The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910 discussion

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The Short Story Salon > Short Story Group Read & Discussion-In the Spring by Guy de Maupassant

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Silver | 992 comments Mod
Greetings, well we haven't had a short story in a while and since Jane Eyre will not be starting until May 15th this seems like a good time to host another short story discussion while waiting for Jane Eyre to start.

I have selected a story by Guy de Maupassant who is a writer I myself quite enjoy and think he has some wonderful short stories that are humorous to as well as offering a reflective view upon society and human nature. His writing is both statical as well as beautifully poetic.

I could not resist choosing this aptly named story of his "In the Spring."

It will not take very long to read, but I no doubt it will offer much in rich discussion and will be a rewarding experince.

Online text of the story can be found here:

http://www.classicallibrary.org/maupa...


Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) Thanks for the link, Silver. You're right -- it's a quick read, about 2600 words.
I think the story is a good illustration of why a couple should develop their friendship before they choose each other as lifetime partners.
Of course, there's much more to discuss regarding this intervention, but I'll wait until others check in here.


MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Silver. It is a story which the Victorians judging Sue and Jude ought to have read:).


Traveller (Moontravlr) | 178 comments Heh, well, don't we all know about the "putting your best foot forward" stage.
Like Jeanne says, before making your attachment to another person permanent, one should get past that stage first as much as possible.

However, I thought the sad man on the boat was quite infuriating in not just leaving it at a warning, but in completely stopping the narrator from pursueing his own fate. That's meddling and imposing your own will on another to the extent of robbing him of his free will.


Jan (Auntyjan) | 479 comments That link didn't work for me, I'll have to find another. Also do you have a version in French?


Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) Traveller wrote,

That's meddling and imposing your own will on another to the extent of robbing him of his free will.

Unfortunately, there are some people who cheerfully believe that what is best for them is best for others around them. And for some of these, it's not just an opinion, but justification for imposing their will.


message 7: by Traveller (last edited May 04, 2011 04:49AM) (new)

Traveller (Moontravlr) | 178 comments Jan wrote: "That link didn't work for me, I'll have to find another. Also do you have a version in French?"

Jan, if you look here, the story is part of "The Works of Guy de Maupassant, Volume IV"
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/searc...

I just downloaded the entire volume, since I prefer Epub format. They have kindle format too, and if you want to read it in your browser on your PC, you can download it as HTML.
You might see if they also have it in French there, since quite a lot of them are in French.

Wait, here's a French version in PDF. http://www.mediatheque.cg68.fr/livre_... Does that link work for you?


Jan (Auntyjan) | 479 comments Oui, merci beaucoup...thankyou...and large font as well!
Now, this will stretch my vocabulaire!


Jan (Auntyjan) | 479 comments Just read it (en francais)...I love it! Well, sort of love/hate...what a bitter pill to swallow.


Traveller (Moontravlr) | 178 comments You're welcome, Jan. Glad it worked out for you. :)


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Jeanne wrote: "Thanks for the link, Silver. You're right -- it's a quick read, about 2600 words.
I think the story is a good illustration of why a couple should develop their friendship before they choose each o..."


Yes, one of the issues which Guy de Maupassant addresses in his writing is that problem which existed at that period in time in which couples were truly not encouraged to get to know each other. And often becasue of rules of property women and men could not truly express there true emotions and thoughts with one another. So it was commonly the case that individuals whom are near strangers to each other end up marrying and often this does result in unhappiness in married life.

There is much about this story which reminded me of Jude and Arabella, in the seduction and trickery used by the woman to try and attach a husband to her, and than after it is too late the discovery of her true nature leaving both trapped in this unfortunate situation.

Guy de Maupassant recognizes the flaws in this way of going about entering into a marriage, and that it is not conducive to the happiness of either spouse, and he sees the importance and the necessity for allowing couples to truly get to know each other before being so bond.


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Traveller wrote: "Heh, well, don't we all know about the "putting your best foot forward" stage.
Like Jeanne says, before making your attachment to another person permanent, one should get past that stage first as..."


One of the things I really enjoyed about this story is the way in which Guy de Maupassant draws upon the physcial environment, background and setting for this story as reflective of the events.

