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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Anger against these men quietly sitting there rose up within him. If their pockets were rummaged, gold, silver, and coppers would be found in them. On an average each one must have at least forty francs. There were certainly a hundred to a cafe: a hundred times forty francs makes four thousand francs. He murmured: “Swine!” as he walked nonchalantly past them. If he could get hold of one of them at a nice dark corner he would twist his neck without scruple.

Georges Duroy is a scoundrel. As a minor French cavalry NCO in North Africa, he used to rob and murder local peasants, when the opportunity presented itself, and laugh about it later. Now he is in Paris on the make. He is envious, unscrupulous and low on money despite his job as a clerk. By chance, he runs into a man from his regiment who is now prospering as a journalist. He tags along with him to have a drink after the journalist visits his office, and is offered a job and some money to buy a proper suit.

He did not know how to make her understand that he would be happy, most happy, to become her husband in his turn. He certainly could not tell her that, now, at this moment, in this place, in the presence of this corpse; nevertheless he could, he believed, find one of those ambiguous, acceptable, complicated statements whose words have hidden significance, and which can, by their calculated reservations, express everything you intend.

Duroy is now a social climber and has made a habit of using women of higher social standing to boost his career. In this paragraph, we see that he has learned how to adapt to upper-middle-class society by following its social conventions in order to blend in and better himself. The target woman's husband has just died so he cannot be boorish and just blurt out what he is thinking. Duroy is shrewd enough to make the most of every opportunity, even when it means betraying those that helped him in the past. Lacking any sense of honor, gratitude or scruple, he is unsatisfied with his rise to middle-class status. After a successful marriage upward he begins to sign himself Du Roy as if he were an aristocrat. His co-workers in the newspaper office know better and call him Forestier after his wife's name.

In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

Duroy's mentor has a cynical view of the world and assumes most other men are idiots. That may be one reason why he accepts that Duroy can be a successful journalist even though he has never written before. His mentor tells him that it is not difficult to pass for being well informed in this new middle-class world. He does not mind that Duroy failed his examinations for a bachelor's degree twice. He considers those that actually know what they are talking about to count for very little in this world. Seeming is the thing, not being. As long as you can appear to be well informed, it does not matter if you are not as those that actually are well informed are too few in number to count. Strength in numbers. Anyone that resists this bourgeois democratic mediocrity of fakery and bluster is an idiot. Duroy learns that in a practical sense, he is right. Duroy is on his way to becoming a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

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