illustrated portrait of French author Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant

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Comedy is often used to make light of man’s follies. ​How does Guy de Maupassant use comedy to reveal his theme about the weakness in human nature in "An Uncomfortable Bed"?

Guy de Maupassant uses comedy—through the irony of the results of the narrator's own fear and paranoia—to reveal the idea that our fears can prevent us from enjoying our lives and lead us to unwittingly manifest the very situations that we hope to avoid.

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The narrator is so suspicious of his friends' motives, as they "were fond of practical joking," that he is on edge during his entire holiday with them! When they give him a "princely reception" upon his arrival, he begins to become distrustful. He says that "They embraced [him], they cajoled [him]," as though they were expecting, eventually, to enjoy some great joke at his expense. He describes the dinner as having "excessive" mirth, "far too great," and this strengthens his conviction that they are going to play some joke on him. He cannot relax and simply enjoy himself as he begins even to suspect the servants of being in on it.

Ultimately, the narrator becomes so paranoid that he pulls his mattress and bedclothes off the bed. Nothing has happened to him so far, and so he believes that whatever the joke is, it will be played on him while in the bed. He also pulls the curtains so securely that no light is admitted to his room. He is awoken in the morning by a shower of scalding liquid, the clatter of falling dishes, and the feeling of a body falling right on top of him. The valet who was bringing the narrator breakfast tripped over his makeshift bed in the darkness, creating the comedy that the narrator had hoped to avoid! The narrator says, "the dismayed valet, who, while bringing me my morning cup of tea, had tripped over this obstacle in the middle of the floor, and fallen on his stomach, spilling, in spite of himself, my breakfast over my face." Thus, ironically, it is actually the narrator's own paranoia and refusal to become the butt of a joke—his pride, perhaps—that conveys the idea that when we allow our fears or suspicions to rule us, we can actually fail to enjoy life or even manifest the very scenario we fear.

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