What imagery and symbols are in "The Piece of String"? "The Piece of String"
Having an abhorrence for the peasants of Nomandy, whom he felt were petty, Guy de Maupassant's "The Piece of String" portrays a hypocritical and stingy Maitre Hauchecorne, of Breute, Normandy, as he reaches the village of Goderville. "Thrifty like the true Norman he was," Hauchecorne stoops to pick up a think piece of year and begins to wind it carefully when he espies Maitre Malandain, the harness makeser, for whom he holds a grudge. Because Maitre Malandain watches him, Maitre Hauchecorne, embarrassed that he has stooped for only such a thing as the piece of string, quickly thrusts it into his pocket.
Later, when a wallet has been stolen, Hauchecorne denies anything. But, when the mayor tells him that Monsieur Malandain, the harness maker saw him bend down and put something up, Hauchecorne laughs in a deprecatory manner,
"Hah! He saw me, that old good-for-nothing! He saw me pick up this bit of yarn. Look Mr. Mayor."
Because Hauchecorne, an outsider, has shown his petty dislike for Malandain, and because the mayor cannot believe that Hauchecorne picked up a mere piece of string, or that M. Malandain, "a trustworthy man" mistook the yarn for a wallet, he continues his accusation. And, Hauchecorne becomes indignant.
Finally, Hauchecorne is vindicated when an illiterate peasant returns the wallet he found on the highway. Hearing the news, Hauchecorne immediately castigates his enemy, M. Malandain.
"Nothing burns you up as much as being hauled into court on the word of a liar."
He continues to talk of the incident all day, retelling it to people everywhere. But, he senses that people are making comments behind his back. One man punches him in the stomach. Another shouts, "Oh come off it! I'm wise to that old trick. We know all about your yarn!"
Interestingly, the word yarn here is a pun. For it means both the string and a tall tale. Moreover, this piece of yarn is symbolic of the multitudinous petty protestations that Hauchecorne has made. This trivial piece of yarn represents the pettiness and trivial rivalriy that exists between the two Normans from different villages.
With respect to the imagery of this story, much like his action of winding the string upon his hand, the yarn that Hauchecorne tells repeatedly, albeit true, has the image of being spun, wound over and over just as Maitre Hauchecorne wound the piece of yarn over and over upon his hand.
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