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19th century Paris: Shifting Norms and Ironic Storytelling in Maupassant’s “Bel-ami”

19th century Paris: Shifting Norms and Ironic Storytelling in Maupassant’s “Bel-ami”

This reference material familiarizes college and university students with authentic 19th century French literature.  Published in 1885, Maupassant’s “Bel-ami” is a novel in which the reader is constantly drawn by the visual appeal of the colourful descriptions. By drawing attention to the sensorial quality of Maupassant’s prose and his character portrayal,  the article  introduces learners to the cultural context of the novel.

Although the novel can be read as the story about the advance of a mediocre man to social and political prominence, this paper will show that Maupassant uses a dual-voiced discourse and juxtaposes a recognizable 19th century Paris and his protagonist’s sexual exploits in order to call attention to the duplicity of the Parisian society during Belle-époque. 

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