An Analysis on the Short story by Guy De Maupassant

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Paul’s Mistress is one of the short stories created by the French writer Guy de Maupassant. It is a short story with a quite strong theme surrounding both sexual and romantic relationships; such as the obvious relationship between Paul and Madeleine, the romance between the lesbians, and then Madeleine’s connection to both. The primary relationship of the story is between Paul and his lover, his mistress Madeleine. The story takes place along a river, the Seine, and Paul and Madeline together wait at the dock for the next ferry boat to take. (Arbour, D.)

Maupassant’s “Paul’s Mistress,” generally is a flowery look at the leisurely life that Paul led and his charm and zest for life and mostly to his beloved mistress. For some that would find some time to read the story might find it very interesting especially the part Paul got overly disgusted with his wife’s experimentation with other women. Paul’s sense of betrayal is somewhat dramatic and his choice to take his own life over something so trivial takes the story for quite an intense turn. (Grunes, D.)

The story has a tragic ending because of Paul’s uncertainties toward his intense emotional involvement with Madeleine – that slowly goes astray due to Madeleine’s involvement with Pauline. Paul’s heart seems to be very devastated making him feel he was betrayed and the thought that Madeleine likes the lesbian more is slowly killing him inside. In the latter part, clouded with emotional distress and the infidel scene discovered, he abruptly ended his life. Regarding this part of the story, Paul still has the option of seeking what really happened between his mistress and Pauline instead of jumping into some terrible conclusion. Jealousy and the thought regarding the affair between Madeleine and Pauline hurt poor Paul so much. It was him who hurt himself because of the thoughts that continuously running over and over inside his troubled and mind and disturbed emotion. Had he confronted Madeleine about the issue with Pauline, he could have known the truth and did something better about it rather that taking away his own life.

Paul is a son of a senator and he is one of the most liked and most respected persons according to the narration. On the short story “Paul’s Mistress”, he plays a role of a man who is deeply in love with a woman named Madeleine. Although he might be rich and popular to the town, some people still does not appreciate him and would consider him as one of those political dummies. Between him and Madeleine, his passionate love eventually turns into obsession that he oftentimes becomes paranoid about their relationship. (Godard, J.)

He also despises the lesbians and hates them so much that he would even call them names. While boarding the boat bound to La Grenouillere, he encounters the presence of some lesbians and he gets very discriminating on them. On that part of the story, Paul seems to have some distressing feelings about their presence and it was Madeleine who subtly defends the women that dress like men. Finally, they arrive at the place and from there on, Madeleine and Pauline meet and something special seems to be going on between the two of them. Upon this encounter, Paul suddenly feels uncertain about Madeleine and their relationship. He starts to become suspicious and begins to experience mixed emotions that make him so uncomfortable and anxious. Deep inside, he believes something is going on between Madeleine and the lesbian woman Pauline.

He feels like his heart is being crushed bit by bit when he realized that his better half is persistent on the rendezvous with Pauline. Paul suddenly becomes scared about what could happen. But still, he has no choice but to accompany Madeleine to the ball. Paul’s point of view with this acquaintance between Madeleine and Pauline triggers the insecurity inside him. He loves Madeleine so much that he does not want to lose her, more importantly, not to a lesbian. Paul might not be that kind of person who is open-minded especially when it deals with the sexes. Because of his social status, and during that time church is very influential, he thinks that being a lesbian is against morality. His point of view toward sexes is quite discriminating. Somehow, he should show some respect to everyone regardless of their sexes or class – because they are people and everyone has the right to express who they really are inside and out.  But on the other hand, no one can blame Paul if he thinks that way about the issue of women to women relationship.

Paul’s life ends tragically. Because of the jealousy killing him inside, he got exasperated about his relationship with Madeleine – due to her secret relationship with the lesbian Pauline. Pauline and Madeleine seem to know each other even before Paul and Madeleine met. After witnessing the scene that he does not want to see, he eventually end his life by jumping into the river and it drowns him. Because of what he thinks over the lesbians, he is afraid that a lesbian can take the love of his life away from him. Paul represents the type of people who do not accept lesbians or the members of the third sex. For them, it is against morality and that they should not be treated equally. He thinks that Madeleine will leave him and will choose Pauline. This thought cuts deep to his heart and he can not take it.

One conflict is that Paul does not have the courage to accept the fact that those lesbians do really exist and because of their existence, it may seem to him that he has a great competitor over the heart of his beloved mistress Madeleine. The reason why he took his life is the scenario when he caught Madeleine and Pauline talking to each other in a romantic manner and with that, he felt betrayed by his love. Love hurts, and love can kill, and that is what happened to poor Paul. But if we try to look at the incident, there was no concrete proof that there was something going on between Madeleine and Pauline. We can say that the two women were just discussing some problems. But it is Paul’s shallow conclusions about the matter that causes his own death thus losing entirely everything- his love and his life.


Arbour,D. Intro to Lit 115. 2004. “Paul’s Mistress” 21 October 2007.  <>

Godard, Jean-Luc. Masculin Feminin. 1991. 22 October 2007.  <>

Grunes, Dennis. More About the French New Wave. 2003. 22 October 2007  <>

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