It is the story of Jeanne, an exuberant and imaginative girl of noble birth ,who has all the dreams and aspiration of youth - finding love and living the dream life.
She is the only child of her parents and never seen any of her wishes thwarted, cosseted and protected that she is from all the harsh realities of life.
She falls in love quickly and gets married thereafter thinking all the joy will follow as is expected. Slowly the fog lifts, she becomes aware of the person her husband is
In her heart she felt resentful towards Julien for not understanding as much, for lacking this finer sense of modesty, this instinctive delicacy of feeling; and she felt as though there was a veil between them, a barrier, and realized for the first time that two people are never completely one in their heart of hearts, in their deepest thoughts, that they walk side by side, entwined sometimes but never completely united, and that in our moral being we each of us remain forever alone throughout our lives.
Her husband gradually takes over the estate and all its doings and her parents placid acceptance of his misdoings turn her into a passive and apathetic being. She stops caring about the open dalliances of her husband and turns to her child and religion for emotional support.The church, in its rigidity demands a too steep price from her and the child ,in his immature ways ultimately betrays her too.
She turns totally inward and looks upon life as something which has treated her un-fair..
The journey of her life from an optimistic wide-eyed girl to a fatalistic and wounded grandmother is so vivid that you have a feeling of having lived a lifetime in the span of the book...and a sad life that is..with no hope of redemption or any hint of happy ending..what is the point of that story it seems..
So, I thought I would try to find out something more about the writer and the writing style :
Guy De Maupassant seems to be the greatest French short story writer of 19th century, influenced by Gustav Flaubert .
This novel is written in the naturalist style i.e portraying things as they are which might be harsh and stark sometimes i.e poverty, indifference, sexuality, prostitution etc .
Naturalism goes beyond realism in the attribution of human behavior to their social environment and heredity .. something akin to the evolution theory that a human being's character is shaped by its surrounding and circumstances and determinism i.e. belief in a will, but not a free will, rather an enslaved will on account of various factors.
Coincidentally, I saw a marathi movie yesterday - 'Shevri' whose protagonist Vidya is a similar charater..being swayed by the wind of life..by what happens to her...and not something that she makes happen...It is a very sad but also a frustrating story because you expect the character to take charge of their life somehow, sometime..but they never do............
Note to self:
Check out the classic American Naturalist work - Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets , Stephen Crane