In Maupassant's short story That Pig of a Morin / Ce cochon de Morin, the narrator, Labarbe, says to a woman he finds very attractive (emphasis mine),

Parce que vous êtes une des plus belles créatures qui soient ; parce que ce serait pour moi un brevet, un titre, une gloire, que d’avoir voulu vous violenter. Parce qu’on dirait après vous avoir vue : «Tiens, Labarbe n’a pas volé ce qui lui arrive, mais il a de la chance tout de même.»

The translation on Wikisource goes as follows (emphasis mine):

'Because you are one of the most beautiful creatures living; because it would be an honor and a glory for me to have offered you violence, and because people would have said, after seeing you: "Well, Labarbe has richly deserved what he has got, but he is a lucky fellow, all the same."'

Violenter has multiple meanings, including to force someone to do something and to use violence. However, it is clear from the context that the intended meaning is rape, and Labarbe later goes to the young woman's room to force himself onto her.

One of the other stories in Contes de la Bécasse is even more extreme. In The Son / Un fils, two old frieds, one a member of the French Academy, the other a senator, talk about extramarital children:

You see, my friend, that there is scarcely a man who has not some children that he does not know, children—'father unknown'—whom he has generated almost unconsciously, just as this tree reproduces.

The member of the French Academy also adds,

From eighteen to forty years, in fact, counting in every chance cursory acquaintanceship, we may well say that we have been intimate with two or three hundred women.

He then talks about a maid at an inn where he had stayed when he was twenty-five years old:

But one night, after I had stayed quite late with my friend and was going back to my room, I passed the girl, who was going to her room. It was just opposite my open door, and, without reflection, and more for fun than anything else, I abruptly seized her round the waist, and before she recovered from her astonishment I had thrown her down and locked her in my room. She looked at me, amazed, excited, terrified, not daring to cry out for fear of a scandal and of being probably driven out, first by her employers and then, perhaps, by her father.

He then describes that he raped her. A few paragraphs later, he adds,

A week later I had forgotten this adventure, so common and frequent when one is travelling, the inn servants being generally destined to amuse travellers in this way.

Many years later, when staying at the same inn, he asks the owner whether he remembers a maid who had worked there many years before and learns that she had died in childbirth almost nine months after his previous stay. As far as the innkeeper knows, the girl did not have any lovers at the time and she never wanted to say how she got pregnant. She bore a son, who now works as a stable boy at the inn because he does not have the intellectual abilities to do anything more demanding.

At the end of the story, the senator says,

It is good to be twenty-five and even to have children like that.

I don't know whether Maupassant shared the callousness towards women that these characters exhibit; one should not confuse narrator and author. For this question I am interested in finding how female readers at the end of the 19th century responded to this callousness.

The women in the Maupassant stories I have read so far (and the novel Bel-Ami) never speak out about it; violence against women usually remains a secret, apparently because the women seem to fear social rejection. But that does not mean that readers needed to remain silent about it. For this reason, I would like to know whether there are any comments by women on this type of violence in Maupassant stories. These comments need not have been published in the late 19th century; they may also be part of letters or diaries that were published later.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.