Boule de Suif

by

Guy de Maupassant

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Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) Character Analysis

Miss Rousset, the story’s protagonist, is a young woman who works as a prostitute. Her nickname is Ball-of-Fat, due to her robust figure. Passionate and patriotic, Miss Rousset chooses to leave her home in Rouen because she loathes the Prussian occupiers. She leaves the city in a carriage with nine others; among them, Miss Rousset has the lowest class status, and the wealthier travelers (who see her profession as disreputable) are scornful and cruel. Despite this, Miss Rousset behaves kindly—she shares her food with them when they’re hungry, for example, and she treats them with deference. Maupassant uses Miss Rousset’s superior moral character to show that virtue is independent of social class—or perhaps even that virtue is more common among the less fortunate (such as Miss Rousset) than it is among the wealthy. Miss Rousset’s virtue, pluck, and independence, however, cannot overcome her vulnerability as a member of the lower class. When the party becomes stranded at an inn, held hostage by a Prussian officer until Miss Rousset agrees to sleep with him, Miss Rousset’s companions turn on her. Out of self-respect and patriotism, Miss Rousset insists that she will not sleep with the officer, but the others in her party—prioritizing their own freedom over her integrity and wellbeing—manipulate Miss Rousset into going through with it for the good of the group. This sacrifice devastates Miss Rousset and, despite her generosity on behalf of the group, her companions once again ostracize her as they leave the inn. Miss Rousset’s tragic fate shows the cruelty of class hierarchy. Simply by virtue of their social standing, the other travelers have undeserved power over Miss Rousset, which they use to destroy her for their own gain.

Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) Quotes in Boule de Suif

The Boule de Suif quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) or refer to Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Boule de Suif published in 1992.
Boule de Suif Quotes

As soon as she was recognized, a whisper went around among the honest women, and the words “prostitute” and “public shame” were whispered so loud that she raised her head. Then she threw her neighbors such a provoking, courageous look that a great silence reigned […then] conversation began among the three ladies, whom the presence of this girl had suddenly rendered friendly, almost intimate. It seemed to them they should bring their married dignity into union in opposition to that sold without shame; for legal love always takes on a tone of contempt for its free confrère.

Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] Loiseau with his eyes devoured the dish of chicken. He said: “Fortunately Madame had more precaution than we. There are some people who know how to think ahead always.”

She turned toward him, saying: “If you would like some of it, sir? It is hard to go without breakfast so long.”

He saluted her and replied: “Faith, I frankly cannot refuse; I can stand it no longer. Everything goes in time of war, does it not, Madame?”

Related Characters: Mr. Loiseau (speaker), Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Basket of Food
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

They could not eat this girl’s provisions without speaking to her. And so they chatted, with reserve at first; then, as she carried herself well, with more abandon. The ladies De Breville and Carré-Lamadon, who were acquainted with the ins and outs of good-breeding, were gracious with a certain delicacy. The Countess, especially, showed that amiable condescension of very noble ladies who do not fear being spoiled by contact with anyone, and was charming. But the great Madame Loiseau, who had the soul of a plebian, remained crabbed, saying little and eating much.

Related Symbols: Basket of Food
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

“I believed at first that I could remain,” she said. “I had my house full of provisions, and I preferred to feed a few soldiers rather than expatriate myself, to go I knew not where. But as soon as I saw them, those Prussians, that was too much for me! They made my blood boil with anger, and I wept for very shame all day long.”

Related Characters: Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) (speaker)
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

A stir was felt around her […]. The Count approached her, saying:

“You are wrong, Madame, for your refusal may lead to considerable difficulty, not only for yourself but for all your companions. It is never worth while to resist those in power”

Everybody agreed with him, asking, begging, beseeching her to go […] they all feared the complications that might result from disobedience.

Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

The breakfast was very doleful; and it became apparent that a coldness had arisen toward Ball-of-Fat, and that the night, which brings counsel, had slightly modified their judgements. They almost wished now that the Prussian has secretly found this girl, in order to give her companions a pleasant surprise in the morning. What could be more simple? Besides, who would know anything about it? She could save appearances by telling the officer that she took pity on their distress. To her, it would make little difference!

“Well, we are not going to stay here and die of old age. Since it is the trade of this creature to accommodate herself to all kinds, I fail to see how she has the right to refuse one more than another…and to think that to-day we should be drawn into this embarrassment by this affected woman, this minx! For my part, I find that this officer conducts himself very well…and we must remember too that he is master. He has only to say ‘I wish,’ and he could take us by force with his soldiers.”

Page Number: 23-24
Explanation and Analysis:

The Countess put to use the authority of her unwitting accomplice, and added to it the edifying paraphrase and axiom of Jesuit morals: “The needs justify the means.”

Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

No one looked at her or even thought of her. She felt herself drowned in the scorn of these honest scoundrels, who had first sacrificed her and then rejected her, like some improper or useless article. She thought of her great basket full of good things which they had greedily devoured…she felt ready to weep.

Related Symbols: Basket of Food
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
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Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) Character Timeline in Boule de Suif

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Elizabeth Rousset (Ball-of-Fat) appears in Boule de Suif. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Boule de Suif
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...Besides these nuns, there are two single travelers: a man and a woman, Cornudet and Miss Elizabeth Rousset . Cornudet is immediately identified as a democrat, angering and irritating the other men, and... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...Carré-Lamadon, and the Countess start to whisper things like “public shame,” loud enough so that Miss Rousset can hear it. She throws them a fierce look, though, and everybody averts their eyes... (full context)
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...mood to speak anymore because they are thinking about how much they’d like to eat. Miss Rousset keeps checking something underneath her seat, but then straightening up and looking around at her... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
...but everyone else is a little horrified, as they think it is a reference to Miss Rousset . The nuns stop mumbling into their roseries but keep their eyes cast downwards.  (full context)
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...and the passengers are in pain they are so hungry. Unable to resist any longer, Miss Rousset bends down and pulls out a basket from under her seat. Beneath a clean white... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
Mr. Loiseau cannot stop looking at Miss Rousset ’s chicken, and he finally speaks to her, praising her foresight. Miss Rousset immediately offers... (full context)
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Miss Rousset then offers her food to the two nuns, who also eagerly accept. Cornudet decides to... (full context)
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
Miss Rousset is very upset, and she stammers how she absolutely would have given her food to... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...and quickly empties it. Mrs. Carré-Lamadon and the Countess now allow themselves to talk to Miss Rousset (feeling an obligation because they’ve eaten her food). Although they speak casually at first, Miss... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...the group contrasts the Prussians’ horrible acts with French bravery. As they share personal stories, Miss Rousset says that, despite having a house stocked with food (and by all accounts a thriving... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Class Division in Wartime Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...short but didactic political lecture, then makes an insulting comment about Napoleon Bonaparte III. Because Miss Rousset is a Bonapartist, she lashes out at him, demanding exactly what he would have done... (full context)
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...as they digest. They feel the cold again. The Countess gives her foot stove to Miss Rousset , and Mrs. Loiseau and Mrs. Carré-Lamadon give theirs to the two nuns. (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
...greets the officer, who looks right through him. Although they are closest to the door, Miss Rousset and Cornudet leave the carriage last. Miss Rousset is dismayed and even a little “disgusted”... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Class Division in Wartime Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...out of breath, he lets the group know that the Prussian officer wishes to see Miss Rousset . She bristles and insists that she will not go. The group is clearly bothered,... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
The group is nervous because they now fear the possible repercussions of Miss Rousset ’s hot temper. But ten minutes later she returns, flustered and angry but uninterested in... (full context)
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...fun, he spies on the hallway after everybody has gone to bed. Mr. Loiseau sees Miss Rousset appear in the corridor—then, he also sees Cornudet. The two are outside Miss Rousset’s room,... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
That night, before dinner, Mr. Follenvie appears and asks if Miss Rousset has “changed her mind.” Even more forcefully than before, Miss Rousset insists that she will... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...on their walk, the three married women are mortified that they’re in the presence of Miss Rousset . Mrs. Carré-Lamadon thinks to herself that the officer is even kind of attractive (she’d... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Class Division in Wartime Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...hardly speak to each other, since they are so full of boredom and despair. When Miss Rousset heads into town by herself for a christening, the married travelers immediately put their heads... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...all of this. They decide that, in order to leave, they will have to convince Miss Rousset to do the officer’s bidding. However, they are determined to present the idea so slyly... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...lunch, this plan takes form. Mrs. Loiseau, Mrs. Carré-Lamadon, and the Countess are kind to Miss Rousset only to “increase her docility and her confidence in their council.” The group talks an... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...in the afternoon the next day. They all go for a walk. The Count takes Miss Rousset ’s arm and speaks to her in a tone that is at once “paternal,” “familiar,”... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...day greets nine passengers, all packed and ready to go; the group waits only on Miss Rousset . When she arrives, she looks flustered. She approaches the Countess—and the Count leads his... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
...follow suit. Soon nine travelers are all eating the food that they have brought—everybody except Miss Rousset , who forgot to pack since she was in a hurry. Nobody will share—nobody even... (full context)
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
Mrs. Loiseau mutters that Miss Rousset “weeps for shame.” Then Cornudet begins to hum the French national anthem. The carriage grows... (full context)