The Model by Guy de Maupassant
In The Model by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of guilt, remorse, regret, pity, letting go, honour and love. Taken from his Selected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story it becomes clear to the reader that de Maupassant may be exploring the theme of pity. Jean pities Joséphine after she throws herself out of the window of the narrator’s home. So strong are his feelings of guilt over Joséphine’s actions that Jean marries Joséphine. The reader aware that the trigger for Jean marrying Joséphine is the remorse and regret he feels over what has happened Joséphine. Jean cannot forgive himself for opening the window in the first place and telling Joséphine to jump out the window. If anything Jean is blaming himself over the fact that Joséphine is crippled. He believes that he is responsible for Joséphine’s actions. Though Jean can’t be held responsible for the actions of another human being he is not able to let go of the fact that he told Joséphine to jump out the window. He is taking full responsibility for Joséphine’s highly emotional actions. Rather than walking away from Jean when she returned the money and beginning a new life there is sense that Joséphine was attempting to emotionally blackmail Jean. If this is the case Joséphine has succeeded. It is also possible that Joséphine simply loved Jean too much.
It is also clear that Jean does not love Joséphine, whether she is crippled or not. His plans had been to leave her and if he had not felt guilty over the incident of Joséphine throwing herself out of the window he would most definitely not have married her. If anything Jean had tired of Joséphine. Some relationships are meant to last and some are only fleeting. If it were not for the accident Jean’s relationship with Joséphine would have been only fleeting. The narrator even suggests as much to the reader by informing the reader that artists fall in love with models, several different models. It is as though it is in an artist’s character to fall in love with many different women. It is also noticeable, if the narrator is to be believed, that Joséphine manipulated (emotionally) Jean. The narrator believing that women have certain traits that are different to men. With a man one knows where they stand yet the same cannot be said when it comes to women. Whether this is true or not is a different thing but should the narrator’s logic be taken into consideration today there might well be accusations directed towards him of sexism. In simple terms the narrator is suggesting that men are driven by logic while women are driven by manipulation and emotion.
It is also doubtful that Joséphine deliberately threw herself out of the window in order to manipulate Jean. She may have been emotionally charged on hearing that Jean wanted to marry someone else but she was not deliberately trying to cripple herself. Kill herself maybe but not cripple herself. The fact that Joséphine was prepared to kill herself suggests that she was very much in love with Jean and was hesitant about living her life without him. Though some critics might also suggest that Joséphine is unable to let go of Jean. She cannot imagine a life without him. It is also possible that though Jean has married out of guilt he may also have done what he believes is the honourable thing. However he also appears to have sacrificed his own happiness in the process. In reality Jean has married a woman that he does not love. Yet the same cannot be said for Joséphine when it comes to her side of the marriage. She may be very much in love with Jean or at least was once in love with him.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader through the hour long silence between Jean and Joséphine gets an insight into just how dysfunctional their marriage actually is. Jean may have done the honourable thing but he is carrying a heavy load. Joséphine’s silence too is also interesting as she may feel as though she has successfully trapped the man that she loves and nothing needs to be said. However it is also possible that both characters are living miserable lives. The silence highlighting just how miserable things are for Jean and Joséphine. Jean may be a successful artist now but he is far from happy. He has paid a heavy price for his words to Joséphine and Joséphine who acted on those words has also paid a high price. If anything the reader senses at the end of the story that the fledgling love that both characters felt at the beginning of their courtship is gone. Neither character is happy yet they will continue to live their lives as husband and wife due to a mix of pity, guilt and remorse on Jean’s behalf. It is also true that Joséphine could have declined marrying Jean. However at the time she was very much in love with him. Though as time progressed she may have realised that despite winning Jean he does not actually love her. The marriage is a cold affair.