What are the three personality traits of Henriette in Maupassant's story "Moonlight"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henriette Letore is a very young married woman who is full of romantic notions and dreams, not unlike Madame Mathilde Loisel in Guy de Maupassant's famous story "The Necklace." Henriette is married to a man who does not appreciate her romantic notions. In other respects he is a good husband and she likes him, although she wishes he could be more emotionally responsive. She is like many of the heroines in Maupassant's stories in wishing for more love, passion, and excitement in her life. She expresses these feelings to her sister Madame Julie Roubere, to whom she is making a confidential confession.

"Was I never to feel on my lips those kisses so deep, delicious, and intoxicating which lovers exchange on nights that seem to have been made by God for tenderness?"

One night while she and her husband are traveling in Switzerland, she goes for a walk by herself and meets a young man whom she and her husband have met in the course of their travels. Henriette has never been unfaithful to her husband before, but because of the influence of the moonlight and the beautiful Swiss landscape, she confesses that she succumbed to her feelings and began a love affair with the man who seemed to be the lover of her dreams.

Now she feels guilty and frightened. It appears that she has continued the affair with this young man since her returned to Paris. She is tormented by her feelings of guilt and her strong desire to prolong her liaison with the man she considers her real soulmate. The emotions aroused by her recent experiences are so strong that they have actually turned locks of her hair white, even though she is only twenty-four years old.

Henriette Letore's three main personality traits are her strong desire for love, her vulnerability to the influences of nature, and her conflicting conservative moral principles. She will have to learn to be deceitful if she continues her illicit affair when her husband returns from their estate in Calvados. This may be the beginning of a series of affairs in which she will find herself involved over the coming years. Her sister tells her:

"You see, sister, very often it is not a man that we love, but love itself."

This sounds very much like the often-quoted lines by Lord Byron:

In her first passion woman loves her lover;
In all the others, all she loves is love.

Byron was paraphrasing an epigram by Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld.

In their first passion women love their lovers, in the others they love love.