In Maupassant's short story "Le Signe" / "The Signal", part of the collection Le Horla (1887), the baroness de Grangerie tells her friend the marchioness de Rennedon how a woman of ill repute had taken up residence in a house across the street and how she had started studying the subtle body language the woman uses to attract customers. The baroness then wanted to find out whether she would be able to imitate that body language. She explains (quoted from the text on Wikisource),

Je crois que nous avons des âmes de singes, nous autres femmes. On m’a affirmé du reste (c’est un médecin qui m’a dit ça) que le cerveau du singe ressemblait beaucoup au nôtre. Il faut toujours que nous imitions quelqu’un.

English translation (from The Complete Short Stories of Guide de Maupassant on Archive.org):

I believe that we women have the souls of monkeys. I have been told (and it was a physician who told me) that the brain of a monkey is very like ours. Of course we must imitate some one or other.

The idea that people imitate others is very old; for example, Aristotle had already observed that people learn through imitation. See for example Aristotle's Poetics (ranslated by S. H. Butcher):

First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated.

What I would like to know is whether Maupassant thought women more imitative than men and whether this conception was based on the even stranger conception that women would be more similar (than men) to monkeys. I am looking for evidence outside the story "Le Signe".


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