Beside a Dead Man (Maupassant)

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Beside a Dead Man
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man with tuberculosis shared his experiences with the philosopher Schopenhauer and a mysterious incident that occurred after the philosopher's death, involving his decomposing body and false teeth.

A man with tuberculosis was often seen sitting under the hotel windows, facing the calm sea, on a bench on the terrace. He would remain motionless for some time, gazing at the Mediterranean with mournful eyes. Occasionally, he would glance towards the lofty mountain that encloses Mentone. He would then open a book and read with all his eyes and mind, losing himself in it until the cooler air made him cough a little. He was a tall German with a fair beard who spoke to no one.

The Narrator — narrator; curious about the German man and Schopenhauer.

One day, a curious man sat down beside him and they began to talk. The German revealed that he was a personal friend of the philosopher Schopenhauer until his death.

The German Man — tall, thin, fair-bearded man with tuberculosis; Schopenhauer's personal friend; dying, melancholic.

He shared stories about Schopenhauer's life and the impact he had on those around him. The German then told an almost unknown anecdote about the night Schopenhauer died.

Schopenhauer's friends decided to watch over his body in turns, two by two, until morning. The German and a companion took their turn at midnight. They felt uneasy and oppressed in the presence of the dead philosopher, so they moved to the next room, leaving the door open. Suddenly, they heard a tiny sound coming from the room with the dead body. They saw something white run over the bedclothes, drop onto the carpet, and disappear under a chair.

Terrified, they went back into the room to investigate. They found that Schopenhauer's false teeth had fallen out of his decomposing mouth.

The process of decomposition, loosening the jaws, had caused them to spring out of his mouth.

The German admitted that he was truly afraid that day.

I was really afraid that day, monsieur.

After sharing this story, the consumptive German rose, bowed, and went back into the hotel.