Maupassant, “Le Noyé” (1888)

maupassant le noye

(Charles Patrick Ewing)

Désirée is the pretty daughter of a tavern-keeper in a seaside town, her looks easing patrons’ drinking, including that of Patin, who becomes obsessed with her and marries her. She is poor. He is a brute, his brutality announcing itself days after the marriage is consumed. She is used to paternal violence. She submits to her husband’s, a degree of violence that takes on spectacular proportions to the point of becoming a spectacle in ton. It’s not clear why Désirée’s father never intervenes, unless his habits would have made Patin’s more of a kin than a foe. One night Patin’s boat wrecks in a storm. He disappears. She is soon convinced to buy a parrot. The next day she hears Patin’s familiar insults, taunts, denigrations. It takes her a while to figure out that he’s not returned from the dead, at least not as himself. She believes he’s reincarnated in the parrot. “”Elle sentit, elle comprit que c’était bien lui, le mort, qui revenait, qui s’était caché dans les plumes de cette bête pour recommencer à la tourmenter, qu’il allait jurer, comme autrefois, tout le jour, et la mordre, et crier des injures pour ameuter les voisins et les faire rire.” So she kills the parrot by crushing it of her own weight, then dumps it in the sea. She returns to the cage and prays to god, believing she’d just committed a murder, though one cheered by every reader.

Le Gaulois du 16 aout 1888

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