The Mad Woman (Maupassant)

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The Mad Woman
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A woman, driven mad by grief, remained bedridden for 15 years until Prussian soldiers forced her into a snowy forest during wartime, where she ultimately perished.

During the Franco-Prussian war, a man named Monsieur d'Endolin lived in a house in the faubourg de Cormeil. His neighbor was a woman who had gone mad after losing her father, husband, and newborn child all within a month.

Monsieur d'Endolin — narrator; gout sufferer; concerned neighbor.
The Mad Woman — grieving, bedridden, and silent; lost her family in a month.

She had been bedridden for fifteen years, never speaking and barely eating. An old servant took care of her, providing her with food and drink.

When the Germans arrived in Cormeil, they billeted their soldiers in the homes of the residents. Monsieur d'Endolin had seventeen soldiers in his house, while the mad woman had twelve, including a major who was a violent and surly man.

The Prussian Major — violent, surly, and unsympathetic; forced the mad woman out of her home.

At first, everything went smoothly, but soon the officer became irritated by the woman's mysterious illness and demanded to see her. When he found her unresponsive, he threatened to make her walk without assistance if she did not come downstairs the next day.

I must beg you to get up, Madame, and to come downstairs so that we may all see you.

The following day, the mad woman still refused to leave her bed, and the officer ordered his soldiers to carry her mattress out of the house. They took her into the forest of Imauville, and two hours later, the soldiers returned without her. No one knew what had happened to the woman, and her fate haunted Monsieur d'Endolin throughout the winter.

When spring arrived, the occupying army withdrew, and the mad woman's house remained closed. The old servant had died during the winter, and no one else seemed to care about the woman's fate. However, Monsieur d'Endolin could not forget her. One day, while hunting woodcock in the forest, he stumbled upon a human skull near a ditch. He immediately recognized it as the mad woman's and realized that she had been abandoned in the forest, left to die in the cold and be devoured by wolves. He took charge of her remains and prayed that future generations would never have to experience the horrors of war.