A Divorce Case (Maupassant)

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A Divorce Case
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A woman sought divorce from her husband, who was obsessed with flowers and neglected her due to his strange mental derangement, which led him to prefer the company of plants over humans.

A young man of considerable wealth and high-minded nature fell in love with a beautiful young girl who was as charming and good as she was pretty. They got married, and for some time, the young man was a loving and attentive husband. However, he soon began to neglect and mistreat his wife, even striking her without any reason.

Mme. Chassel — neglected wife; beautiful, charming, and good-hearted.

It was later discovered that the young man was suffering from a mental illness, similar to the mania of a recently deceased prince who had built fantastical castles and created artificial landscapes in his kingdom. The young man's diary revealed his obsession with beauty and his disdain for the ordinary world. He believed that his wife was the embodiment of his idealized dream, but once they were married, he became disillusioned and disgusted with her.

Mme. Chassel's husband — narrator; obsessed with flowers; mentally deranged, romantic, and idealistic.

I love flowers, not as flowers but as delicate and material beings; I pass my days and my nights in the greenhouses where I hide them like women in harems.

The young man's obsession with beauty led him to spend his days and nights in greenhouses filled with flowers, which he treated as if they were women in a harem. He would admire and adore the flowers, even becoming infatuated with one for a short period of time before it died. His diary entries revealed his belief that flowers were the only beings capable of reproducing without defilement and that their beauty was unmatched by anything else in the world.

The young man's mental illness and strange behavior caused his wife great suffering, and she eventually sought a divorce. The evidence of his mental illness, as revealed in his diary, was presented in court to support her claim.

Decency, gentlemen of the jury, restrains me from continuing to lay before you the curious confessions of this shamefully idealistic madman.

The jury was asked to consider the exceptional circumstances of the case and grant the woman her divorce due to her husband's mental derangement.