The Confession by Guy de Maupassant
In The Confession by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of commitment, regret, guilt, jealousy, loss, grief, forgiveness and acceptance. Taken from his The Collected 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 commitment. For over forty years Marguérite has lived with Suzanne and neither woman has ever married. Marguérite has committed herself to stay by Suzanne’s side despite having had the opportunity to marry on several occasions. It also becomes clear to the reader that Marguérite’s decision to remain by Suzanne’s side is driven by the guilt she felt for having killed Henry when she was a young girl of twelve years of age. Through jealousy Marguérite couldn’t stand the thought of Suzanne marrying Henry when she herself was very much in love with him. The fact that de Maupassant introduces jealousy into the story may be important as his intention may be two-fold. Firstly he may be highlighting how strong Marguérite may have felt when confronted with the fact that the man she loved was marrying somebody else and secondly he may be highlighting the lengths that Marguérite would go to ensure that Henry loved nobody but her. If anything jealousy overpowered Marguérite and lead her to kill Henry and through guilt she has spent the rest of her life by Suzanne’s side.
Suzanne’s decision to also never marry cannot be under estimated as it shows just how committed she is to Henry. Though she was not actually married to Henry Suzanne has taken on the role of a widow such are the intense feelings of love she felt for him. Her whole life has been dedicated to Henry just as Marguérite has dedicated her life to Suzanne. Symbolically the two swans who die after Marguérite throws the remaining cakes in the pond may also be important. It is possible that just as the swans die, de Maupassant may also be suggesting that so too has Suzanne’s opportunity of marrying Henry. There is also a sense that both Marguérite and Suzanne have lived their life in grief. Marguérite because she regrets her actions of having killed Henry and Suzanne because she lost the man that she loved. Both women have never overcome the loss of Henry though for different reasons. Marguérite because Henry didn’t love her and Suzanne because she again lost the man that she loved.
It is also interesting that Suzanne rather than showing any anonymity towards Marguérite for killing Henry forgives Marguérite for what she has done. This may be important as it shows that Suzanne holds no bitterness towards her sister. Though Marguérite is responsible for the direction that Suzanne’s life has taken. Suzanne is able to forgive her sister. Which in many ways highlights Suzanne’s love for Marguérite. Again she is not bitter but rather she is compassionate towards Marguérite. As to whether Suzanne would be as forgiving should the circumstances have been different and Marguérite was not dying is difficult to say. However there is a close bond between both sisters so it may be possible that Suzanne might forgive Marguérite regardless of her circumstances. What is also important to remember about Suzanne forgiving Marguérite is the fact that she shows the ability to love again. Something she has not been able to do since Henry’s death. It is as though she has come full circle and has found the capacity to love again. Suzanne is fully aware of the pain that Marguérite is in not only physically but emotionally and mentally too as she is dying. It would have been easier for her to be bitter about what Marguérite has done but she takes the more difficult path of forgiving her sister for her actions.
What is also interesting about the end of the story is the fact that Suzanne appears to have not only found the ability to love again but by forgiving Marguérite it is possible that Suzanne is finally able to let go of Henry. No longer will he have the same pull on Suzanne’s emotions. Though Suzanne has lost both a lover and a sister there is a sense that she has the ability to grow again after so many years grieving the loss of Henry. She may very well, despite her age, blossom late in life now that she knows the truth about Henry’s death. If anything Suzanne has the opportunity to accept everything that has happened and move on. Something that Marguérite has never been able to do throughout her life. Since Henry’s death, driven by guilt, she has remained by Suzanne’s side. It is only in death that Marguérite is also able to let go of the past though she has been assisted by Suzanne’s ability to forgive her. Marguérite has spent her life consumed by guilt for her actions which were driven by the very human emotion of jealousy. Two women have suffered because they both loved the same man. De Maupassant possibly suggesting or highlighting the difficulties that can come with love. How an individual can be overpowered emotionally (by jealousy) and end up spending their life ravaged with guilt.