Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
As Jean Macquart finishes sowing each furrow with grain, he pauses and gazes over the wide, rich plain. As far as he can see, farmers are scattering their wheat, anxious to finish sowing before the frosts come. He meets and talks with Françoise about the coming division of old Fouan’s property among his sons and son-in-law. In the notary’s office, plans for the division are being discussed with anger. Fouan cannot bear to lose the land that took all of his strength to work and that he loved more passionately than his wife. The rent and food he asks in return for his property seem excessive to his children, who, now that the land is within their grasp, intend to keep as much of its yield as possible. Buteau declares that the old man has money saved in bonds. This claim so enrages Fouan that he exhibits some of his old ferocity and authority. Finally, the notary completes the transaction and arranges for the surveyor to divide the land.
Buteau draws the third lot of land. He declares that it is the worst and refuses to take that part of the property. His refusal distresses Lise, Françoise’s sister, for Buteau is her lover and she is pregnant. She hoped that when he obtained the land he would marry her.
Old Mouche, the father of Lise and Françoise, has a stroke and dies in his home. As the village women watch by his deathbed, a violent hailstorm lays waste the village crops. The peasants examine the damage by lamplight, their animosities...
(The entire section is 1277 words.)
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