On the River

Guy de Maupassant and Emile Zola are the most famous writers of the French naturalism. Zola even developed the theory of naturalism and he states that it should strive to show nature and human’s temper as they are.

Maupassant is said to have loved water since he was a little his and in this work he uses metaphors and personification to describe the river and the sea.

This short story is about a fisherman, which is the writer himself, who describes one of his adventures on the Seine. He decided to tell all about the night he was coming back from his friend Louis with who he dined every evening. He was very tired so he decided to throw the anchor into the depth and rest in his boat. All of the sudden he felt an invisible force moving the boat so he decided to go back home.

He couldn’t pull the anchor up. He thought that something got stuck to it and however he tried, he couldn’t move the boat. He even thought about swimming to the shore but he already knew he would get tangled up in the chervil. He tried to fight the fear by drinking his rum. When he drank everything he saw a shadow approaching him. It was another fisherman who tried to help him but it took an extra pair of hand at dawn to pull out the anchor. The anchor was held down by a female corps with a rock tied to its neck.

The writer shows us reality through the eyes of a common fisherman. He describes the nature he sees himself starting from the fog, moonlight etc. He also described the inner battles of the character and his fears. Maupassant strived for space descriptions in which the everyday, common things exist. He was a master in writing short stories because he would implement a dramatic element and a tragic ending in a short plot.

Book Summary

The story begins with the storyteller telling us how he spent some time on the Seine in a small house. He met his neighbor who somewhere in between 30 and 40 years. One day the storyteller asked his neighbor to tell him some story from his life that happened while he was on the river. The river woke up the passion in him. He told him that he has many memories but that he will tell him something about his experience from 10 years ago.

That night he had dinner with his friend Louis who lived in a village nearby the river. He was coming home when he decided to rest for a while in his boat. He decided to smoke his pipe so he threw the anchor into the river. The peacefulness of the river made him excited. All of the sudden he heard frogs and got scared. When they stopped he decided to keep on smoking to relax. All of the sudden he felt nauseated so he stopped smoking and he couldn’t even sing a bit because even the sound of his voice made him uncomfortable. He felt a strong force pulling the boat and that he was caught in a storm. He had to stand up just to make himself believe that everything was alright.

He thought that he wasn’t alright so he decided to go home. When he pulled the chain, he felt a strong resistance and couldn’t pull out the anchor. The fisherman tried to change the position of the anchor by turning the boat but it didn’t help. Not knowing what to do he waited for someone else to come along and help him. He had a bottle of rum and drank a bit. Despite the fact, he couldn’t leave the river he didn’t feel bad because the night was warm enough to sleep in the boat.

Something hit his boat. It was just a piece of wood but it was enough to get him nervous. A thick fog covered everything. He thought about swimming to the shore but he was scared that something would drag him to the bottom. The fisherman reached for his rum again and started yelling as loud as he could but the only thing he heard back were dogs barking.

The fog went away and the river was completely clear. He wasn’t scared anymore so he had a nap. When he woke up, he drank the rest of the rum and observed the dark. He saw a shadow heading his way and realized it was a fisherman. They tried to pull out the anchor but they couldn’t.

When the sun came up another fisherman came to help them. They finally managed to pull it out and as the anchor approached them they saw that something was still on it. It was a female corps with a rock strapped to its neck.

Genre: short story

Theme: fisherman’s events on a river

Place: river Seine

Time: unspecified

Character analysis

The writer introduces us to the plot. He spent a lot of him time by the Seine and there he met his neighbor who told him one of his experiences on the river.

He says that his neighbor is one of the most interesting men he had ever met. He was an old sailor who was very passionate about his boat. He seemed as if he was born on a boat and intends to die in one. For him, the river was something mysterious and deep where things that aren’t there can be seen during the night. When the writer asks him to tell him some of his experiences he describes the time he pulled out a dead woman’s body from the river. Without hesitation, he described his fears and hopelessness when he couldn’t get the anchor out.

Guy de Maupassant Biography

Guy de Maupassant was a famous French writer from a realism era. He was born in 1850. in France, but he came from old Loren family, whose origin is from Normandy. Guy was raised mostly by his mother, considering she was separated from her’s husband. She had the biggest influence on Guy’s writing since he was a little boy. She had an exquisite taste in Literature, and she passed it on her children. Guy grew up in a small fishermen’s village, where he spent his time with fishermen and talked to them in their dialect.

As a boy, Guy went to seminary to get his education, but he did whatever he can to get expelled, so he can be sent back to his mother. This is probably the part of his life that gave him an aversion to religion. After seminary, Guy was sent to a Lyceum to become an actor and a poet. After college, he went to an army to fight in Franco-Prussian War. After the war, he left Normandy and moved to Paris. He worked there as a marine officer for ten years.

At that time, their family friend, Gustav Flober, became Guy’s teacher and personal guide in his writing evolvent. Guy started to gain his journalist’s ambitions, too. Flober introduced Guy to Emile Zola, Ivan Turgenev, and many more important writers from realism and naturalism era. At that time, Guy started to write fiction himself, mostly short plays and poems.

Very soon Guy became an editor of many important magazines and newspapers of that time. He started to write short stories and novels. In 1880. he published a collection of his short stories named “Boule de suif”. Flobert said the book wasn’t just Guy’s personal masterpiece, it’s also a masterpiece of a world’s literature. The book became very famous in very short time.

Guy’s second book of short stories wars released in 1881. It was a book named “The house of Tellies” and it gained 12 editions in two years. Next year, Guy finishes his first novel “One life”, which was sold over 25 000 copies in less than a year. His second novel “Bel Ami”, published in 1885., had seven editions in four months.

Guy was very well paid for his masterpieces. He loved his solitude, but also he traveled a lot. He traveled around Europe, and Middle-East, and write during the journeys, so he would come back home with finished books. He socialized with a lot of important persons of his time, and he was a very respectable person in his community, but with years, he isolated himself more and more from society. He developed all kinds of phobia. He was scared somebody is stalking him, and that he’ll become ill and die of syphilis that he get when he was young. With time, he lost his mind, and two years after that he died.

Guy de Maupassant died 1893., not a long before his 43d birthday. He was Buried in Paris.