Regret by Guy de Maupassant
In Regret by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of love, acceptance, loneliness, paralysis, uncertainty, letting go and regret. Taken from his Selected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that de Maupassant may be exploring the theme of love. Savel despite the passing of time is still very much in love with Madame Sandres. However due to the fact that Madame Sandres was married to one of Savel’s friends Savel never acted on any impulses that he might have had. Something that Savel now regrets. If anything Savel has also been unable to let go of Madame Sandres and he is shrouded with an element of uncertainty as to whether Madame Sandres loved him too. So overcome with doubt is Savel that he is determined to find out as to whether Madame Sandres does or did ever love him. Which is an interesting prospect for a sixty two year old man who believes that he has lived most of his life and who finds no joy in anything he does. Potentially Savel is leaving himself open for a fall. On one hand he may feel relieved that Madame Sandres didn’t love him as it affords Savel the opportunity to wallow in self-pity. While on the other hand if Madame Sandres does tell Savel that she did love him he is opening himself up to pain due to his own paralysis when it came to telling Madame Sandres that he too loved her. Either way Savel will not be a happy man though he appears to be determined to find out as to the truth of the matter. Did Madame Sandres love him?
The reader also suspects that Savel has been lonely for the entirety of his life. He never took any action when it came to the possibility of marriage nor is there any mention of friends other than the Sandres’. Which would suggest a paralysis in Savel’s life. It would also appear that Savel lived for his work and then retired to his home. It is as though Savel never saw any hope in his life. Though the responsibility for any action that should have been taken to ensure some type of happiness lies entirely with Savel. He appears to be a man who has desires though never fulfilled these desires. His love for Madame Sandres is the one constant in the story in whereby Savel clings to any type of hope. This hope is driven by the strong urge within Savel to find out the truth. It is as though Savel needs to find out. As if his life depended on it. Though the consequences as mentioned of finding out whether Madame Sandres loved him are not favourable to Savel.
It may also be a case that de Maupassant is exploring the theme of acceptance. Savel can accept everything that has happened in his life apart from the fact that he is uncertain as to whether Madame Sandres loved him. She is the one part of Savel’s life that he truly regrets not taking action with when they were walking by the river bank. Though the opportunity was there for Savel to find happiness his nervousness overtook him. Though some critics might suggest that Savel was being loyal to his friend Sandres there is nothing in the story to suggest that Savel was being loyal. Loyalty is a difficult path to follow when it comes to affairs of the heart. Savel is driven not by loyalty but by love. Hence him knocking on Madame Sandres door to find out whether she loved him.
The end of the story is also interesting as not only does Savel get the answer he wants but so overpowering is his regret at not taking any action he feels crushed. Where some would be happy that a woman loves them Savel looks upon his whole life as being meaningless because of his own paralysis. He does not see any positivity in the fact that Madame Sandres loved or loves him. Though he is only sixty two years old he doesn’t look at the possibilities for the future. If anything Savel is not only crushed by Madame Sandres words to him but he is also defeated. Where Savel had doubted there was anything to live for now he feels certain that there is nothing to live for. Life has become meaningless for Savel due to his inability to tell Madame Sandres thirty years ago that he loved her. The setting at the end of the story may also be important as rather than the rain symbolically washing away any pain that Savel may have it is as though the rain is cutting into Savel. Having been wounded by Madame Sandres’ words the rain too appears to be also wounding Savel. The fact that Savel also cries at the end of the story highlights to the reader just how painful Madame Sandres’ words have been to Savel.