Spring, which is assocaited with love, and fertility, rebirth, as well as May Day formally Betlane was a traditional day for weddings to take place, the season of spring does best represent that honeymoon stage of the relationship. As you state putting the best foot forward. It is the time when the realtionship is still new, and fresh, and everything seems perfect and frolicsome play.

But the unfortunate lover sets up his advice when he first approaches our narrator by telling him about the precautions one would take against a winter chill. And I think that allusion to winter can also be seen as reflecting the state of a realtionship once it matures of its new "spring" stage, and the difficulties that will develop and the nativity and mistake it is in presuming that the first initial burst of passion can forever last.

Perhaps this story is not just one about the dangers of not having the time to fully get to know someone prior to marriage but also the folly of youth rushing into marriage while still on that high of love, without being fully prepared for sustaining the realtionship when it reaches a more mature stage.

And maybe part of this is tied into the way people were so much kept in ignorance about such things and did not have the liberties to fully explore what it means to be in a long term realtionship prior to committing to marriage. As well as how subjects relating to relationships were taboo to be discussed so people were just thrown into marriage in ignorance of what to full expect.


Everyman | 1393 comments What a cynical story, especially written by a Frenchman. If it had been a German or Russian, it would seem more fit, but in France, l'amour is supposed to be the ideal, isn't it?

It's not a matter of "the woman I married was like this," but "every woman you marry for love will make herself into a wife like this." He had courted her for three months, this wasn't an instant wedding. It was his fault that he didn't choose better.

And how does he know that this man and woman wouldn't have had a perfectly splendid marriage? He claims to have done the man a great service. But perhaps he destroyed the man's one chance at true happiness?

Both cynical and depressing.


Everyman | 1393 comments Silver wrote: "One of the things I really enjoyed about this story is the way in which Guy de Maupassant draws upon the physcial environment, background and setting for this story as reflective of the events. "

Nice post. But doesn't he imply that for a marriage made in spring there are only two seasons. winter and spring? The marriage made in the heat of spring turns immediately into winter - there is no summer or autumn in it. You go from winter into spring straight back into lifetime winter.


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "What a cynical story, especially written by a Frenchman. If it had been a German or Russian, it would seem more fit, but in France, l'amour is supposed to be the ideal, isn't it?

It's not a mat..."


You make a good point here. Yes it is true this story is making a statement upon all women, and well upon love in general. The mislead individual telling his cautionary tell is proposing the idea that anyone else who may fall in love or peruse a pretty girl is fated to end as he himself had.

Also good in pointing out that they had been courting for months, so when seen in that light, this story is truly not simply a precautionary tale about wedding someone whom you have not the benefit of fully knowing, but as you said a far more cynical statement against the folly of falling in love at all and the presumption that all women are bound to mislead you and not reveal there true face until they have ensnared you.


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: But doesn't he imply that for a marriage made in spring there are only two seasons. winter and spring? The marriage made in the heat of spring turns immediately into winter ..."

Yes you are right, that does seem to be the suggestion there. That as soon as that initial blissful stage is passed, there is no gradual falling away but it does go straight into winter, and there it seems destined to remain without any turning point, or no ups and downs, just from that first height a perpetual decline.


message 17: by Traveller (last edited May 04, 2011 02:01PM) (new)

Traveller (Moontravlr) | 178 comments Hmm, though three months is not exactly a long time to get to know somebody. Try and think of somebody you had only known for 3 months.
Would you be ready to marry a person after such a short relationship? I mean, relationshipwise, this wouldn't even start to come out of the "best foot forward phase".

For me, it usually takes at least 2 years to really get to know a person well.

(..unless you were stuck with the person on a desert island, of course, but otherwise...)

Something I'm noticing with interest, seems to be that males and male authors seem to feel it is the girl who is the predator and 'ensnares' the man, wheras I think to most women (to me it certainly does) it more often feels as if the man is the predator who is chasing the woman.

Has the man ever thought about the fact that the woman might have discovered a few little unpleasant truths about him during the course of time as well?

Ah, vive la différence! :D


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Traveller wrote: Has the man ever thought about the fact that the woman might have discovered a few little unpleasant truths about him during the course of time as well?"

This is a very good point and I would like to address the fact that while this story does favor the man, and seems to take that classical view of woman was the temptress being the one at fault and misleading the man, Maupassant is capable of being sympathetic to women and understanding there point of view.

