A Woman’s Hair (Maupassant)

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A Woman’s Hair
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man became obsessed with a lock of hair found in an antique piece of furniture, leading to hallucinations of possessing the woman it belonged to, ultimately resulting in his confinement in an asylum.

A man lived a simple and content life until the age of thirty-two, when he developed a passion for collecting antiques. One day, he came across a beautiful piece of Italian furniture from the 17th century and felt an irresistible urge to buy it. After purchasing the furniture, he discovered a secret compartment containing a large twist of blond hair tied with a golden cord. The hair fascinated him, and he became obsessed with it, wondering about the woman it had belonged to and the story behind it.

The man's obsession with the hair grew stronger, and he began to feel a sensual desire to touch and caress it. He would spend hours alone with the hair, feeling it against his skin and imagining the woman it had belonged to. His obsession reached a point where he believed he could see and possess the woman, as if she had returned from the dead. He experienced intense happiness and pleasure from his encounters with the woman, and his obsession became so consuming that he could not bear to be apart from the hair.

I loved it! Yes, I loved it. I could no longer live away from it, nor be contented an hour without seeing it.

He began carrying the hair with him everywhere he went, treating it as if it were his wife or mistress. However, his strange behavior did not go unnoticed, and he was eventually arrested and imprisoned for his actions. In prison, he continued to be tormented by his desire for the hair and the woman he believed it represented.

A visitor to the asylum, the narrator, becomes curious about the madman's story.

The Narrator — visitor to the asylum; curious about the madman's story.

The madman, who is thin, with white hair and wrinkled cheeks, narrates his journal to the narrator.

The Madman — narrator of the journal; obsessed with the lock of hair; thin, with white hair and wrinkled cheeks.

The story serves as a chilling reminder of the depths of human obsession and the power of the mind to create and believe in fantasies. The man's fixation on the hair led him down a dark path, ultimately resulting in his imprisonment and the loss of the object of his obsession.

The mind of man is capable of anything.

The doctor, who works at the asylum and is knowledgeable about the madman's condition, shares this insight with the narrator.