The Horla by Guy de Maupassant
By Guy de Maupassant
Guy de Maupassant’s short story “The Horla” is a great example of the notion that art sometimes imitates life. In 1887, while battling the end stages of syphilis and institutionalized for insanity, de Maupassant’s last story “The Horla” was published. In the pages his fictional character, the narrator, chronicles his journey into madness while fighting an unseen beast. The protagonist can be compared to de Maupassant and his own struggle with syphilis and psychosis.
This story was originally written in French, the author de Maupassant’s native language. It begins merrily with the narrator, who by all means seems young, healthy and wealthy, living in an estate, journals his first entry on May 8th exclaiming, “What a lovely day!” (de Maupassant 1). In subsequent entries what the narrator says about himself, through his actions, his diary becomes the witness of his madness and parallels the authors own progression of syphilis.
The first signs of the narrator’s depression begin to manifest four days after he spots a “superb-three mast” Brazilian vessel and salutes it. He will later come to believe that this single gesture, performing a salute, has unconsciously invited a supernatural being that was aboard the ship to enter his home. He is plagued by a fever and melancholy, changing his mood from happiness into despair. Feeling as if “some misfortune has upset his nerves and given him a fit of low spirits” (de Maupassant 2).
Like his fictional character, the narrator, de Mausspant would have likely suffered from fever. The disease plaguing de Mausspant, Syphilis, is sexually transmitted and has many symptoms. In the early stages of his disease, fever is a common symptom of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. The medical symptoms of Syphilis tend to mimic many other diseases. Patients within four to ten weeks after contracting the virus tend to have flu like symptoms; fever, muscle aches and decreased appetite.
Cited: de Maupassant, Guy. The Horla (Fantasy and Horror Classics). Digital. Read Books Limited, 2011. 1-18. eBook. Kaplan, Harold, and Benjamin Sadick. "http://www.schizophrenia.com/family/misdiag.html." Schizophrenia.com. Baltimore:Williams & Wilkins, n.d. Web. 18 Oct 2012. Lombardi, Esther. Guy de Maupassant Biography. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. <http://classiclit.about.com/od/maupassantguy/p/aa_gdemaupass.htm>. Veague, Heather. "Schizophrenia, Impact on Families and Society." Suicide and Schizophrenia. N.p., 12 2009. Web. 17 Oct 2012. <http://www.health.am/psy/more/suicide-and- schizophrenia>.