service and called it a prison. The Ministry was aware that the young man had a dream of becoming a writer. His literary interests, which alienated him from his colleagues, caused suspicious and hostile attitude from the authorities. At that period,  Maupassant wrote the short stories, which were full of joyless experience about the service in the Ministry of the Sea, for example Sundays of a Bourgeois or Les Soirees de Medan, and L'Héritage. In his stories, the writer created a vulgar microcosm of bureaucrats, schemers, and sycophants, who were trembling before the authorities.

Boule de Suif as the beginning of Maupassant's fame

Boating and literature helped Guy in a difficult period in the Ministery. Boating on the Seine River, night mists of the Seine, its shady green shore, fishing, and love affairs widely reflected in Maupassant's short stories, such as On the River and Yvette. Almost every day, Maupassant wrote, rewrote, and checked. The only one, who read the works of the young writer, was Flaubert; he highly appreciated the talent of his young protege, but forbade to publish his works. Thus, Flaubert defended Guy from the first frustrating failures. Flaubert would open the door in great literature to Maupassant later. That moment came in 1880, when thirty years old Maupassant wrote a short story Boule de Suif, which was included in a collection of short stories Les Soirées de Médan, along with the prose of such famous writers as Zola, Huysmans, Alexis, and other well-known novelists; then it was warmly met by the critics and readers. 

It was the beginning of Maupassant's success. Boule de Suif is one of the most bright works of the writer, which glorified Guy de Maupassant immediately. In this story, he described the events that took place during the Franco-Prussian War. The author was first who told the truth about the causes of the defeat of France, who wrote about the heroism of its people, and the corruption of its government. In one a stagecoach, he brought together the "decent" gentlemen and the fallen woman, showing bigotry, hypocrisy, and venality of the first ones, and genuine patriotism, openness, and willingness to sacrifice of the latter one. Boule de Suif was a real masterpiece, and every subsequent book of Maupassant was enthusiastically received by the readers and fellow writers. After the publication of Boule de Suif, Maupassant could leave the hated Ministry of the Sea and, finally, do what he liked. Guy started working in the newspaper "Gaulois" and began to write intensively. Very soon, a cycle of his short stories Les Soirees de Medan appeared  in "Gaulois". 

Further literary work

Literary success of Maupassant grew from one book to another: in 1882, he published a collection of short stories Mademoiselle Fifi and Deux Amis; Une Vie, which was published in 1883, became his debut work in the genre of a novel. The author was working on it for six years, carefully perfecting each episode. This novel, highly acclaimed and praised by Turgenev and Tolstoy, put Maupassant forward in the first row of modern French writers. Une Vie is a true masterpiece; it is a novel, fascinating a reader by the depth of insight into a woman's soul, by the brightness of a realistic, dispassionate, and sometimes ruthless author's view of the eternal burden of human passions. Une Vie or A Woman's Life is a story of lost illusions, unfulfilled hopes, and feelings of the devotees. It is not a tragedy, but a silent, invisible, realistic drama of human life.

In 1884, such short-story collections as Miss Harriot, Les Sœurs Rondoli, Clair de lune, and Yvette appeared; a year later, he published a collection Contes du jour et de la nuit, which contained famous The Necklace. The same year, his novel Bel-Ami, which brought Maupassant the world fame, was published. The story of an ordinary seducer Georges Duroy, developing in the spirit of the adventure novel, becomes a symbolic reflection of the spiritual impoverishment of the hero and the whole society.

After his brother's death, the writer began to suffer from nervous disorders, obsessions, and hallucinations; all this became the subject of a novel Le Horla, written in 1887. During the last two years of conscious life, Maupassant was painfully experiencing psychiatric disorder. It was reflected on his works; his last novels Fort comme la mort and Notre Cœur were written with the greatest difficulty. His literary work was gradually extinguishing. In 1891, Maupassant lapsed into a complete madness, and was placed in a psychiatric hospital in Paris, where he died on July 6, 1893.

Themes, motives, and characteristics of Maupassant's works

An important place in the Maupassant's short story takes the theme of love. This is largely due to the fact that Maupassant, like other writers naturalists, turns to the previously taboo subject of literature of physical love. Many works of Maupassant are dedicated to the reflections on the existence of people, who deserve a better life, and the inevitable tragedy of old age and death. Maupassant's short stories are extremely diverse in theme, genre features, tone, and language. Taken together, they provide a comprehensive picture of the French reality in the end of the XIX century, reveal the richness of social types and human characters, and allow the readers to trace the evolution of the creative method of the writer. In the stories of the first collections, such as The Maison Tellier and Sundays of a Bourgeois, the influence of naturalism is evident in the author's desire to show the dark sides of life, exaggerating the role of the biological principle in man, as in A Family, in conditionality of his actions by instincts, as in The Story of a Farm Girl, and in a deliberately objective, non-judgmental manner of narration, as in The Maison Tellier.

Maupassant was known as a great womanizer. He was looking for the shelter from coarse prosaic reality in the poetic world of nature and love, to which he devoted a lot of his short stories, poems, and novels. The writer saw the precious gift of love, a poetic feeling, that awakens the spiritual beauty, sincerity, selflessness, and willingness to sacrifice. He sincerely and openly wrote about the physiological needs of a human; he explored this theme, even if it was hypocritically concealed or condemned by bourgeois literature. He enthusiastically extolled and praised carnal passion, that could spontaneously throw people into the arms of each other.

In the short stories about modern world, developing the traditions of French realism, Maupassant shows the destructive power of money and spiritual degeneration of the humans in the world, where things and money are the main code of morality. The central figure in this series of short stories becomes cowardly and narrow-minded person, whose thoughts are aimed at the acquisition of wealth, social status, and awards. In the depiction of such person, Maupassant makes extensive use of various methods of satire: humor, irony, and sarcasm. The hopeless misery of life is also depicted in A Stroll, in which an old bookkeeper Leras, who has been working in the same office for forty years, one spring evening suddenly feels that he is unable to return to his empty room and senseless life, and commits suicide. The writer's most bitter stories are about the impossibility and hopelessness of doomed love in the world, in which everything is bought and sold. One of the major Maupassant's motives is also the frightening loneliness that leads to the suicide. Such theme is the leading in the following works: The Suicide and Miss Harriot.


Guy de Maupassant takes a special place in the history of French literature. His work completes a development of the French realism of the XIX century. In his large and diverse artistic heritage, a special place belongs to Maupassant's short stories. The traditional for French literature genre was enriched by his efforts with a new content and reached the heights of artistic perfection. 

Maupassant's lifestyle and his outlook are reflected in his works. The writer's view on the secret malice of life and people in the pursuit of profit, reinforces growing pessimistic tone of his numerous stories. In his short stories, Maupassant, like anyone else, is able to convey the tragedy of modern life, to put a radical problem of alienation of people in society and their inescapable loneliness in a cruel world. Maupassant's numerous love affairs also had a great influence on his literary work: the motif of love is one of the central themes of his short stories. All Maupassant's works are imbued with the reality of world, as it is. Guy de Maupassant is not afraid to touch the sharp, painful issues of the society, and subtly shows the soul of his characters, giving the reader a chance to look inside it. His heroes are real humans, not flawless, but subject to the basic laws of nature. That is why, his name is known and his books are famous and loved not only in France but all over the world. 

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