Humor is an integral part of Guy de Maupassant ’s short story "The Uncomfortable Bed." The narrator arrives at a hunting lodge and immediately begins to suspect that his friends are planning a practical joke at his expense, noting that “my friends were fond of practical joking.” He is absolutely...
Humor is an integral part of Guy de Maupassant’s short story "The Uncomfortable Bed." The narrator arrives at a hunting lodge and immediately begins to suspect that his friends are planning a practical joke at his expense, noting that “my friends were fond of practical joking.” He is absolutely convinced that he will be the target of a prank, declaring that he can smell “a practical joke in the air, as a dog smells game.” While he remains convinced that his friends have something humiliating in mind for him, he cannot figure out what it is. He cautiously searches his darkened room for anything astray or suspicious, dependent upon candles for illumination. He continues to search for any sign of the practical joke he firmly believes awaits him, finally settling on the bed as the probable source of "danger." Confident that the bed has been sabotaged in some way, and assuming that his actions are being monitored by his friends, he drags the mattress and bedding onto the floor, and lies down to sleep with the suspicious bed frame left unused. Much to his chagrin, he discovers that no such prank is in store. Instead the valet, not knowing the room has been rearranged and the narrator is sleeping on the floor, trips over him, landing on the narrator and spilling the morning cup of tea all over the narrator. In closing, he notes: “The precautions I had taken in closing the shutters and going to sleep in the middle of the room had only brought about the interlude I had been striving to avoid.”
De Maupassant’s story – which could have been autobiographical – is inherently comical in that the narrator’s suspicions resulted in the very outcome he so dreaded. His paranoia turned him into the instrument of his own destruction. The anecdote is humorous. That the humor is a double-edged sword rests on the notion that the wary narrator, convinced that he is the target of a practical joke, injects fear into the proceedings that needn’t have existed, and, as noted, brings about his own humiliation. The fear-factor is dramatically increased by virtue of the absence of electric lighting and consequent reliance on candles for illumination. Searching in the dark for the source of "danger" is as inherently humorous as the ironic chain of events would prove to be humorous.
Three main points that can provide the basis for a paper include the irony of de Maupassant’s story – in effect, the narrator’s paranoia leads to the very outcome he feared. The terror inherent in being rudely awakened by the full weight of another human being suddenly collapsing onto oneself is genuine terror, no matter how harmless or benign the circumstances; and the narrator’s distrust of his friends has compelled a sequence of events that invalidates that distrust while subjecting himself to the full measure of humiliation. When the narrator arrives at the hunting lodge (or hotel), he is entering an environment later readers and audiences would identify with an Agatha Christie motif, wherein the narrator arrives at a destination only to find him- or herself immersed in a terrifying mystery involving murder. That the psychological terror he experiences is entirely a product of his own imagination provides the story's main humor. In that, humor has served as a double-edged sword.