‘A Sister’s Confession’ by Guy de Maupassant

A Sister’s Confession by Guy de Maupassant, 1882

The magic trick:

Establishing an expectation of realism early in the story

The plot gets a little carried away here. Deathbed revelations tend to do that.

So it’s almost a preemptive strike when Maupassant grounds the story in reality very early on. Consider the paragraph setting the scene:

“The apartment wore that melancholy aspect common to death chambers; a look of despairing farewell. Medicine bottles littered the furniture; linen lay in the corners into which it had been kicked or swept. The very chairs looked, in their disarray, as if they were terrified and had run in all directions. Death – terrible Death – was in the room, hidden, awaiting his prey.”

What a beautiful paragraph!

You read that early in the story, you’re going to finish through to end, confident that your in the hands of a great writer. And as noted, it’s realism. You take the story as something close to what you can picture in your own life. So, sure, it might get a little difficult to believe the way the plot stretches, but you’ve already met and accepted the story as being realistic. The specificity of his setting has already done that work.

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

The selection:

“Send at once for the priest.”

And she had since remained lying on her back, convulsed with agony, her lips moving as if unable to utter the dreadful words that rose in her heart, her face expressive of a terror distressing to witness.

Suzanne, distracted with grief, her brow pressed against the bed, wept bitterly, repeating over and over again the words:

“Margot, my poor Margot, my little one!”

She had always called her “my little one,” while Marguerite’s name for the elder was invariably “sister.”


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