His novel Une Vie address the same theme of this story, but in fact within it he does see things from the woman's point of view showing her as being the victim of the charm of the man and her being the one ensnared in the marriage.


Camilla Guimaraes (millaguimaraes) | 16 comments Silver wrote:And I think that allusion to winter can also be seen as reflecting the state of a realtionship once it matures of its new "spring" stage, and the difficulties that will develop and the nativity and mistake it is in presuming that the first initial burst of passion can forever last.

While I totally agree with Silver, I think there is one more shade of meaning in that part of the story. At some point he says: "Beware of love! It is more dangerous than brandy, bronchitis or pleurisy!It never forgives and makes everybody commit irreparable follies." I believe the reason why love is more dangerous than these diseases is that while one might eventually cover from being ill, when one is in love and get married there is no turning back, you're traped into marriage. Besides, as many of you said before, he portrays women as being manipulative and misleading of man to convince them to get married. So if the man is in love, he doesn't notice it and fall for the trap of love.


message 20: by Remi (last edited May 04, 2011 04:08PM) (new)

Remi (Arodon) Silver wrote: "This is a very good point and I would like to address the fact that while this story does favor the man, and seems to take that classical view of woman was the temptress being the one at fault and misleading the man, Maupassant is capable of being sympathetic to women and understanding there point of view."

Thank you twice, Silver, for a) having chosen this short story (my first piece of Maupassant's literature for me in my life, and b) highlighting the above mentioned and too often underestimated aspect. Imho, one should be careful to equate the author with a character. The conceptualization of this admonishing and frustrated character draws a rather negative character. I as a reader tend to distance myself from his meddlesome presence, he is an unreliable narrator.

Besides, this beautiful piece of literature tries maybe to show that when someone becomes filled with bitterness, this person tries to deduce a universal truth from his/her highly particular life story, unable to acknowledge other experiences and perspectives.


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Remi wrote: Besides, this beautiful piece of literature tries maybe to show that when someone becomes filled with bitterness, this person tries to deduce a universal truth from his/her highly particular life story, unable to acknowledge other experiences and perspectives."

I like this way of looking at the story and it gives another possible perspective. While it does seem as if the initial response is to sympathize with the unfortunate man who seemed to have been duped in love, and take him for face value seeing him as victim, but the story can also be read as criticism against him as well.

Addressing what Traveller said about the man imposing his own will upon the narrator of the story, we can see how becasue of his own bitter experiences he does act now to try and deny someone else there potential happiness, and is completely blinded to the idea that in fact someone else may find happiness where he himself did not. While he thinks he is doing the narrator a favor by "saving" him, perhaps he is also drawing him into his own misery by not allowing for him to possibly end up having a pleasurable experince. Maybe even it is to envious of the thought that another person might in fact find pleasure in love that he is lacking in his life.


Everyman | 1393 comments Traveller wrote: "Hmm, though three months is not exactly a long time to get to know somebody. Try and think of somebody you had only known for 3 months.
Would you be ready to marry a person after such a short r..."


That's a fair point, but it seems that they did spend a lot more time together than most people just in the first stages of getting to know each other. (I've just finished watching the PBS series Manor House, in which the upper family and lower servants spent three months together, and boy did the servants get to know each other! In fact, (view spoiler).


Everyman | 1393 comments Traveller wrote: "Something I'm noticing with interest, seems to be that males and male authors seem to feel it is the girl who is the predator and 'ensnares' the man, wheras I think to most women (to me it certainly does) it more often feels as if the man is the predator who is chasing the woman. "

I think that depends in significant part on the time period involved. But to an extent you're right, though I think the male point of view of quite fair in that most --well, make that many if you don't like most --single young women of marriageable age do go out of their way to make themselves alluring to the male gender. Otherwise, why so much focus on fashion, perfume, high heels, makeup, expensive hairdos (I get a haircut once a month and it costs me $15.00 including tip), cosmetic surgery, and other ways of making themselves seem more desirable to men? (You would be hard pressed to persuade me that very many women buy alluring perfume to appeal to other women!)

No, I'm NOT suggesting or in any way accepting the idea that one can blame women for what happens to them if they dress too provocatively. But I am suggesting that from the male author's perspective, some women are very much weaving webs hoping to snare the most eligible and desirable man they can.

