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What is the conflict in Guy de Maupassant's "A Piece of String"?

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When old Maitre Hauchecorne retrieves a discarded piece of string from the street near the Goderville square, little did he know that it would lead to a personal humiliation that would follow him to his grave. The conflict of the story arises when Hauchecorne's adversary, Malandain, witnesses Hauchecorne pick up something from the street. Later, it is discovered that another man, Houlbreque, has lost his purse in the same vicinity. Malandain accuses Hauchecorne of the "crime" of finding the purse, which Hauchecorne vehemently denies. Although the purse is eventually found, Hauchecorne's continued pursuit of redemption from everyone he encounters works against him. People assume that Hauchecorne's neverending explanations are meant to cover up a second person's involvement. Hauchecorne is an innocent man, but his past reputation marks him as guilty to nearly everyone in town. He dies with this unfounded accusation haunting his final words.

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The first conflict is the lack of trust: namely between Hauchecorne and Malandain, then Hauchecorne and the mayor. But, eventually, the reader sees that it is a lack of trust amongst/between all the peasants themselves. Guy de Maupassant had a similar view about the peasantry: that they were untrustworthy. Being from a higher class, he may have prejudged these people, not thinking their craftiness and treachery is the result of a struggling economic class. As Hauchecorne makes his way through the marketplace, the narrator says:

The peasants milked, went and came, perplexed, always in fear of being cheated, not daring to decide, watching the vender's eye, every trying to find the trick in the man and the flaw in the beast.


The other conflict is Hauchecorne's own pride. It seems that Maupassant makes it a point to note that the Norman peasants were economical to the point of being stingy. So, for Hauchecorne to be so intent on proclaiming his innocence, he's playing a futile game. The other peasants view him as a thief, but the point Maupassant tries to make is that the peasants do so, knowing they'd probably have stolen the wallet if they had the chance. I guess the overall conflict is the corrupt socio-economic system that led to a culture of backstabbing peasants.

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What is the climax in the story "The Piece of String"?

It can be argued that there are two climaxes in the story. The first climax occurs when Maitre Hauchecorne is accused of stealing Maitre Houlbreque's pocketbook. Hauchecorne's accuser is Maitre Malandain, his arch enemy. The two once had a quarrel about a seemingly inconsequential matter and have hated each other since. One can conclude that Malandain's malice led him to accuse Hauchecorne with little proof. This minor climax, if you will, is an intense moment. We wonder whether Hauchecorne will be able to overcome the blight to his name.

Despite Hauchecorne's protestations, the mayor remains obdurate. He insists that Malandain's reputation precedes him and that the harness-maker's word can be trusted. Hauchecorne is searched, but the mayor does not find the pocketbook.

The second climax occurs toward the end of the story: the pocketbook is found by a farmhand and returned to Houlbreque. Yet no one believes that Hauchecorne was completely innocent in the matter of the lost pocketbook. The other peasants laugh at his ever more insistent protestations and his avowals of innocence. They refuse to believe him, and this leads Hauchecorne to expend the last of his life energy in trying to repair his shredded reputation.

This major climax steadily leads to the falling action, where an exhausted Hauchechorne takes to his bed. The story concludes with his eventual death.

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What is the climax in the story "The Piece of String"?

The story title is "The Piece of String,"  details the events concerning the main character, Maitre Hauchecorne, an old peasant, who picks up a piece of useless string on the road near the market and is accused of stealing a pocketbook containing 500 Francs.  No matter what he says, no one believes that he just picked up a piece of string. 

The climax of the story comes when the pocketbook and its contents are returned to its owner.  Still the people in the town don't believe that Hauchecorne just picked up a piece of string.  He spends hours and hours trying to convince the villagers of his innocence.  He becomes ill from his efforts and eventually dies at the end of the story, muttering it was only a piece of string.

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What is the climax of Guy de Maupassant's "A Piece of String"?

Defining climax as the moment of highest emotional intensity in a plot when the outcome of the conflct is finally made clear to the reader, one may consider the sixth paragraph from the last as the climax:

He set about tellling his experience all over again, each day embroidering his recital, with each retelling adding new reasons, more vigorous protestations, more solemn vows that he dreamed up and repeated during his house alone, his whole mind occupied with the yarn.  He was believed less and less as his defense become more and more inticate and his explanations more and more involved.

The conflict is, of course, the fact that the townspeople and the authorities do not believe Maitre Hauchecorne's protestations that he merely picked up the piece of string rather than the stolen pocketbook. Thus, the outcome of the "struggle" between these opposing forces is that Hauchecorne is given no credibility.  This lack of respect for a person who is in a higher position in the society is too much for Hauchecorne to bear, and in the resolution he becomes insane even to his death:  "He...in his dying delirium, kept protesting his innocence, repeating, 'Just a bit of yarn....'"

This conflict and resolution support a theme of Maupassant, who wrote

Life,...is composed of the most dissimiliar things, the most unforeseen, the most ...incongruous; it is merciless...full of inexplicable, illogical, and contradictory catastrophes...

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