Madame Baptiste (Maupassant)

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Madame Baptiste
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A young woman, stigmatized by a childhood assault, married a man who restored her honor, but after a public humiliation, she committed suicide and was denied a religious funeral.

A young girl named Madame Paul Hamot, who was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, had a terrible experience when she was just eleven years old. She was violated by a footman, which led to a criminal case and the footman being sentenced to penal servitude for life. As a result, the girl grew up stigmatized and isolated, with people in her town treating her as if she were a monster. Even her own parents seemed to hold a grudge against her for the incident.

Madame Paul Hamot — young woman stigmatized by childhood assault; married to a supportive husband; committed suicide.

When a new subprefect was appointed in the town, his private secretary fell in love with the girl and decided to marry her despite her past. The couple was accepted into society, and the girl's reputation seemed to be improving.

Paul Hamot — Madame Hamot's husband; private secretary to the subprefect; loving and supportive.

She adored her husband as if he had been a god, for you must remember that he had restored her to honour and to social life.

However, during a public event, a man insulted the girl by calling her "Madame Baptiste," a reference to the footman who had violated her. The incident caused a great uproar, and the girl, unable to bear the humiliation, committed suicide by jumping into a river.

An hour later, as the Hamots were returning home, the young woman, who had not uttered a word since the insult, but who was trembling as if all her nerves had been set in motion by springs, suddenly sprang on the parapet of the bridge, and threw herself into the river.

Her body was recovered two hours later, and a civil funeral was held for her. The clergy refused to allow her to be buried with religious rites due to her suicide. The husband was left devastated, and the townspeople were divided over whether or not to attend the funeral. In the end, the girl's tragic story served as a reminder of the lasting impact of trauma and the cruelty of society.

The Narrator — narrator; a traveler who attends the funeral of a woman he does not know.