illustrated portrait of French author Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant

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Why is it hard for Monsieur Oreille to get pocket money in "The Umbrella"?

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In "The Umbrella" by Guy de Maupassant, Monsieur Oreille finds it difficult to get pocket money because his wife is in charge of the family finances, and she is a miser. Madame Oreille hates spending any money.

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In Guy de Maupassant's short story “The Umbrella,” Monsieur Oreille has a rather frustrating problem. He has no money for himself, not even pocket money, not even enough cash to buy a new umbrella for himself. This is on account of his wife. Madame Oreille, the narrator tells us, is “a very economical woman,” and this is quite an understatement.

Indeed, Madame Oreille is a miser. She keeps a tight hold on every penny that passes through her household, and she begrudges every one that is spent. She likes to look at her money, but it is “like tearing at her heartstrings” to let go of any of those nice, shiny coins. Having to spend money even makes Madam Oreille sleep badly even when the expenditure is necessary.

Monsieur Oreille often tells his wife that she really should be more liberal. He has a good income, and they have no children. In fact, they have far more money than they ever spend or ever would need to spend. Yet Madame Oreille responds that one never knows what might happen in the future, and “It is better to have too much than too little.” Monsieur Oreille complains about having to endure many “privations” because of his wife's stinginess, but he doesn't seem to be able to do much about it. He has to work very hard even to get a new umbrella out of her!

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