The Piece of String Questions and Answers
by Guy de Maupassant

Start Your Free Trial

What is the moral of the short story "The Piece of String"? What is the message it gives?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,494 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The moral or message of this story is that once ordinary, unthinking people—in this case, the French peasants that Maupassant despised—get an idea into their heads, nothing will shake it out again, certainly not facts.

In this particular tale, Hauchecorne, who the villagers have already labeled "crafty," is accused of stealing a wallet. It doesn't matter how much Hauchecorne protests he was simply picking up a piece of string, for the villagers have already made up their minds about Hauchecorne, and have already condemned him as guilty. Such realities as the fact of finding of the wallet—a piece of evidence that among a rational and thinking group of people might cause them to reconsider their rush to judgment—simply don't matter. Hauchecorne's repeated explanations of what he was doing only serve to "prove" his guilt, because the villagers have already made up their minds that he is guilty.

This kind of thinking, or non-thinking, is prevalent today as well, and is associated with confirmation bias: people believe what they want to believe and seek out the "evidence" that confirms their bias. Hauchecorne might as well not bother trying to prove his innocence, because whatever he says or does at this point is only going to confirm his guilt in the villagers' minds. Hauchecorne would have been better off to move somewhere else and start over or to have dropped his talk about picking up the piece of string, because, Maupassant says, narrow minds are never going to change.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write7,077 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Guy de Maupassant's short story, "The Piece of String," reminds me of a famous misquote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "Methinks thou doth protest too much." (Actually, the quotation is "The lady doth protest too much, methinks.") Either way, such is the case with Hauchecorne. Had Hauchecorne not continually tried to convince the people of his village of his innocence, the affair of the missing wallet and the piece of string would have eventually been forgotten. But because Hauchecorne persisted with his story, albeit true, people just assumed that he was guilty of recovering and returning the wallet. Like the premise of de Maupassant's famed short story, "The Necklace," "The Piece of String" has a similar message: how a seemingly small thing can create the ruin of a person.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial