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The Life and Works of Guy de Maupassant. “ I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing. ”. by Heather Gendron. Born Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant on August 5, 1850 in Dieppe, France. The oldest son of Gustave de Maupassant and Laure Le Poittevin de Maupassant.

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The Life and Works of Guy de Maupassant

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the life and works of guy de maupassant

The Life and Works of Guy de Maupassant

“I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.”

by Heather Gendron

sa vie

Born Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant on August 5, 1850 in Dieppe, France.

  • The oldest son of Gustave de Maupassant and Laure Le Poittevin de Maupassant.
  • Had a brother named Hervé, who was 6 years younger than him.
  • As a child, Guy loved nature and the outdoors, especially fishing and canoeing.
Sa Vie:

In a time in France when divorce did not yet exist, his mother separated from his father when he was 11 years old.

  • Guy and Hervé moved with their mother to Étretat in Normandy.
  • Their mother gave them a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted and Guy would often roam the countryside and was even allowed to own his own boat.

In 1864, Guy went to go to school at Yvetot, where he was expelled in 1868 for writing offensive poetry.

  • He also got in trouble while at Yvetot for mocking a sermon on eternal damnation, religion always offended him.
  • After being expelled from Yvetot, he attended the Lyceé at Rouen.
  • At the Lyceé, he was under the guidance and mentorship of Gustave Flaubert, a famous writer and lifelong friend of his mother and his Uncle Alfred.

In 1869, he received his Bachelier és lettres and went to go study law in Paris.

  • His law studies were interrupted when he volunteered to serve in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.
  • Many of Guy’s stories are centered around this war, including his most famous Boule de Suif.
  • The conflict ended after 10 months and Guy returned home to his mother in Étretat, unsure whether or not he should continue his law studies.

When he came home, he served a literary apprenticeship under Flaubert and got a job as a clerk in the Ministry at the urging of his father.

  • This job caused Guy much misery and he referred to the job as a hell.
  • Meanwhile, while under the care of Flaubert, he was being introduced to many famous writers.

While working at the Ministry, he also contributed to many newspapers and continued to pursue his writing aspirations.

  • When he was appointed a permanent position in the printing and stationary department, he would often use office supplies and use work hours to work on his writing.
  • Guy felt very unaccomplished with his position.

In 1879, Guy finally resigned from his clerk job to pursue writing full-time.

  • His mentor and friend, Gustave Flaubert, died in 1880.
  • Later in his life, Guy started losing his mind.

He had contracted syphilis around 1876.

  • His mental health began to deteriorate, especially between 1887 and 1890. He was also suffering from amnesia attacks.
  • His mental decline was becoming apparent in his writing as well.
  • His brother, Hervé died in an asylum on November 13, 1889 because he had also lost his mind from syphilis.

In 1892, Guy attempted suicide by slitting his throat, but was saved by his valet, François and Doctor Valcourt.

  • After this suicide attempt, Guy was sent to an asylum.
  • He lived in asylums for the rest of his life, until he died on July 6, 1893 in Passy.
son criture

Guy de Maupassant is considered to be one of the father’s of the short story.

  • In his career he wrote over 300 short stories, 6 novels, a book of verse and many newspaper articles.
Son écriture:

Guy’s first published work, was his book of poems titled “Des Vers”, in 1880.

  • Also in 1880, Guy published his first short story, “Boule de Suif”.
  • “Boule de Suif” is considered to be his best work and his masterpiece.
  • 250 of his 300 short stories were published in between 1882 and 1887, before his health began to swiftly deteriorate.
  • He is known for adding twists to the end of his short stories.

His 6 Novels:

  • Une Vie (1883)
  • Bel Ami (1885)
  • Mont-Oriol (1887)
  • Pierre et Jean (1888)
  • Fort Comme La Mort (1889)
  • Notre Coeur (1890)

He also contributed to many newspapers:

  • Le Figaro
  • Le Gaulois
  • L’Echo de Paris
  • Gil Blas

Guy’s novels seemed to have a very sympathetic view of women, at least in the beginning.

  • The women are often victims, unable to separate themselves from the controlling male.
  • While the male characters see the women mainly as objects and exploit the women.
  • In later works, the roles seem to be reversed and the female protagonists seem to be the ones manipulating the male.
la parure

La Parure is a short story by Guy that translates into English as “The Necklace” or “The Ornament”. This is one of Guy’s stories with a twist ending.

  • Mathilde is a narcissistic and shallow person. When her husband gets an invitation to the Ministry Ball, she becomes angry because she cannot afford any fine things to wear.
  • She borrows a diamond necklace from her friend and winds up getting a lot of attention at the Ball. When she comes home, she realizes she has lost the necklace and her and her husband must go to find a replacement.
  • They spend 36,000 francs on a new necklace, only to find out 10 years later after paying off the whole debt that the necklace was a fake and only worth 500 francs.
La Parure:

Guy was known to himself be a very shallow person.

  • While her husband seems to be a very righteous man and willing to do anything for his wife she is cold, distant and disinterested, only wanting the material things in life.
  • Guy de Maupassant was also a clerk at the Ministry.
  • It’s interesting to me that their hard work and suffering to pay off their debt lasted 10 years, since Guy worked at the Ministry for 10 years himself and loathed his job.
le horla

Le Horla is a short story that was written by Guy in 1887.

  • It is written in a journal entry format and documents a man’s total break from reality into insanity.
  • The man is under the impression that he is being haunted and emotionally tortured by an invisible being. A being that he later names “The Horla”.
  • Eventually, he tries to lock the Horla in his house and sets the home on fire, not seeming to remember that his servants are still inside.
  • He decides that the Horla is not dead and that he will never be able to kill it, so he decides to instead kill himself.
Le Horla:

“Le Horla” was written by Guy de Maupassant in 1887, near the end of his life, in a time when he was experiencing his own break with reality because of his illness.

