Relics of the Past (Maupassant)

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Relics of the Past
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An elderly woman, living alone in her ancestral home, finds solace in reminiscing about her past and exploring the forgotten objects in her attic.

An elderly woman named Adélaide lived alone in the house where she was born, lived, and hoped to die. Her son Henri was a barrister who visited her twice a year, while her daughter Jeanne lived with her husband far away. Adélaide spent her days reminiscing about her past and dreaming of the future. She believed that happiness was not about achieving great bliss, but rather about the anticipation of a series of joys that never fully materialized.

Adélaide — narrator; elderly woman living alone; sentimental, nostalgic, and introspective.

Happiness, the real happiness that we dream of, I have come to know what that is. It does not consist in the arrival of great bliss, for any great bliss that falls to our share is to be found in the infinite expectation of a succession of joys to which we never attain.

Adélaide had two ways of reminiscing about her past. The first was to sit in her comfortable armchair by the fire and let her memories take her back to her youth. She would remember the walks she took as a young girl, the sunsets she witnessed, and the adventures she had. These memories were so vivid that she could almost believe she was young again.

The second way was to visit the lumber-room in her house, where all the unused and forgotten items were stored. Among these items were objects that had been passed down from her grandparents, whose stories were unknown to her. Adélaide would move from one object to another, feeling a little thrill in her heart as she remembered the events and people associated with each item.

In a letter to her old friend Colette, Adélaide shared her thoughts on happiness and her methods of reminiscing about the past. She acknowledged that Colette, a Parisian, might not fully understand her sentimental ways, as Parisians tended to live in the outer world rather than the inner world of their hearts.

Colette — Adélaide's old friend; Parisian, likely less sentimental and introspective.

Adélaide ended her letter by quoting a verse from M. Sainte-Beuve: "To be born, to live, and to die in one house."