The Orient (Maupassant)

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The Orient
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man obsessed with the Orient and opium shared his dreams of an idyllic life in the East, eventually moving there and finding happiness away from the harsh realities of Western society.

A man visited his friend who lived on the Asiatic frontier during the end of September. He found his friend lying on a divan, under the influence of opium.

The Narrator — visitor of the opium-addicted friend; skeptical of the Orient's allure.
The Friend — narrator's friend; opium-addicted; obsessed with the Orient; disillusioned with Western society.

His friend explained that he took opium to escape the harsh realities of life and to dream of the Orient, a land that captivated him and filled him with a sense of peace.

You don’t know what that means, how that country takes hold of you, how it captivates you, penetrates you to your inmost being and will not let you go.

The man asked his friend about the physical joy of taking opium, to which his friend replied that it was not a physical joy, but rather a mental one. Opium allowed him to think clearly and deeply, and to experience the happiness of pure intelligence.

I reason, I deduce, I understand everything. I discover ideas that never before have come to me; I descend to new depths and mount to marvellous heights.

The man argued that his friend's longing for the Orient was due to his constant intoxication and that the Orient was a land of barbarians. His friend disagreed, stating that the Orient was a land of sages and that it was the Western world that was filled with barbarians.

The friend went on to describe the house he planned to buy in the Orient, with its square shape, flat roof, and wooden trimmings. He imagined a garden filled with palms and a marble basin for bathing. He would have beautiful black slaves instead of servants and would surround himself with soft, rounded walls and cushions. He would ride horses through the desert and enjoy the beauty of the landscape.

Two months after the man's visit, he received a letter from his friend with only three words: "I am happy." The letter smelled of incense and other sweet perfumes, indicating that his friend had found his peace in the Orient.