The Little One (Maupassant)

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The Little One
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A widower adored his son, unaware of the child's true parentage, until his nurse revealed the truth, leading to the father's suicide and entrusting the child to his real father.

Monsieur Lemonnier was a simple, honest man who fell in love with and married a poor neighbor. They had a happy life together, and after five years, they had a child.

Monsieur Lemonnier — widower, loving father, and draper; simple, kind, and adoring of his wife and son.

The birth of their son brought them immense joy, but it also took the life of Lemonnier's wife. Devastated, Lemonnier devoted himself to raising their son, Jean, with the help of his close friend, Monsieur Duretour.

Jean — young boy, believed to be Monsieur Lemonnier's son; stubborn, spoiled, and ailing.
Monsieur Duretour — Jean's biological father and Monsieur Lemonnier's friend; affectionate towards Jean.

As Jean grew, Lemonnier and Duretour spoiled him, giving him everything he wanted. This caused tension with the family's old nurse, Céleste, who believed they were ruining the child.

Céleste — old nurse and servant; strong-willed, caring, and frustrated with the child's upbringing.

It's a shame, monsieur, a shame. You'll be the ruin of the child, the ruin of him, do you hear!

One day, Céleste tried to force Jean to eat his soup, leading to a violent confrontation between her and Lemonnier. In her anger, Céleste revealed that Jean was not Lemonnier's son, but rather the result of an affair between his wife and Duretour.

Shocked and heartbroken, Lemonnier spent the night writing a letter to Duretour, entrusting him with the care of Jean. He then took his own life, hanging himself in his room. Céleste discovered his body the next morning, along with the letter addressed to Duretour.

I leave and entrust the little one to you.

The tragic events left Jean in the care of the man who had unknowingly caused his father's despair and ultimate demise.