Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
A coach is making its way along the icy road to Havre. Its passengers are silently eyeing one another, trying to reach the port in spite of the war-torn countryside and the advancing Prussian troops. Self-conscious of respectability, they are uncomfortable sharing a coach with “a member of the courtesan class,” who is nicknamed “Boule de Suif” (ball of fat) because she is so round. The journey is long and tedious, so that when Boule de Suif takes some food from her traveling basket and good-heartedly offers to share it among the others, the passengers—begrudgingly at first and then avidly—eat and drink their fill; even the two nuns indulge with comic delicacy. Before long, they are all talking amiably about patriotism and the evil Prussians.
That night, the coach stops at an inn behind the Prussian lines and the passengers are given separate rooms. During the night, officious Monsieur Loiseau keeps his eyes to the keyhole of his door, trying to observe “the mysteries of the corridor.” He sees the rogue Cornudet make advances to Boule de Suif, but she rebuffs him, insisting on maintaining her dignity in the midst of the enemy. A Prussian officer, the presiding “law” in that part of the country, has set up his headquarters in the inn and is staying in a room just down the hall. Under such circumstances, she tells Cornudet, one must keep one’s self-respect.
The next morning, the passengers find the coach unharnessed and...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Boule de Suif Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
‘‘Boule de Suif’’ opens with a description of French soldiers retreating from the advancing Prussian army. They are fleeing through Rouen as the Prussians begin to take hold of the city. Many Prussians are boarding up with townspeople and, in general, acting quite respectable in the townspeople’s homes. Outside in the streets, they are gruffer and carry themselves with a stronger, more ostentatious air. Many who attempt to flee the city are held captive or turned back. However, some individuals are given permits to leave Rouen. Ten such individuals have gathered together in the courtyard of a hotel to ready themselves for their trip out of Rouen to Le Havre. From Le Havre the travelers will cross to England if the Prussian army continues to advance. Gathered together at the coach are the driver and ten passengers: Comte and Comtesse Hubert de Bréville, Monsieur and Madame Loiseau, Monsieur and Madame Carré-Lamadon, Cornudet, Boule de Suif, and two nuns. The first six are of a higher social class, either extremely wealthy or members of the government or both. The man traveling alone, Cornudet, is a democrat and a political leftist opposed to the aristocratic government. The woman traveling alone, Boule de Suif, is a fat, appealing prostitute. The two nuns are simple and spend most of the time praying.
The passengers board a chilly train, the floor of which is covered with straw, and begin their long journey through the night and cold to Tôtes....
(The entire section is 759 words.)