What is the irony of "The Piece of String" by Guy de Maupassant?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The supreme irony of Guy de Maupassan'ts short story, "The Piece of String," is that the protagonist, Maitre Hauchecorne, though innocent of the crime of which he is accused, is believed by all to be guilty. Due to his "crafty" nature, he has always been regarded as suspicious to the townspeople--a man not to be wholly trusted. By persistently declaring his innocence, he merely fuels speculation of his guilt. It is also ironic that such a simple act--the retrieval of a discarded piece of string--could result in such tragic circumstances. In the end, Hauchecorne realizes another irony of his situation:

Ironically, when Hauchecorne goes home after being mocked out of town, he arrives at the same conclusion that Maupassant had held for years. That is, Hauchecorne's Norman simplicity readily understands that there is considerable justice in the peasants’ disbelief of his story. The peasants’ ingrained suspiciousness has singled out this old man as a thief, even disregarding the fact that the pocketbook had been recovered a day later; this, too, is how Maupassant treats his peasant: as a man not to be trusted.

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