Maupassant uses unusual situations in his stories that raise conflict and might not always be accepted in society. This is shown in his stories “Life in the Country” and “Mother Savage” where we are forced to question our normal ideas of right and wrong. Maupassant’s own life influences his stories in the moral content. He was not a man of high morals and would often visit prostitutes once he regained his wealth after the war through his short stories. He had suffered, from his 20’s, from syphilis which later caused increasing mental disorder. On January 2nd, in 1892, Maupassant tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat.
He was then sent to Dr Esprit Blanche’s private asylum at Passy, in Paris, were he died the following year. It is also claimed that all Maupassant’s fiction came from his own experiences. “Life in the Country” is about two families, one who sold their child and one who did not. At the beginning we are expected to think that selling a child is wrong. This is shown by the fact that Madame Tuvache, who refused to sell he son, was admired by society because of this and that Madame Vallin was shunned. “The farmers wife rose to her feet like a fury, `You want us to sell our Charlot? No. Never!
It’s a think nobody’s got no right asking a mother to do. I won’t have it! It’d be sinful and wicked! `” However, the way Madame Tuvache gets her respect and admiration, though boasting, saying how much better she is than the Vallins and spoiling her son, Charlot, makes us question whether or not she is worthy of being held in such high regard. “They (the Vallins) quarrelled with their neighbours, because Madame Tuvache said the most awful things about them and went round other people’s houses saying that anyone who sells a child for money must be unnatural, it was a horrible disgusting dirty business. ” she would pick up little Charlot for all to see and say loudly… `I din’t sell you my precious, I din’t! I don’t go round selling my children.
I haven’t got a lot of money but I don’t go round selling my children! `” Madame Vallin seems to have no sense of morals at the beginning. When asked to sell her child she does not immediately say no like Madame Tuvache, she stops to think about it, “When they learned that they would get a hundred francs a month, they looked at each other, exchanged enquiring glances, and seem to hesitate. ” Then she bargains for a higher price as a sort of “compensation” for not having their son. `
A hundred francs a month, well, it don’t compensate us nowhere near for not having our boy around. Give him a couple of years and he’d be able to set to work. We’d need a hundred and twenty. `” On the other hand Madame Vallin sticks out the scornful comments, which were helped along by Madame Tuvache, without retaliation and when her son, Jean, returns when he has grown up, he is very well mannered and knew exactly where he came from and who his real parents were. “Old Madame Vallin was washing her aprons. Her husband now infirm, was dozing by the fire.
Both looked up and the young man said: `Good morning, mother. Good morning, father. `” He was not angry at his parents for selling him as he recognised their reasons for doing so and was grateful for his brilliant start in life. “The Vallins were celebrating with their boy who had come back. ” Charlot, however, turned out to spoilt rotten as he despises his parents for not selling him, his greed and jealousy of Charlot consuming him. “Then the lad said roughly, `I’d as soon have never been born than be as I am. When I saw him from next door earlier on, it came right home to me.
I said to meself: `That’s what I could have been like now! “ He stood up, “… I’ll never forgive you. Never. ` The two old people sat in silence utterly crushed and in tears. ” Charlot then leaves, storming out of his house to the sound of celebrating from the Vallins and he “vanished into the night”. By not selling him for a short time until he’d grown up, the Tuvaches may have lost Charlot for good. The Vallins were much happier after selling their child. They had more money and a better lifestyle, and in the end they got their son back, who had grown up well and with a good education.
Madame D’Hubiere, who was the woman who bought Jean from the Vallins, seems very spoilt at the beginning of Maupassant’s story. She wanted a child so badly that she just stopped to play with some in the street, spoiling their innocence with sweets and underhanded, psychological warfare against their parents, and bribing the rest of the children as well. “She came back the following week, sat herself down on the ground with them, took the little boy in her arms, stuffed him full of cake and handed sweets to all the others… She… began putting in an appearance daily, her pockets bulging with sweets and pennies.
