What are the themes in A Woman's Life by Guy de Maupassant?

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Guy de Maupassant’s novel A Woman’s Life tells of a woman in a disappointing marriage and life, as everyone around her is revealed to be living a more scandalous and disappointing life than she could have imagined. After beginning a marriage full of infatuation and passion, she soon learns...

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Guy de Maupassant’s novel A Woman’s Life tells of a woman in a disappointing marriage and life, as everyone around her is revealed to be living a more scandalous and disappointing life than she could have imagined. After beginning a marriage full of infatuation and passion, she soon learns her husband doesn’t truly care for her and is engaged in an affair. He also becomes oppressive and restricting to her. The revelations continue from there, tearing apart her conceptions of life until she becomes distraught and disillusioned. Here are some themes from the work.

Broken Expectations and the Cruelty of Reality

Early in the story, Jeanne’s expectations are shattered when she learns of her husband’s infidelity and his uncaring nature. Jeanne, who was deeply infatuated with her betrothed prior to the wedding, is soon crushed when her husband is very rude and unkind, preventing her from accessing her own money. Later, this is compounded by the revelation that her husband is engaged in an affair. Jeanne then learns that her mother had also been in an adulterous relationship. Examples of disappointed and crushed expectations run throughout the work.

Infidelity and the Superficiality of Marriage

Adultery happens quite a bit in this book. Reflecting on the title, it is all too real for women of the time of the work to experience infidelity, and, as revealed later in the novel, for them to eventually engage in it as well. The numerous affairs reveal the reality of a woman’s life in those days, that infidelity was common, and marriages were more societal than relational.

The Power of Parental Love

The one type of love that is more powerful than the affairs and the distrust throughout the book is parental love. In spite of the disappointment in her life, Jeanne deeply loves her children and repeatedly shows that she will do anything for them. Additionally, Jeanne’s mother, in spite of her own affair and distaste for Jeanne’s father, shows a deep and caring love for Jeanne.

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