Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like many French citizens of his generation, Guy de Maupassant was traumatized by the Prussian occupation of France after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). As with most of his stories dealing with the horrors of this military occupation, “Mademoiselle Fifi” takes place in his native province of Normandy. The story examines the complete lack of understanding between the Prussian occupation forces and the French. The Franco-Prussian War was begun by the thoroughly discredited French emperor Napoleon III in a vain effort to reestablish his political power in France. After the defeat of his French soldiers in this totally avoidable war, he fled to England with his family, and average French citizens had to pay for his extraordinarily bad political and military decisions.

For the residents of the fictional town of Urville, the boorish behavior of these five Prussian officers illustrates all the suffering that inevitably occurs during a military occupation. It should have been clear to all involved that the military occupation of regions of northern France was designed to force the new French democratic government, which replaced the dictatorship of Napoleon III, to accept Prussian terms for ending this war. Once the French government in Paris agreed to give up the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Prussia, the occupation would end, and this is, in fact, what happened. The Prussian officers should have realized that it was not in their self-interest to...

(The entire section is 493 words.)