And for further evidence, I would just ask you who are weddings really for? I know very few men who, if they had total control over the wedding, would go much beyond a simple service in church or the registry. Isn't all the pomp and circumstance of weddings really the woman's say of showing off that she "got her man"?

Okay, I'm ready for the pot-shots which I know I'll get for this. I've thickened up my skin in preparation, so bring 'em on!


Silver | 992 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Traveller wrote: "Something I'm noticing with interest, seems to be that males and male authors seem to feel it is the girl who is the predator and 'ensnares' the man, wheras I think to most women ..."

I completely agree with you. And your statement above relates to the thought that I had just had, the ways in which I see the themes presented within this story as still appearing in today's world though much improvements and liberations have been made in the courting/dating and marriage, and relation between couples.

But the basic premises of this story seems to be one that is a reoccurring theme in many a modern sitcom which often tends to revolve around a group of guys sitting around complaining about their married life, lamenting being single. Complaining about how much their wives nag them our have changed from when they first met, and envying their bachelor friends for being the smart or lucky ones for not falling into the trap of marriage.


Lily (Joy1) | 1755 comments Remi wrote: "Thank you twice, Silver, for a) having chosen this short story (my first piece of Maupassant's literature for me in my life,..."

I have printed this story, but haven't stopped to read it yet. But, Remi, if this is your first, sometime do catch Maupassant's classic "The Necklace" (French: "La Parure").

I enjoyed one of his novels, Bel-Ami (1885). about a year ago. The copy in my library system was lavishly illustrated. The story is full of (cynical) twists and turns on male-female relationships.


message 26: by Traveller (last edited May 05, 2011 01:40AM) (new)

Traveller (Moontravlr) | 178 comments Lily wrote: "But, Remi, if this is your first, sometime do catch Maupassant's classic "The Necklace" (French: "La Parure")..."

I concur with that, I have this book but read it too long ago to remember the detail, however I do remember that I've deemed De maupassant to be a very good and subtle writer, and I love that most of the stories tend to have an ironic twist in the end.

Keeping that in mind, I think that Remi's interpretation of the story is a very good one. I think one should look more for the emphasis on the sad man's bitterness and how he enforced his own "winter" onto another person's "spring".

As regards to men, women and marriage, where there are 2 genders involved, of course the 2 gender's view of the whole thing will be different. I suppose it is true that before marriage, women are generally the ones who would prefer the more stable commitment that is represented by marriage, but on the other hand, the males tens to be more the sexual predator.

So as far as the "ensnared" aspect goes, I suppose you could say that women "ensnare" men into a long-term relationship with their sexual attractiveness to the men.

In the end, I think men and women both play the game, both sides take part in courtship - it takes two to tango. Do you honestly want to tell me that men never try to make a good impression on a female that they fancy? I've seen differently. ;

So yeah, I think it's a bit of both, men and women try to impress one another when there's romance in the air..

But hey, marriage cannot really be that bad for men, since a lot of research says that they are (in response to social research questionnaires) in actual fact objectively seen, happier than single men, or even than married women, though that research has recently been challenged.

What does seem to be true statistically though, is that married men tend to live, on average, 10 years longer than non-married men.

Go figure.

I do think this wandering a bit off-topic though, since I still think that a lot of the emphasis in viewing this story, should be that de Maupassant was commenting on how the sad man had imposed his own point of view onto the narrator, and spoilt his spring for him. :)


MadgeUK | 5214 comments I think the story belies the fact that there are millions of couple in arranged marriages who manage to make a good fist of it. The romantic view of marriage, which puffs it up unrealistically, can do just as much harm to relationships as can a practical one. Families traditionally arrange Asian marriages and great care is usually taken to find compatible partners, often through experienced female marriage 'brokers'. The couple are also taught to expect to have to 'work' at a marriage, not to find married life instantly easy, which is the impractical romantic ideal. I feel that Maupassant's cynicism towards marriage is well placed, given the romanticism which surrounded marriage at that time, something which the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft also wrote about.


Jan (Auntyjan) | 479 comments A cynical message, it's true, but I love the way he creates the feeling of spring.


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Une vie (other topics)
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