Feb 23, 2009

The Devil [by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)]


A young farmer’s mother is dying. The farmer- Honore is concerned about his mother but he is even more concerned about getting his wheat in before raining. He is prepared to leave her to die alone, but at the insistence of the doctor aggress to hire La Rapet to tend his mother. La Rapet is an old washerwoman who supplements her income by watching dying and preparing them for burial. La Rapet offers to work for Honore in a daily wage, but Honore refused, for he knows how obstinate his mother is and fears she will take long time to die making La Rapet’s services become expensive. He insists on a set rate and La Rapet eventually agrees. After 3 days the mother still had not died and La Rapet realizes that she is losing money. Taking matters into her own hands she tells the dying mother woman that at the moment before death, everyone sees the devil. She then wraps herself in a blanket, puts a pot on her head and throws a pail across the room making a huge noise. The dying woman thinks La Rapet is the devil and struggles to leap out of bed, instead she collapses on the floor dead.


The story opens an argument between Honore and a doctor concerning his dying mother, the subject of the story.
The doctor is concerned about the well being of Honore’s sick mother but Honore is more worried about his crops

Rising action
Feeling anxious and annoyed because of mother Bontemps’ slow death which affects her income, La Rapet starts thinking ways to end the woman life quicker. She finally decides to terrify the dying woman I takes of how a few minutes before one dies, the devil appears.

The turning point is when La Rapet disguises herself as the devil in her attempt to scare mother Bontemps to death

Falling action
La Repets actions do terrify the dying woman, causing the latter to fall from her bed and die. The nurse then tries to conceal her actions and puts all items of the disguise back into their original places in order to appear as though Bontemps died naturally

The author ends the story Honore returning home only to find his mother died. However instead of crying, his 1st reaction is to calculate his monetary loss in having to pay the nurse more than he owes her


Internal conflicts
He is more concerned about his crops rather than his mum
He is tom between putting his mum care in someone else’s hands and suffering financial losses

La Rapet:
She hopes that the dying woman will die faster so that she can earn more profit instead of losing some money.

External conflict:
He is concerned about saving money as much as he can and he is unwilling to pay more to La Rapet

La Rapet
She is concerned I maximising her profit from Honore’s mother’s death


Major characters
Honore Bontemps – antagonist, static character
Physically, he is described as a tall, thin fellow I slow movements .he is an unmarried farmer who lives with his mother. He is described as very calculative about money I his fierce love of saving. He is greedy and materialistic. It can be seen when he is more concerned about his   money rather than his mom. His greed may be the result of the hard life that he faced as a peasant as well as is being brought up by a mum who is also greedy. He is also insensitive man. He tails to show enough love and care towards his dying mother.

La Repet- antagonist, static character

Described as an old washerwoman watched the dead and dying in the neighbourhood, La Rapet earns her living by nursing dying people including Honore’s mother
Portrayed as a very dark character her physical appearance seems to signify her crookedness. Like Honore, she is also greedy and heartless in trying to make a bigger profit from the job given to her

Mother Bontemps

Described as one who is used to be physically tough and she is also a fighter despite life’s challenges that she faces
Static character

Minor characters

The doctor
He attends to Honore mum and shows genuine compassion for the dying mum

The priest
He takes the sacrament to mother Bontemps