Boule de Suif


Guy de Maupassant

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Themes and Colors
Wealth and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Class Division in Wartime Theme Icon
Gender, Power, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Exploitation and Class Hierarchy  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Boule de Suif, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Wealth and Hypocrisy

Set during the Franco-Prussian war, Guy de Maupassant’s “Boule de Suif” depicts a group of French travelers who become stranded at a Prussian-occupied inn. Stuck in close quarters in a stressful situation, the group’s class tensions come to a boil: they are mostly upper-class couples, except for Boule de Suif (Ball of Fat), a prostitute whose real name is Mademoiselle Elizabeth Rousset. The wealthier members of the party condescend to Miss Rousset and treat…

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Class Division in Wartime

Guy de Maupassant was a patriot; he fought in the Franco-Prussian war and, in “Boule de Suif,” he extends the most sympathy towards characters who have strong patriotic beliefs. Still, this short story is in no way a celebration of war. Set in 1880 as the war is ending, with the Prussians victorious, “Boule de Suif” demonstrates how the gaping class divides within an army make the concept of “victory” empty, since the poor foot…

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Gender, Power, and Sacrifice

“Boule de Suif” is fundamentally a story about power, and the women Maupassant depicts enjoy very little of it. Six of the story’s ten French travelers are women: two nuns, three married ladies, and a single prostitute—Miss Rousset, or “Ball-of-Fat.” All of these characters suffer for being female, although they suffer differently based on their class background. Miss Rousset, who is poor, disreputable, and unmarried initially has more autonomy than the married…

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Exploitation and Class Hierarchy

The beginning of “Boule de Suif” is tepidly optimistic about class mobility. While the ten French travelers sharing a carriage adhere to their society’s strict class hierarchy, the lowest among them—the plucky and defiant Miss Rousset—nevertheless earns the grudging admiration of the others. For a moment, it seems that she might be included in higher society by sheer force of personality. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the class hierarchy will…

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