Famous French People

Guy de Maupassant
A great writer of short stories.

Guy de Maupassant was born on 5 August 1850, near to Dieppe.  Although he is known as Guy, he had three more first names.  His full name was Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant. 


Guy's father was called Gustave de Maupassant.  His mother was Laure Le Poittevin and she loved art and literature, especially Shakespeare.  She was from an aristocratic family and had grown up as a close friend of the famous French author Gustave Flaubert.  

When Guy was eleven years old, his parents separated, so he lived with his mother and his younger brother called Hervé.  In fact, Guy was always very close to his mother.  He grew up in the countryside and near to the sea.  He spent much time mingling with the local country-folk.  Later in his life, he would write a lot about peasants and country life.

Guy 's favourite pastimes were rowing and sailing.

Guy studied Law in Paris, but at the age of twenty he left his studies to go and fight as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War.  It was during his letter-writing whilst serving as a soldier that it became obvious he was an excellent writer.  His mother's friend, the author Gustave Flaubert, encouraged him to write.

Guy de Maupassant was one of the many people who hated the Eiffel Tower when it was first built. 

La Tour Eiffel 

Lots of Parisians felt that it was an ugly construction.  It is a famous fact that Guy regularly ate lunch in the restaurant of the Eiffel Tower.  When asked why he visited the restaurant so frequently if he hated the Tower so much, he replied that 'Inside the restaurant was one of the few places where he could sit and not actually see the Tower!'

Guy de Maupassant died at the age of forty-three in 1893.  His tomb is at the Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris - a very famous cemetery where many well-known people are buried.

He wrote six novels, but he is most famous for his many short stories.  One of his best-loved stories is called La Parure (The Necklace). 

The story of 'La Parure' (The Necklace).

It was written in 1880 and tells the story of a lady called Mathilde who wishes that she was married to a wealthy man with a magnificent life-style rather than the ordinary husband and unimpressive existence that she has. 

She dreams of balls and expensive gowns, of castles and fine furniture. Her hard-working husband feels sad that she is dissatisfied so, one day, he organises an evening at a ball where lots of important and famous guests will be attending.  His wife prepares for the occasion with great excitement, spending money on a new gown and even borrowing a diamond necklace from a wealthy friend. 

La Parure (The ball) 

The evening is wonderful and she feels beautiful and happy.  But then disaster strikes! ........

When they return home, she discovers that she has lost the necklace!  They hunt everywhere, retracing their steps, but the necklace is nowhere to be found.

Knowing that she must return the expensive necklace to her friend, she purchases a similar one.  She is too frightened to tell her friend what has happened.  This means that all their savings are spent and they have to borrow money.  In fact, for ten years she is forced to work hard (her husband also) in order to pay off the debt.  They live a miserable and hard life.  She grows old and haggard because of the strain.  Now her previous existence seems so wonderful!

When the debt is finally repaid, after ten years of hard work, she bumps into the friend who lent her the diamond necklace.  Her friend hardly recognises her because she looks so old and tired.  They have a conversation and the story about the lost necklace is finally revealed.  The friend is shocked and tells her that the necklace was only a cheap fake!

So, what does the story of the necklace tell us?
1.  To appreciate what we already have.
2.  Not to place importance on material things.
3.  That you cannot judge people or things by their appearance.
4.  Your life can change drastically, for the better or for the worse.
5.  Big changes in your life can be the result of just a small incident.