She grows attached to Charlot in particular and seems to have a special bond with him. If it is really because she has grown to love him as she would love her own son then her reasons for wanting to adopt him would be sincere and almost acceptable. How when the Tuvaches turn her down she simply turns around, and like a spoilt child determined to get what she wants, heads for the other little boy Jean. All she wanted was a child and she did not care which one. Her bond with Charlot was nothing more than giving him the first chance to be bought rather than actual emotion.
As she was leaving, Madame D’Hubiere recalled that there were two little boys and asked, through her tears, and with the persistence of a headstrong spoilt woman who is not prepared to wait: `The other little boy isn’t yours, is he? ` Monsieur Tuvache answered, `No. He’s next door’s. You can go see them if you like. ` And he went back into his house where his wife could be heard complaining indignantly. ” But then, upon the return of Jean, we see how well he has turned out, that he is not spoilt at all like his adoptive mother was, and he knew were he came from.
One morning, a gleaming carriage pulled up outside the two cottages. A young gentleman, wearing a gold watch chain, got out and helped down an old lady with white hair. The old lady said to him: `It’s there, dear. The second house. ` He walked straight into the Vallins’ hovel as though it were his own. ” Our “normal” ideas of right and wrong are challenged in this story as although we thought that selling a child was wrong, the child who was sold grows up to be a gentleman, well mannered, educated, wealthy and respectful of his parents.
Charlot on the other hand grew up thinking he was better than anyone else for not being sold but when he sees Jean he becomes bitter and jealous. He does not show respect to his parents and finally he runs away from home, and all because his parents loved him so much that they wanted to keep him. Maupassant also experienced a lifestyle of death and regret. He lost his money and family during the war and when he regained his money he spent it on immoral pleasures and other things which are not right. He admires the Vallins for coming out of a situation, which may not have been right to start with, in a good light.
In “Mother Savage” her husband has dies and all she has left is her son. When he goes to fight in the war she is occupied by Prussian soldiers, who are pleasant to her and treat her with respect. When she hears her son has been killed in the war she sets her house alight with the soldiers trapped inside. She is then shot for killing the soldiers. Although we all know that murder is wrong we have to think of her motives behind it . She would never be commended for what she did but Maupassant raises compassion for the woman who lost her .
It is because she is over come by grief that she might not be able to think straight, her son was her last living relative and she did not want to be alone. “Grief flooded into her heart. Ideas occurred to her one by one, horrible, agonizing ideas. ” Perhaps realising that she had nothing more to lose that she might as well help her country in the process of helping herself, after all they were the enemy. But the fact that the soldiers were very nice to her and never tried to hurt her, treating her like their own mother, makes feel strongly for the soldiers.
The fact that Madame Savages son is killed in the heat of the battle excuses his dead to a point. “Your son Victor was killed yesterday by a cannon-ball which pretty well cut him in two. ” Victors death is quick and he would not have felt a thing. Maupassant emphasises the fact that Victors death is quick and painless and the soldiers die a long and painful death. “She threw one of the bundles of straw into the hearth, and when it had caught fire she scattered it over the others. Then she went outside and watched.
Within a few seconds a blinding glare lit up the whole inside of the cottage… Then a great cry came from the inside of the house, followed by a clamour of human screams, of heartrending shrieks of anguish and terror. ” Sympathy is raised for Mother Savage however because of the insensitivity of the letter telling her of her sons death and also because of the fact that after she had burnt down her house and killed the soldiers she tells the truth to the Prussian soldiers even though she knows that the consequences would be death.
She also makes sure that she has the names of her soldiers so that their families can know what happened and would not be left in doubt. “She told the story from beginning to end, from the arrival of the letter to the last screams of the men who had been burnt with the house. She didn’t leave out a single detail of what she had feel or what she had done. ” In both these stories Maupassant does make us question our views on different situations, because of the circumstances of the characters of the consequences of their actions.
Still it would not make to want to buy or sell a child if you believed it to be wrong in the first place or murder anyone, even if you are over come with grief. Maupassant makes us understand what the characters are going through and not condemn them for what they have done. The ideas of what are good and bad really do depend on what has happened before and what will happen after, only then can you judge a situation, if you are close enough to see the full picture.