The Piece of String

by Guy de Maupassant

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In "The Piece of String", does Malandain truly believe Hauchecorne found the wallet? If not, why does he lie?

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Maitre Malandain probably does not truly believe that Maitre Hauchcorne has stolen the wallet, but having "the tendency to hold grudges," he takes advantage of an opportunity to deal misery to his foe.

Just as Saki satirized those of the Edwardian Age in England, Guy de Maupassant mocked the pettiness of the peasantry of Normandy, a province in northwestern France. In the exposition of his story, Maupassant describes the Norman women in the market who stubbornly held to their prices in the market and would only relent when a customer began to walk away. Then, they would shout after him or her, "All right...It's yours."

It is this same obstinate and petty personality that Hauchcorne and Maladain exhibit. So, when Malandain is asked by the authorities if he has noticed any suspicious behavior, he readily mentions that he has seen Maitre Hauchcorne bend and pick up something, then stoop again sweeping the dirt with his hand as though searching for something else. 

When the authorities interrogate Maitre Hauchorne he explains that he merely bent to pick up a piece of string; however, he is too proud to admit that his brushing the ground with his hand afterwards has been done only to make Malandain believe that he was searching for something he lost. Instead, he protests that he has done nothing wrong, but Maitre Malandain confronts him and even repeats the statement he has given to authorities under oath.

They hurled insults at each other for a full hour. Maitre Hauchecorne was search at his own request. They found nothing on him.

When the villagers question Hauchecorne out of "good-humored curiosity," he retells his story, but then they begin to not believe him. The more he protests, the more they begin to doubt his honesty because of their ingrained suspiciousness. They now call him "a sly old rascal" because Maitre Malandain, has fed suspicions that grow each time his foe protests the accusations. He does this with what the peasants perceive as unintentional paralipsis.


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