A Humble Drama by Guy de Maupassant
In A Humble Drama by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of escape, connection, loneliness, paralysis, desperation and hope. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator the reader senses very early on in the story that de Maupassant is exploring the theme of escape. The narrator recalls how he feels when he sees someone that he might or might not know when he is travelling. There is a sense of connection though the connection itself is limited due to the fact that the narrator is fully aware that those who travel with him are only transients on his travels. It is this limited connection that leads the narrator to escape in his mind and to imagine that he might know the individual who is travelling with him. It is also noticeable that the narrator though the connection is limited still longs to make some type of deeper connection with those who are travelling with him. This is very similar to the connection that the old woman longs to make with her son. She too is escaping from life by spending her time travelling due to the fact that she has nobody to care for in her life. She is alone due to the fact that her son limits his time with her.
It may also be important that the old woman tells her story to the narrator as it is as though she is carrying a burden that is too heavy for her. Not only does she feel alone but she is isolated from others. Apart from the guide in the story (and the narrator) the old woman has no contact with any other character. Which places a strong emphasis on the theme of loneliness. Some critics may also suggest that the old woman has difficulty in letting go of her son. He is now a grown man who is married and is living his own life. Yet the old woman still longs for his company despite the fact that her son has a new life. It is this inability to let go which may further disable the old woman. Her every thought is with her son when she should be enjoying her travels. She is not only escaping by spending so much time travelling but she is also paralyzed by the past. A past she wants to relive with her son. Even though the reality is that this is not possible. The son has moved on.
The setting of the story may also be important as by setting the story around ruins de Maupassant may be symbolically highlighting the struggles that the old woman feels. In many ways the old woman’s life like the fort is in ruins. Life is not easy for her. The fact that the old woman spends so much time travelling and away from her home may also be significant as it suggests that she is unable to return to the life she once lived. It is as though she knows that she must travel in order to try and forget about her son but at the same time she knows that this action is pointless. She is unable to forget about her son. The old woman’s honesty to a stranger (the narrator) is also striking. She doesn’t hold back rather she is honest with the narrator which suggests that the old woman is in pain and longs to be able to share how she feels with another human being. In reality she feels the need to connect with another human being.
The end of the story is also interesting. De Maupassant has the old woman standing on a broken wall. This is important as symbolically de Maupassant may also be suggesting that the old woman too is broken by the fact that her son is not in contact with her. The struggles she has faced over the years have caught up with her and broken her spirit. It is also noticeable that the old woman feels vulnerable as she is telling the narrator not to stand beside her after she tells him her story. This vulnerability highlights just how affected the old woman is by her circumstances. Rather than being able to enjoy her travels she is in pain constantly due to her son’s inability to remain in contact with her. It is as though the old woman is living her life in hope that her son will return to her. When the reality is very different. The son in all likelihood will not return to his mother now that he is living his own (married) life in England. There is a sense at the end of the story of complete desperation on the mother’s behalf. She is to live her life aimlessly travelling while hoping that she may live part of her past again with her son. In many ways de Maupassant has highlighted the plight of many mothers (or parents) and given the reader an insight into the difficulties that can be encountered when a child leaves home for good and starts out on life for themselves.