Berthe (Maupassant)

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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A doctor tried to awaken the intelligence of an idiot girl by appealing to her senses, but her marriage to a selfish man led to her madness and eventual confinement.

A doctor in the town of Riom had a close friend who had a daughter named Berthe.

Berthe — idiot girl; beautiful, passionate, and eventually mad.

Berthe was physically healthy but mentally challenged, unable to speak or recognize people. The doctor tried various methods to stimulate her mind, such as teaching her to recognize different tastes and the sound of a clock. Berthe eventually became obsessed with clocks and mealtimes, but still could not distinguish between people.

She grew up; she was superb, and dumb, dumb through lack of intelligence.

When Berthe turned sixteen, her parents decided to marry her off in the hope that motherhood might awaken her intelligence. They found a man named Gaston du Boys de Lucelles, a good-looking but disreputable young man who was after Berthe's family's money.

Monsieur Gaston du Boys de Lucelles — Berthe's husband; selfish, unfaithful, and a rake.

After the marriage, Berthe became deeply attached to her husband, but he quickly grew tired of her and began to spend his nights away from home.

She loved him with all her body, with all her soul, her poor feeble soul, with all her heart, the poor heart of a grateful animal.

Berthe's mental state deteriorated as she constantly waited for her husband to return. The doctor tried to help by removing all the clocks from the house, but Berthe's obsession with time and her husband only grew stronger. Eventually, her husband struck her, and the doctor forbade her from seeing him again.

This caused Berthe to go mad, constantly waiting for her husband and growing thinner by the day. The doctor had to put bars on the windows and fix the chairs to the floor to prevent her from looking out into the street. Meanwhile, her husband lived a carefree life in Royat, supported by the allowance from Berthe's family.