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Guy De Maupassant The Jewels
Background • Born into a rural merchant family (1850-1893) • Friend- Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) realist novelist • Joined Flaubert’s weekly meetings with other realist writers such as Emile Zola, Ivan Turgenev • Later, becomes involved with the Naturalist writers, who focused on describing social conditions objectively over stylistic beauty. • By his thirties, Maupassant had become one of the best-known artists in France (released 2 novels and 70 short stories in 1883 alone)
People of Influence to Maupassant • Leo Tolstoy • Anton Chekhov • Edgar Allen Poe • Gustave Flaubert • Emile Zola • Ivan Turgenev
Literary background to Jewels • Early romantic writers, such as Poe and Hawthorne, created marvelous short stories of fantasy • Later realist writers like Maupassant contrast this by focusing on illuminating the problems of real people in a dramatic way • Maupassant’s focus on detail and characterization make his short stories some of the most influential of the time period
Literary Switch From Romanticism "beauty is truth, truth beauty." — John Keats While subsequent generations have appreciated this Romantic assertion, Maupassant's story aptly demonstrates that it is not always correct. Lantin’s wife is beautiful, but she is not content. She has the appearance of beauty but not the reality (or truth) of beauty. She is pretty and charming, but she is also unhappy with her lot in life and believes that she deserves more.
Themes Present in The Jewels • Disillusionment and deception- • Lantin’s wife hides the truth about the Jewels, and probably has some other secrets he isn’t aware of (his work consumes him). • Hopelessness- • The feeling Lantin gets when his wife dies. A prominent theme across many realistic works. • Efforts to rise out of one’s current situation- • Although monetarily and socially stuck in a middle-class life, Lantin’s wife feels the need to rise in status, which causes her many problems. • Ignorance versus knowledge- • Lantin’s ignorance causes him great pain once the truth is revealed, but would knowing the truth while his wife was still alive have made the situation better?
Realism Vice Naturalism • “Lantin very nearly followed her to the grave. His despair was so terrible that his hair turned white within a month. He wept from morning to night, his heart ravaged by unbearable grief.” Short Story Virtuous
Discussion! • As you read, pay close attention to the description of Lantin’s reaction to his wife’s death before and after he knew the truth about her jewels. With that in mind, who do you believe wronged worse, Lantin (who sold his wife’s valuables, which may have been acquired illegally or immorally), or his wife (who kept a huge secret from him through her blinding love)? • Focusing on the ending of the story, we see a great swing in Lantin’s lifestyle. Do you believe that Lantin deserved to live the way he did, keeping in mind that the source of this lifestyle was his wife’s treasured jewels? • Clearly, finding out the truth about his wife’s jewelry during Lantin’s period of immense grief was like pouring salt on the wound. However, would knowing the truth while she was alive have been any better of a situation?