The Piece of String Summary
"The Piece of String" is a short story by Guy de Maupassant, in which Maitre Hauchecorne is falsely accused of theft. He explains that he merely bent down to pick up a piece of string, but no one believes him.
Hauchecorne picks up a piece of string. When a peasant claims to have been robbed, Hauchecorne is accused.
In the morning, the pocketbook is found on the side of the road, but the villagers still don't trust Hauchecorne.
Hauchecorne realizes that his reputation as a crafty old man has turned the villagers against him. He dies repeating, "A little bit of string."
Last Updated on March 2, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 543
"The Piece of String" by Guy de Maupassant is a short story set in a small Norman village in France. The story focuses on the character of Maitre Hauchecorne, an old peasant who becomes embroiled in a scandal when he is falsely accused of stealing a pocketbook.
The story begins on an autumn market-day in Goderville, where Hauchecorne is about to enter the square when he sees a piece of string on the ground. He picks it up, but is embarrassed when he realizes that his enemy, M. Malandain, the local harness maker, has seen him do it. Hauchecorne hides the string in his pocket and continues on to the market.
Later that day, Hauchecorne is having lunch at a local tavern when the town crier announces that a pocketbook containing five hundred francs has been lost by M. Houlbreque. Hauchecorne is later summoned to see the mayor, who accuses him of stealing the pocketbook. The only witness to the alleged theft is Malandain.
Hauchecorne vehemently denies the accusation, insisting that he found only a piece of string and not a pocketbook. However, no one believes him, and he is searched but no pocketbook or large sum of money is found on him. The mayor dismisses him, but warns that he will consult a higher authority on the matter.
Hauchecorne returns to the village and tries to clear his name by telling anyone who will listen that he only found a piece of string. However, no one believes him, and he is shunned and mocked by his peers.
A week later, the pocketbook is found and returned to its rightful owner. Hauchecorne is overjoyed and returns to the market to tell everyone the good news. However, he is met with disbelief and mockery once again. He becomes angry, dejected, and confused, unable to understand why no one believes him.
Hauchecorne becomes increasingly fixated on clearing his name and proving his innocence. He becomes ill and bedridden, and in his delirium, he repeatedly utters the phrase "a little bit of string."
The story ends with Hauchecorne dying alone and misunderstood by his community. The theme of the story is the injustice of reputation and prejudice, and how one's past actions and reputation can shape how others perceive them.
Throughout the story, Hauchecorne is a sympathetic character who is victimized by the small-mindedness of his community. He is an old man who has lived a hard life, and his only crime is picking up a piece of string. However, his past reputation as a crafty and cunning peasant has created a prejudice against him, and he is unable to clear his name despite his best efforts.
The other characters in the story are unsympathetic and quick to judge Hauchecorne. They are suspicious by nature and ready to think the worst of him, and they relish in mocking and ridiculing him. Even when he is proven innocent, they continue to doubt him and refuse to believe his version of events.
The story is a commentary on the human tendency to judge others based on their past actions and reputations, and how difficult it can be to overcome these prejudices. It is a poignant and tragic tale that explores themes of injustice, prejudice, and the human condition.