It is not often that short stories are considered important parts of the horror genre. However, when impactful short stories that arouse horrific, terrifying feelings do come about, they leave a lasting impression. The same can be said about the short stories of Guy de Maupassant, a master of the craft who has left us several scary, foreboding tales.
It is stories like The Hand, Diary of a Madman, and others that cement the notion that Maupassant is truly a master of scary, demented tales that have inspired artists and horror fans for many decades to follow in those large footsteps.
Here is a look at Maupassant’s creepy tales and a deep dive into how he managed to scare his readers to the hilt.
The Hand: Summary and Analysis
Guy de Maupassant’s The Hand is one of his two tales about severed hands that can kill. While the other, The Flayed Hand, is a more detailed, mysterious look at the phenomenon, The Hand Is a simple, straightforward story about the danger a severed hand can present.
The story of Guy de Maupassant’s The Hand, as told by narrator Judge Bermutier, sets a mysterious and foreboding tone from the outset by referring a terrible, inexplicable crime that borders on the supernatural. The protagonist of the tale is Sir John Rowell, who lives lavishly in a coastal villa, proudly talks about his hunting expeditions, and boasts about hunting men – the worst of all animals according to him.
In his gun room, the judge notices a severed hand on the wall, secured with a chain. When asked, he tells the judge that it belongs to his most potent enemy and remains secured with a chain because it always desires to leave. Rowell also keeps loaded guns in every room. This flabbergasts the judge and wonders if Rowell is indeed in possession of his mental faculties.
Later, Rowell is found murdered in a gruesome manner. His face disfigured with fear, he was strangled and left with holes in his neck. In his mouth was one of the fingers of the severed hand, bitten off. The investigation hits a roadblock as there is nothing to point towards a solution.
The judge later finds the hand on Rowell’s grave, with a finger missing. This spine-chilling tale of Guy de Maupassant’s The Hand is enough to scare even the hardiest of readers.
Diary of a Madman: Summary and Analysis
Guy de Maupassant’s Diary of a Madman is scary and unsettling as it forces the readers to doubt if they can every truly know someone’s inner self. A study of one’s appearance, one’s actions, or even a lasting acquaintance might not be enough to know someone truly. The simplest or most honorable man might be a killer or a psychopath inside.
The story of Guy de Maupassant’s Diary of a Madman itself uses a very interesting narrative device – a diary written in the first person, the same format the author uses to chilling effect in The Horla. In the story, a universally respected and acclaimed magistrate has recently died and is being mourned by one and all. He is recognized as a man with high morals and beyond reproach almost universally. Yet, things start to unravel horribly when the narrator of the tale suddenly finds the magistrate’s diary and begins reading it, delving deep into his real self.
The diary reveals some very telling facts. From the very outset, the upright magistrate upholding the law and punishing criminals and killers seems to secretly also consider the taking of a life a pleasure. Over his initial diary entries, it is evident that the magistrate is in a dark mental place and quickly devolving as he cannot keep his desire to kill and his thrill with taking life at bay.
Then, he starts to kill. First, it is a bird belonging to his servant. Then, he progresses to a child in the part. Finally, he talks about killing a sleeping fisherman. Each time, the process is described in gory, excruciating detail and he recounts how the killing made him feel. He even enjoys further death by presiding over the trial of the suspect in the final killing and condemning him to death. The recounting is truly horrific and might be hard to stomach for many.
Guy de Maupassant’s Other Stories
Guy de Maupassant, especially in his later life, developed a passion for dark, twisted stories, a lot of which might have come from his own challenges and problems in life. During his later years, he penned a large number of stories that could horrify readers in more ways than one. A Mother of Monsters is a revolting tale of a woman who purposefully carries to term and births disfigured children so that she can make money selling them.
Epitaph, The Specter, and On The River are just some of the other horrific tales told by Guy de Maupassant. True fans of horror will definitely get more than their money’s worth if they decide to read these masterpieces.
Last Updated on December 9, 2021.