‘Confessing’ by Guy de Maupassant

Confessing by Guy de Maupassant, 1884

The magic trick:

A plot that starts with the reveal and then uses the mother’s potential reaction as the means of suspense

We wrap up our week of Guy de Maupassant stories featured in the Isaac Babel story “Guy De Maupassant.”

This one is the most difficult for me to sort out as far as what its presence says about the Babel story’s themes. Babel goes to great lengths to explain the entire plot, so that the reader of his story need not be familiar with the original. It’s a sad story, another story that explicitly connects sex with economics.

It’s an oddly structured story, giving away its dramatic reveal at the start. A young woman is pregnant, we – along with her mother – learn early on. She then recounts how it all happened. The suspense doesn’t lie in what happens now. It lies in how the mother will react to the story.

And that’s quite a trick on Maupassant’s part.

The selection:

The old woman tried to understand, tried to imagine, to realise who could have brought this misfortune upon her daughter. If the lad was well off and of decent position, an arrangement might be come to. The damage could still be repaired. Celeste was not the first to be in the same way, but it was annoying all the same, seeing their position and the way people talked.

“And who was it, you slut?” she repeated.

Celeste, resolved to make a clean breast of it, stammered:

“I think it was Polyte.”

At that Madame Malivoire, mad with rage, rushed upon her daughter and began to beat her with such fury that her hat fell off in the effort.


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