A Grandmother’s Advice (Maupassant)

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A Grandmother’s Advice
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An old woman shared her views on love and marriage with her granddaughter, advocating for the freedom to love multiple people and criticizing the modern idea of eternal passion.

In an old-fashioned château, an elderly woman and her granddaughter, Berthe, were sitting together in a drawing room. The grandmother asked Berthe to read something from the newspaper, specifically about love affairs.

The Grandmother — very old woman; experienced in love and life; nostalgic for the past; believes in multiple loves.
Berthe — young girl; granddaughter of the old woman; embroidering an altar-cloth; believes in eternal love.

Berthe found a story about a woman who threw vitriol on her husband's mistress, and another about a woman who shot her lover multiple times. The grandmother was shocked and upset by these stories, saying that people nowadays were mad and had lost the true meaning of love.

The grandmother explained to Berthe that marriage and love were not the same thing. Marriage was a social institution, while love was a natural instinct. She lamented the loss of gallantry and the belief in eternal love, saying that people used to understand that love could be experienced multiple times in one's life.

It is love that is sacred. Listen, child, to an old woman who has seen three generations, and who has had a long, long experience of men and women.

Berthe, however, believed that women should only love one man and that marriage was sacred. The grandmother argued that society had become a race of serfs, with people attaching too much importance to marriage and not enough to love. She said that women used to have lovers and would not be ridiculed for it, while men were expected to have multiple mistresses. The idea of women taking revenge on their lovers' mistresses was absurd to her, as she believed that love should be celebrated and enjoyed.

There is only one good thing in life, and that is love, and they want to deprive us of it.

Berthe, moved by her grandmother's words, prayed for a great and eternal love, while the grandmother warned her that such a belief would only bring her unhappiness.