The Putter-to-Sleep (Maupassant)

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The Putter-to-Sleep
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man dreamt of a society that provided a painless and peaceful death for those who wished to end their lives, offering a humane alternative to the gruesome suicides occurring in the world.

One morning, a man was reading his newspaper by the river Seine when he came across an article about suicide statistics. He was shocked to learn that more than 8,500 people had killed themselves that year. As he read, he began to imagine the various ways people had taken their own lives, from gunshot wounds to drowning in the river.

Grant us at least a quiet death! Help us to die, you who will not help us to live!

The man then began to dream of a city where there was an "Institute of Voluntary Death." This institute was a place where people who wanted to die could do so in a calm and painless manner. The institute was founded by a group of disabused, skeptical men who wanted to build a temple to the scorn of death in the heart of Paris.

The institute was initially met with suspicion, but eventually gained popularity as it hosted concerts, plays, and other events. People from all walks of life became members of the club, and the institute even began to receive donations from wealthy individuals. The institute offered assistance and protection to those who sought it, and if they still wished to die, they were provided with a painless method of asphyxiation using a special gas.

The man visited the institute in his dream and was shown around by the secretary. He was surprised to find that the institute was a lively and cheerful place, with people laughing and enjoying themselves.

The Secretary — employee at the Institute of Voluntary Death; potbellied, young, and satisfied with his job.

The secretary explained that people came to the institute to mock death and to show that they were not afraid of it.

We have lightened death, we have made it blossom, we have perfumed it, we have made it easy.

The institute had different rooms for different classes of people, but all were designed to be comfortable and inviting. The man was shown a room specifically for members, which was filled with flowers, books, and other comforts. The secretary explained that the gas used for asphyxiation could be scented with the person's favorite flower, making the experience even more pleasant.

As the man lay down on a chaise-longue to experience the gas for himself, he was suddenly awakened by a real-life voice. It was a local policeman, who informed him that another person had drowned in the Seine.

Marinel — local policeman; friendly and dutiful.

The man realized that his dream of the Institute of Voluntary Death was just that - a dream.