Short critical analysis essay about how Maupassant uses imagery and mental illness in his works.
Guy de Maupassant: Aspect of Style
Guy de Maupassant has been noted as the father of modern day short story writing. Born in 1850, Guy de Maupassant only lived to be 42 years old; he died from syphilis contracted during his early twenties while serving in the Army. After his return from the army, Guy was schooled in writing by Gustave Flaubert. Under the guidance of Flaubert, Guy De Maupassant developed a unique writing style filled with fantastic imagery and insight into the human psyche drawn through his own personal experiences.
“The Hand.” , according to the biographical notes from Classical Library, was written based on an experience from Maupassant’s teenage years. “As a teenager, Maupassant was shown, … a mummified hand”(1). According to the author, Maupassant drew on his photographic memory to engage the audience with his imagery in “The Hand.”. Maupassant leaves the audience with a vivid image, “Not the clean white hand of a skeleton, but a dried black hand, with yellow nails, the muscles exposed and traces of old blood on the bones…”. (de Maupassant, Guy – Original Short Stories, volume 6).
Many authors, including modern day horror novelist, Stephen King, in his “The Moving Finger.”, have written in similar style. The use of vivid imagery goes hand in hand with playing on the average human psyche. In both of these short stories, the audience is left to wonder about unseen evils that may be lurking. Both King and Maupassant understood that the greatest fear is the fear of not knowing exactly what is in the dark, and that this fear is drummed up in the minds of their readers.
Not only does Maupassant use imagery to play on the human psyche but many of his works deal directly with psychology and mental illness. “A recurring theme in these is madness: “A Queer Night in Paris.” is a paranoid nightmare… “Diary of a Madman” is about a judge who commits murder… and condemns an innocent man to death for the crime.” (Classical Library). Even during his time period, Maupassant was able to draw readers into his stories by involving them in the abnormal thoughts that may accompany mental illness. Some believe that Maupassant suffered mental illnesses due to the effects of syphilis and “Maupassant’s developing illness can be seen through a growing occupation with mental illness in his stories.” (Classical Library). One must note, however, that even some of Maupassant’s early writings offer a theme of mental illness.
The vivid imagery is by far the most compelling aspect of Maupassant’s story writing. Without the use of imagery, a reader can only guess as what the author sees in his mind. Maupassant paints a clear and lasting picture for his readers to fully understand his stories.
“De Maupassant, Guy “. Classical Library.org. p 1-2 Web. 26 Nov 2011.
“De Maupassant, guy” Original Short Stories, volume 6. Classical Library.org. p 4. Web. 26 Nov 2011.
King, Stephen. Nightmares and Dreamscapes. New York City. Viking Publishing Co. , 1993. `Print.