Happiness by Guy de Maupassant
In Happiness by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of love, language, happiness, struggle, control, satisfaction and class. Taken from his Selected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that de Maupassant may be exploring the theme of love. A group of people are discussing what love is and do not appear to be able to define it. This may be important as it suggests that language and emotions have limitations when it comes to definition. Nobody is able to describe clearly what love is. Though it may be significant that those discussing the topic are middle to upper class. Their lives are comfortable in comparison to the life that Suzanne has had. She has had to struggle through life after abandoning her family for a life with her husband on Corsica. One does not feel as though those discussing love have had to struggle in any way.
The theme of satisfaction is evident in the story with Suzanne being satisfied with the choice she has made. Despite the passing of over fifty years, Suzanne remains very much in love with the man she chose to marry. This is noticeable by the fact that Suzanne still sleeps with her husband by an old straw bed. Though both Suzanne and her husband struggle they remain happy and Suzanne has no regrets over the direction her life has taken. This could be significant as Suzanne has given up a life that the reader knows none of the others in the story would be prepared to abandon. They like the comforts in life that often come with being middle to upper class. Which may be the point that de Maupassant is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that to find true love one has to make sacrifices and the reader is fully aware that Suzanne has made the greatest of sacrifices by marrying her husband. She had a comfortable life and could have married any man she liked. Instead she choose someone who she really loved regardless of their financial background.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The island of Corsica, which is hidden away, may symbolize the difficulties that one incurs when trying to define love. Love too is hidden and not easily understood by many. Suzanne herself is symbolic of happiness despite what others (in the group) might think. Again she has given up everything for her husband even though she knew that life would be difficult. Suzanne’s father can be seen to represent control. If anything he wants to dictate to Suzanne when it comes to who she might marry. However Suzanne is not listening to her father and as such runs away from a life that was comfortable. The man who is telling Suzanne’s tale to the group is also important as he symbolizes doubt. It is only when he talks to Suzanne that he realizes that she is happy with the decision she has made.
The end of the story is interesting as not everybody in the group is convinced that Suzanne has made the right decision when it comes to love. Some cannot see that a person can be poor and happy. Which says more about those in the group than it does about Suzanne and her husband. Being wealthy is something that blinds people from knowing what love is. Suzanne abandoned all possessions in order to marry her husband. This is not something that the reader senses that anyone in the group might do. So attached are they to their possessions and wealth. In reality de Maupassant may be suggesting that those who are poor and not blinded by possession have a better chance of knowing what love is than those of a different class. Middle to upper class people do not afford themselves the opportunity to fall in love due to their love of possessions and wealth. Again they are blinded.