  • He had told close personal friends of hallucinations and nightmares that he had been having, which seem to be similar to the account described in “Le Horla”.
boule de suif

“Ball-of-Fat” (Elizabeth Rousset) is a prostitute who while on a carriage during the Franco-Prussian war, with more established individuals, is treated very coldly until she shares her food with them while they are starving.

  • They are captured by the Germans and will not be released unless she sleeps with officer. She and the others are all disgusted. The others, however, grow impatient and change their minds, trying to convince her to just do it, she eventually caves in. Back on the carriage she is treated with the same coldness as before and everyone is ignoring her. When they eat all the food they brought with them, they do not share any with her like she had with them and realizing all the shame she feels, she weeps.
Boule de Suif:

This was Guy’s first major published worked, which was published in 1880.

  • Kind of questions the definition of morality.
  • Humanizes a person that in society would normally be judged on the spot and dismissed.
  • She sacrifices multiple times for the others, but they do not do the same for her.
ses influences

His mother, Laure Le Poittevin

  • Gisèle d’Estoc
  • Gustave Flaubert
  • Louis Bouilhet
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne
Ses Influences:

Laure Le Poittevin de Maupassant.

  • Probably one of the greatest influences on Guy’s life (and probably contributed to his mental health issues, as well..).
  • She was an independent free-spirited woman.
  • In a time when divorce did not exist in France, she separated from her husband and did not care about any social disgrace she may face.
  • She was highly educated for a woman of her time.

She loved literature, especially Shakespeare, and she shared this passion with her son whom she wanted to be a poet like her brother, Alfred, who had died at age 32 in 1848.

  • She gained her knowledge and passion for literature through her brother and their close personal childhood friend, Gustave Flaubert.
  • Whenever Guy’s father would come visit him and his brother, his mother had his father sit at the table as a guest and had Guy sat where the husband would be seated.

Guy was a victim of excessive mother adoration. She loved her sons more than anything and wrote in a letter to Gustave Flaubert that she believed that her sons were the only thing that might be able to bring her some kind of happiness in life.

  • His mother probably contributed a lot to his psychological problems.
  • She would constantly tell Guy when he was young about the horror and misery of married life and how much she hated his father.
  • This caused Guy to hold his father accountable for his mother’s suffering.

Guy did not believe in marriage or commitment at all and was an advocate of “free love”.

  • He was promiscuous and unfortunately wound up contracting syphilis, which was the main contributor in his decline in mental health and eventual death.
  • He found marriage to be oppressive and compared it to slavery.
  • He continually defended women against men and society.
  • He had an inability to love.

When he became a writer, in an effort to separate himself from his father’s name, he used several pseudonyms:

  • Joseph Prunier
  • Guy de Valmont
  • Maufrigneuse
gis le d estoc

Gisèle was a girlfriend of Guy’s.

  • She was a writer, painter, sculptor and journalist.
  • She also influenced many of Guy’s life views and was also anti-commitment.
  • She also often dressed up like a man, claiming that she was an advanced copy of a new “third sex” that was evolving that included both male and female characteristics.
  • She preyed on Guy’s strengths and was a manipulator and may be the reason for his change in gender roles in his writing.
Gisèle d’Estoc:
gustave flaubert

Gustave Flaubert was a famous writer, known most notably for his novel Madame Bovary.

  • Gustave Flaubert was a close childhood friend of Guy’s uncle, Alfred and his mother, Laure.
  • Alfred was a poet and worked closely under Flaubert. Alfred died young and after Laure’s separation from her husband, she received a letter from Flaubert.
  • When Laure got his letter, she decided to tell Flaubert about her son, Guy..
Gustave Flaubert:

When Flaubert met Guy, he saw his potential.

  • When Guy returned from school, he was transferred to the care of Flaubert.
  • Guy lived and worked under Flaubert’s guidance for 10 years and served a literary apprenticeship under him.
  • Flaubert was the first to congratulate Guy on his first success, Boule de Suif.
louis bouilhet

When at the Lyceé in Rouen, Guy met a brilliant poet named Louis Bouilhet.

  • Bouilhet was also under the guidance of Flaubert and Flaubert deeply admired him.
  • Bouilhet became close with Guy and tried to help him become a poet.
  • Bouilhet also died very young.
Louis Bouilhet:
algernon charles swinburne

The writer and poet Algernon Charles Swinburne also had an impact on Guy’s literary life.

  • While in Yvetot in 1864, Guy helped save Swinburne from drowning.
  • During his teenage years, Guy met many influential writers and poets, who would help shape his career.
Algernon Charles Swinburne:
works cited

  • Maupassant in the Hall of Mirrors: Ironies in the Work of Guy de Maupassant by Trevor A Le V. Harris
  • Struggling Under the Destructive Glance: Androgyny in the Novels of Guy de Maupassant by Peter Lang
  • Guy de Maupassant: A Biographical Study by Ernest Boyd
  • The Private Life of Guy de Maupassant by Ronald Kirkbride
  • The Life, Work and Evil Fate of Guy de Maupassant by Robert Harborough Sherard (translated by Marjorie Laurie)
  • Guy de Maupassant by Albert H. Wallace
  • Maupassant: A Lion in the Path by Francis Steegmuller
  • The Collected Stories of Guy de Maupassant by Guy de Maupassant (Introduction and Notes by Richard Fusco)
Works Cited: