Love by Guy de Maupassant

Love - Guy de MaupassantIn Love by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of memory, love, contentment, happiness and ignorance. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that de Maupassant has written a memory piece based on one of the narrator’s memories when he was younger. What is remarkable about the story is that the narrator, despite the passing of time, has a photographic memory and is even able to remember the smallest of details. He remembers what drink he had in Karl’s home. The socks on his shoes when he was walking on the ice and the drake flying over his head refusing to abandon his mate. If anything the memories are ones of happiness for the narrator. The reader would also be forgiven to think that the story, due to the introduction, might be about a failed love affair. Instead it explores the depths and bonds of love between not only people but animals too. How love transcends all expectations known to man. Love is unique and cannot be easily described.

There may also be some foreshadowing in the story with de Maupassant using the weather to pre-empt the tragedy that befalls the drake. De Maupassant also uses similes to describe or highlight further just how cold the day was. It might also be important that hunting is natural to the narrator and Karl. Karl in particular does not see the romanticism of the drake hovering above waiting for his mate. He knows that the drake won’t abandon his mate and as such prefers to go in for the kill. Something he successfully manages to do. The fact that de Maupassant does let the reader know how the narrator and Karl feel is also interesting as it suggests that it was business as usual for both men. Though in time and on discovery of the man killing his girlfriend. The narrator does begin to have thoughts and feelings about what has happened the drake. Nonetheless this doesn’t change the narrator and he is still in awe of the drake’s love for his mate.

In comparison one is left to wonder what the narrator would do if he was in the same position as the drake. Would he abandon his mate and take flight or would he do everything possible to stay with his mate. It is difficult to say but the narrator does not come across as someone who is easily swayed by emotion. He after all doesn’t fully understand the man’s suicide. Which may leave some readers to suggest that the narrator does not necessarily have a degree of understanding when it comes to love. True he pitied the drake but not enough to let it bother him. If anything the whole matter is an adventure for the narrator. He is at Karl’s home to hunt and that is exactly what he does. The battle between the narrator, Karl and the drake is an uneven one and one that both men are willing to participate in. As to why the narrator hunts is a mystery as he is relatively squeamish when it comes to the matter of dealing with the dead animals

The end of the story is interesting as de Maupassant reintroduces the weather (coldness) back into the story. Though in this case it may be seen as metaphor for the narrator’s actions. He casually takes his kill with him when he travels back to Paris. He suffers no remorse or guilt for his actions and thinks he has had a good time with Karl. The incident with the drake is gone from his mind till several years later and the man’s suicide. However the reader does not suspect that the narrator has changed in any way. He has a memory or story to tell that might interest others. At no stage in the story does the narrator have any sympathy for the man who killed himself, his girlfriend or the drake and his mate. If anything the narrator remains devoid of any emotion that might be considered to be productive or help the narrator in understanding what has happened. He will continue to live his life blinded by his own ignorance and happy to hunt again with Karl. The narrator has not learnt any lesson but may consider love to be folly.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Love by Guy de Maupassant." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 28 Dec. 2019. Web.

2 comments

  • I think the narrator did feel guilty. I think that’s what he meant when he said – “I left for Paris the same evening”. When a person realises his own blunder, he defensively hides his actions and gets as far away from the place of action as he can. I would say the narrator is a good psychologist. He knew that if he stayed at his cousin’s place any longer, the guilt will pound him hard, he may drink and do something reckless. So to avoid any mishap, he willfully took leave from the place even though he liked the place and shooting.

    I think you’re right in saying that the narrator considers love a folly. His heart is definitely moved by the love he saw between the birds. But he is also convinced that it is also a folly as the emotion drove the drake to its death when there was some chance that it could have lived.

    I had read this story for the first time when I was 9 or 10 years old. I’m 32 years old presently. The poignancy of the story made me weep sorrowfully. I read it again now. It was nice to see some discussion on this story.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for your excellent insight Vikram . You have a very good understanding of the story.

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