Was It a Dream? by Guy de Maupassant
As a way of extracting the honey-wisdom from this four-page Guy de Maupassant masterpiece, I will probe several of its implicit philosophical themes. A brief synopsis of the tale runs as follows: A lovesick narrator tells us how infatuated he is with his beautiful lover. But, alas, following a night of being caught in the rain, she came down with a fever and died. Despondent and demoralized, thinking continually of the futility of life and the ever-present reality of death, the narrator finds himself walking to the cemetery and standing before his lover’s grave, reading the words on her headstone: SHE LOVED, WAS LOVED, AND DIED.
Beside himself, the brokenhearted lover wanders off to the far end of the cemetery and then, as evening approaches, he decides to evade the caretakers and remain among the tombstones, hiding in the branches of a tree. When all is dark during the moonless night, he resumes wandering among the graves and when completely exhausted, takes a seat on one of the gravestones.
At this point, he observes supernatural happenings: first, the naked skeleton of a fifty-one year old man rubs away the epitaph on his headstone which says how loving, kind and honorable a man he was during his lifetime and writes the truth: he was a despicable, cruel, deceiving robber.
The narrator then sees all the graves of the cemetery open and all the dead bodies and skeletons emerge to erase the lies and all the pretty words on their gravestones and write the truth. Aghast, he realizes he is surrounded by a graveyard of hypocrites, liars, rogues and deceivers, perpetrators of an endless stream of abominations.
In a flash of insight he thinks his lover must have also written something on her tombstone. He rushes back to her grave and recognizes her at once. Indeed, she did write something. In place of the former words, he reads: HAVING GONE OUT IN THE RAIN ONE DAY, IN ORDER TO DECEIVE HER LOVER, SHE CAUGHT COLD AND DIED. At daybreak, he is found lying unconscious on her grave.
Let’s take a look at this story first in terms of an André Gide quote: “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.” Certainly, the dead in de Maupassant’s story act in accord with this quote when they etch the truth of their past life on their gravestones.
But how about people still living? When we are alive in the world, we live in a complex web of family, friends, neighbors and society, and, in order to survive in harmony with others, frequently we resort to a series of personae and masks, many of these personae and masks hiding or taking the edge off the raw truth of how each and every one of us sees ourselves as the center of the world. After all, we are all human and as humans we have unending self-centered desires which naturally makes us greedy, lustful, angry, envious or prideful, to name several. However, in spite of all their faults, people have a boundless desire to be loved.
This all-to-human paradox led nineteenth century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer to observe: “For what is our civilized world but a big masquerade?” But how should we live an authentic existence if we are continually confronting an entire world of masqueraders? This question led Schopenhauer to a further observation, when he stated “No man ought to expect much from others, or, in general, from the external world. What one human being can be to another is not a very great deal: in the end every one stands alone, and the important thing is who it is that stands alone.”
So, that is our challenge - to partake our role in all our ongoing relationships and interactions but, at the same time, have the strength to be our own person, someone who can transcend dependency on others. This is not easy, especially for a romantically inflamed lover such as the narrator of de Maupassant’s tale.
But, as we all acknowledge, life is not easy. Again, the words of Schopenhauer: “The ordinary man places his life’s happiness in things external to him, in property, rank, wife and children, friends, society, and the like, so that when he loses them or finds them disappointing, the foundation of his happiness is destroyed.” Ultimately our challenge is to accept the quest of the hero’s journey and become extraordinary.
Was It A Dream? by Guy de Maupassant
"Was it a Dream?" by Guy de Maupassant?
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work. Why does one love? I met her and loved her; that is all. And for a whole year I have lived on her tenderness, on her caresses, in her arms, in her dresses, on her words, so completely wrapped up, bound, imprisoned in everything which came from her, that I no longer knew whether it was day or night, if I was dead or alive, on this old earth of ours, or elsewhere. I do not know. I no longer know; but one evening she came home wet, for it was raining heavily, and the next day she coughed, and she coughed for about a week, and took to her bed.
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Guy de Maupassant Questions and Answers - Discover the labelhqs.org and dreams, not unlike Madame Mathilde Loisel in Guy de Maupassant's famous story.
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