illustrated portrait of French author Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant

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What is the summary of "Moonlight" by Guy de Maupassant?

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Guy de Maupassant was a French writer who lived from 1850 to 1893 and is famous for his short stories which depict life in the nineteenth century. 

His short story entitled "Moonlight" is about two sisters who are reunited after one of the sisters has been out of the country for five weeks. 

Madame Julie Roubere is hosting her older sister Madame Henriette Letore. Madame Roubere is the younger sister. Madame Latore has been on a trip to Switzerland for the past five weeks. At first, the sisters are very excited to see each other. They hug, chatter excitedly, and generally enjoy each other's company. The story's tone changes when Madame Roubere notices that her twenty-four-year-old sister has two white streaks in her jet-black hair at each temple. Madame Roubere is horrified because her sister is so young and because there was no white in her hair before she left for Switzerland. She demands to know what is wrong with her sister. 

Madame Letore admits to having a lover. She admonishes her sister to be very careful because women are weak and it takes very little for them to stray into immorality. She describes her husband as steady, calm, and boring. She describes a time when they were traveling together and entered into a valley. Madame Latore was overcome with the beauty of the natural scene and asked her husband to kiss her. He quashed her request. 

"I clasped my hands with delight, and said to him: 'How beautiful it is, dear! Give me a kiss! Kiss me now!' He only answered, with a smile of chilling kindliness: 'There is no reason why we should kiss each other because you like the landscape.'
And his words froze me to the heart. It seems to me that when people love each other, they ought to feel more moved by love than ever, in the presence of beautiful scenes."
A few days later, Madame Latore went out in the evening for a walk. Her husband was in bed with a headache. The moon was full and the scene was idyllic. Madame Latore was once again overcome with the beauty of it and says she was "seized with an insatiable need of love." She begins sobbing, and a young man appears, comforting her and saying all the words she longs to hear. She implies that they were overcome and gave in to their physical desires. Madame Latore is racked with guilt about this indiscretion. In the last line of the story, Madame Roubere tells her sister that she is in love with love itself, and that moonlight was her real lover that night. 
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Madame Letore had gone to visit her sister Madame Roubere after vacationing with her husband. Roubere noticed that in her sister's jet-black hair, she had two white streaks at each temple and asked why she had them all of a sudden. Letore told Roubere about her vacation with her husband. Letore's husband had returned home early to attend to some business that was calling him. On the vacation though, They were walking and looking at a beautiful nature scene when Letore asked her husband to kiss her because she was overcome with the beauty of the landscape. Her husband merely said that he didn't understand why he should kiss her just because she though the scene was pretty. After her husband departed, she was left crying when a young man who was traveling with his mother happened upon her and began to console her. One thing led to another, passion flew, and she ended up cheating on her husband (she did get his card though!). Letore is adamant on telling her sister that she loves her husband and never thought she would cheat on him. He is a good man, treats her well, provides for her and is nice, but at the same time he is very stifling and not very emotionally connected to her. Roubere replies that it is all too often that women don't necessarily fall in love with the man they "love" but more-so with the idea of love and love itself. She says "And your real lover that night was the moonlight." meaning that she didn't cheat with a man, but with an idea.

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