Analysis of Guy de Maupassant’s “A Family Story”

Analysis of Guy de Maupassant’s “A Family Story”

A Family is a captivating short story of two childhood friends whose close friendship was cut short by marriage. Written by Guy De Maupassant and published in 1881, the story describes in detail how the two friends’ lives drifted apart. A Family is one of many short stories published by the prolific Naturalist school representative. Other notable works include The Forbidden Fruit, The Necklace, Mademoiselle Fifi, Boule de Suif, and Belhomme’s Beast (Cogman). A Family portrays family dynamics, friendship, and the meaning of life through the eyes of George, the main character.

The story begins on a train as George heads out of town to visit his longtime friend, Simon Radevin, who had not been in touch with for fifteen years. George reminisces of the olden times and the strong friendship that was a big source of happiness for both of them. He recalls all the admirable characteristics that made Simon such a good friend to be around him. Such include being able to spend a lot of time together without getting tired of each other despite long moments of silence. Others include having a deep understanding of each other. George is curious about how his friend had changed over the years. He recalls the activities they did together and the exact moment that their close friendship ended. George also remembers how Simon abruptly married a naïve and clumsy country girl (De Maupassant 1). He wonders how such a frail creature would enchant a grown man like his friend, questioning his friend’s decision-making. After meeting him, George is stunned by the physical changes that his friend has undergone. He also observes that his wife is no longer the little attractive girl that she was. She had grown overweight and had no goals except for cooking and bearing children. George is also horrified by how the family treats their children’s dying grandfather.

Some of the themes that de Maupassant highlights in A Family include friendship, family, and the meaning of life. At the start of the story, the author narrates the strong friendship he had with Simon and how it made their lives more satisfying. Simon declares, “At one time he was my most intimate friend, the friend who knows one’s thoughts … who seems to draw out those rare, ingenious, delicate thoughts born of that sympathy that gives a sense of repose.”(de Maupassant 1). This statement shows how friendship made their lives more bearable and, thus worth living. Maupassant also addresses the importance of having a family. He goes in detail to describe the family Simon had. Simon even attributed his gain in weight to the satisfaction of belonging to a family. Simon asks, “What did you expect? Good living, a good table and good nights! Eating and sleeping, that is my existence!” (De Maupassant 1). The introduction of the grandfather also shows how the family functioned as a support system. Lastly, Maupassant addresses the idea of illusion and the meaning of life. He wonders why the family would still want to keep the old man alive despite his awful condition. He also wonders why someone would have so many children. George also wonders why his friend would even sleep next to his “ugly” wife.  George remarks, “And I thought of my poor friend’s five children, and pictured him to myself, snoring by the side of his ugly wife.” (De Maupassant 6). According to him, all these developments in his friend’s life had no meaning. He felt much better that he had not been stuck in a life of futility and mundane family life.

One striking aspect of the story is the masterful manner in which the writer passes his message. This feat is partly due to his observant nature and inquisitive attitude. His work succeeds in making us question the value of various aspects of life. For example, he describes how his friend had fallen for a weak, naïve fair country girl who looked like many other “hundred thousand marriageable dolls” now was no longer the “light-haired, insipid girl” but now a “stout lady with curls” who was a “commonplace mother” and a “human breeding machine”(de Maupassant 2). He makes the reader wonder whether getting married has any joy.

Apart from the messages contained in the story, the text makes for a good reading due to its clear and understandable language, style and organization of ideas. The author takes the reader from when they were youthful friends to the current moment when they are likely in their middle age. The story is also fresh and unique as it is based on the pure unique experiences of two friends. The distinctiveness comes from the fact that de Maupassant never married and most of his works were about self- reflection (Lusk and Roeske). Additionally, due to its lack of profanities, it can appeal to a large audience. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story.

A Family story is an interesting story that highlights the differences between two friends who separated for a long period. It features various themes such as family, friendship, and meaning of life. Due to its simple and captivating style, the makes for a good read for both recreational and academic objectives.

Works Cited

Cogman, Peter. “Guy de Maupassant Par Marlo Johnston (Review).” French Studies: A Quarterly Review, vol. 67, Jan. 2013, pp. 262–63.

De Maupassant, Guy. The Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant., The University of Adelaide Library, 2016.

Lusk, Edward, and Marion Roeske. “The Horlas: Maupassant’s Mirror of Self-Reflection.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 5, Mar. 2003, doi:10.7771/1481-4374.1180.




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