Guy De Maupassant Boule De Suif and Other War Stories Book Review

Just like O. Henry, Guy de Maupassant Boule De Suif offers an incomparable, witty, and sometimes melancholic reading, and has its own distinctive setting and plotting. What I like about these stories is that, whereas the setting is in France during the war, they represent different themes all geared towards self development, awareness, and consciousness, at the same time showing the horror that sprout from war and the atrocities that are committed in its name.images

 Maupassant, a long student, friend, and admirer of Gustave Flaubert, has developed all the characters in the stories independently giving them an all round stable disposition, which represents something different from the other. Even though the plot of the stories is simple and set in France, the language is dynamic, and conjures a deeper imagery in the mind of the reader.

  A General Outlook of Guy De Maupassant Boule De Suif and Other War Stories

Composed of 13 short stories, this Vol. 1 of Guy de Maupassant confer critical issues that arise in a time of war including, wrath, hatred, betrayal, horror, murder, and other vices. Narrating real life instances that, even though they are fictitious, portray the human conditions in a time of war, one is left pondering about the essence of life and what it means to be ethical, patriotic, and friendly in a period where humanity is caught up in retaliation of war between two countries.

There are different themes that come up in the stories, including love, and whether it is possible for one to do so when faced with adversity, while having uncongenially odious feelings towards other people. Maupassant has clearly and amusingly brought in realism in the stories, in that all the events that happen in the short stories are seemingly real to a large extent of giving horror, and apprehension while at the same time petulance to the reader.images (1)

Boule De Suif

It is just after the war, and rumours have it that the Prussians are about to enter Rouen. The National Guards have already left the forest, and gone back to their homes, whereas the last of the French soldiers have just crossed Seine in the hope of reaching Pont-Audemer. The city has a forlorn silence; all the shops are closed, only one or two people move in the streets. The German soldiers occupy the streets of France, and ask for money, and if anyone wishes to travel out of Rouen, he has to seek for permission from them. Again, they knock at people’s homes demanding for food to eat.

 In this perennial time of war, ten people get into a four-horse coach on one early, snowy Tuesday morning in the hope of leaving Rouen, and cross over to England. The ten start off for the journey, they include: Monsieur and Madame Loiseau; wholesaler merchant, Monsieur and Madame Carre-Lamadon; a proprietor of three cotton spinning mills, Comte and Comtesse Hubert de Breville, two nuns, Cornudet; a democrat, and Boule de Suif, a prostitute.images (3)

 Around one o’clock everyone is hungry. Cornudet offers a bottle of rum, to which everyone refuses apart from Loiseau, who cracks a joke of eating the fattest of them all, but nobody laughs apart from the owner of the rum. By three o’clock, everyone is hungry; Boule de Suif removes a large food basket covered with a napkin, and offers it to everyone. Filled up, everyone drinks up claret from the same cup, is happy, and continues talking until the night falls. At length, they come to a town and seek refuge in Hotel du Commerce, but not before taking permission from the German officers, and showing their passports. They get some food, and a place to rest for the night.

In the morning ready to leave, the travelers are faced with a problem as they are orders from the Prussian Officer that they are not to leave. At one O’clock, three of the men go to see the Prussian officer in pursuit of knowing why it is he has refused them their leave. They do not get an answer, but after a few days, they learn that the reason behind this is because the Prussian officer wants to sleep with Boule de Suif, and until the day she concedes, they will never proceed with their journey.

What follows is an alienation of Boule de Suif. Everyone turns against her except for Cornudet, who refuses to be part of their plot to make her concede to sleeping with the Prussian officer. After days of being mistreated, Boule de Suif gives in, and sleeps with the Prussian officer, and they are allowed to proceed with the journey. As they get into the coach, nobody wants to look at her except for Cornudet, who sings aloud to annoy everyone else for their treachery, in spite of her major sacrifice. Boule de Suif cries when she thinks of how she shared her food with everyone, and how she slept with the Prussian officer for everyone to continue with the journey. She feels alone and betrayed, as the coach forges forward to England.images (2)

 Two Friends

Paris is faced with hunger, as a result of the war between France and Germany. Monsieur Morissot; a watch maker, who has an ardent desire for fishing, meets up with his friend Monsieur Sauvage, who they used to go together for fishing before the commencing of the war. They enter a café, and take absinthe. Afterwards they go on for a walk, only to enter into another wine shop for some more absinthe. They become tipsy, as they are hungry. Monsieur Sauvage suggests that they go for fishing in their old place, and since he knows Colonel Dumoulin; the gate officer, he is assured that they will obtain a pass. His friend agrees, and they separate to get their fishing rods.

Presently they meet up about eleven o’clock. They obtain a pass at the villa from the Colonel, and they head to fishing through Colombes, and find themselves in the vineyards near the border of Seine. They behold the empty village of Argenteuil and its bordering regions, where the Prussians, as Monsieur Sauvage speculates, though both of them have never laid eyes on them, are hiding. Soon they reach the edge of the river, conceal themselves with the reeds, and start fishing.

Suddenly, as they fish, they hear rumbling sounds of cannon balls, which follow one after another, and the two friends start to discuss about politics. Presently, they hear footsteps behind them. They see Prussian soldiers, who seize them, throw them into a boat, and take them across Ile Marante to the commanding Prussian officer. The officer lets them know that he is aware they are spies, who are pretending to fish, and only after telling them their password, will he let them go free, or otherwise if not shoot them dead. The two friends remain mum with terror having no idea what he means.

At length the commanding Prussian gives orders, and the two friends are shot dead, but not before saying goodbye to one another. Their bodies are carried, and disposed in the river. The commanding Prussian gives orders that the caught fish to be cooked for him, as he smokes his pipe.images (4)

 The Consequences of War in Guy De Maupassant Boule De Suif and Other War Stories

Maupassant shows the spiteful ramifications of war, and how it affects the common citizens, who are not participating in the war themselves. In the end, after a war, it is only the poor people, who have no means of escaping, suffer. Their lives become miserable, yet they hope of things becoming better later on. It is not the people who are in power who suffer when a country indulges in war, but the common citizens.

The effects of war are profound, and affect people differently. It makes them to be treacherous, in that they look out for their own benefits, and would do anything to have their wishes fulfilled. This is shown clearly in many stories including ‘The Ball of Fat’ Boule De Suif, where even though Boule de Suif sacrifices her body as well as her food, nobody acknowledges this, but rather takes advantage of her kindness and hospitality. War makes our humane side to be marred with greediness, sloth, and other vices, and we turn to be opposite of our character, namely; beast like. We no longer care about what other people have done for us, what they need; what their lives are about; what they cherish most in life: their values, morals, and principals, all we only care of is how we can take advantage of them, abuse their kindness, and then move forwards with our lives.

Guy de Maupassant short stories are a true reflection of our lives when we are faced with adversities. He shows how war affects us both personally and socially. We deprive pleasure in one of the most horrifying things like murder, betrayal, and indolence when in war, and when we are armed with war paraphernalia we feel secure, powerful, and invisible, and nothing really matters than victory. The stories, which are full of realism, are full of genius, and offer an incredible read.

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