Forgiveness by Guy de Maupassant
In Forgiveness by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of innocence, trust, infidelity, selfishness, control, deceit and forgiveness. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Maupassant may be exploring the theme of innocence. Bertha appears to be naïve of the ways of the world. If anything Bertha has lived an innocent and protected life and appears to trust everything George says to her. She considers it to be astonishing that George may have conducted an affair with Julie even though there are some signs which suggest that George has been unfaithful. Regardless of these signs and on George’s insistence. Bertha continues to believe that George has not had a relationship with Julie that could be considered improper. In reality Bertha is entirely trusting of George till she can no longer deny the truth. This may be important as Maupassant may be highlighting the fact that George in many ways is controlling Bertha’s life. Something that is clearer to the reader by the fact that George rarely takes Bertha out with him. It is as though he lives another life. One in which Bertha is to be no part of. In reality just as Bertha’s parents isolated her from the world around her. So too is George keeping Bertha isolated.
How controlling George may actually be is noticeable by the fact that he arranges for Bertha and Julie to become friends. In this way he is able to hide his affair with Julie from Bertha. She is no longer suspicious of George or Julie. Which may leave some readers to suggest that George is acting deceitfully. He also appears to be showing a total disregard for how Bertha may feel as a result of his actions. At no stage in the story does the reader suspect that George is thinking of anybody but himself. In reality he is acting selfishly pleasing only himself. Which may be the point that Maupassant is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that George because of his desire to be in control is blind to the feelings or emotions of others. The number one person in George’s life appears to be George. As mentioned he spends little if any time with Bertha which leaves the reader wondering as to why George actually married Bertha. If anything George spends more time with Julie than he does with Bertha.
It might also be important to remember that Julie is as complicit as George when it comes to their affair. Her friendship with Bertha is merely a smokescreen that has been put in place to allay any suspicions that Bertha may have. If anything Bertha is being deceived by two people who she considers herself to love and like, George and Julie. The fact that Bertha takes an apartment next to Julie might also be important as it highlights just how deeply involved with Julie Bertha actually is. Bertha’s parents though only briefly mentioned in the story play an important role. It is as though their desire to isolate themselves from the world around them has led to Bertha’s prolonged innocence in life. She is totally unprepared when it comes to George’s actions. The reader left suspecting that the signs other people would have picked up on when it came to George’s infidelities. Have not registered with Bertha due to her living such a protected life. If anything Bertha comes of age in the story when she realises that George and Julie have been conducting an affair. No longer is she or can she be innocent of what happens in the world.
The end of the story is also interesting as Maupassant appears to be exploring the theme of forgiveness. By going to Julie’s grave and placing the flowers on the grave there is a sense that Bertha is forgiving Julie for her actions. Similarly by telling George that she can be friends with him. Bertha may be slowly opening up the door to a reconciliation with George. They have both spent a year living together and in silence. A difficult task for anybody. However by offering George the opportunity to be friends with her again. Bertha may realise that it is time to move on. To let go of what happened between George and Julie. Though some critics might suggest that Bertha rather than letting go of the past. Is letting herself down. However it might be important to remember that at the time the story was written society was dominated by the male. Bertha has no income of her own which might sustain her should she separate or divorce George. The reality being that it is easier for Bertha to forgive George and attempt to save her marriage. Whichever direction Bertha takes there is sure to be difficulty. Perhaps it is a case that Bertha has no option but to forgive George for his infidelities.