The Mother of Monsters (Maupassant)

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The Mother of Monsters
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A peasant woman deliberately deformed her unborn children using a homemade corset, creating monsters that she sold to circus proprietors for a substantial income.

A man visited a small country town and was taken around by his friend to see all the local attractions. After seeing everything, his friend mentioned the "mother of monsters," a woman who deliberately produced deformed children and sold them to peepshow men. Intrigued, they went to visit her.

The woman lived in a nice house with a beautiful garden. She was about forty, tall, and strong.

The Mother of Monsters — peasant woman; about 40 years old, tall, hard-featured, and strong; produces deformed children for profit.

She knew she was disliked and received the visitors with a mix of anger and humility. When asked about her latest child, she claimed it was even uglier than the others. The visitors asked to see the child, but she refused and became furious, accusing them of coming to insult her. They left, warning her that her actions would bring her bad luck.

The man's friend then told him the woman's story. She had once been a hardworking farm servant who fell pregnant after a night in the fields. Ashamed, she hid her pregnancy by wearing a tight, homemade corset that crushed and deformed her unborn child. When she gave birth to the monstrous child, she was shunned and lost her job. Eventually, showmen heard of her child and paid her for it, leading her to deliberately produce more deformed children for money.

She has eleven of these offspring. She is rich.

Years later, the man saw a beautiful, elegant lady at a fashionable watering-place, surrounded by admirers. He later noticed her three deformed children playing on the beach. His doctor friend explained that the woman had worn tight corsets during her pregnancies to maintain her figure, resulting in her children's deformities.

Those monsters are manufactured by corsets. She knows perfectly well that she's risking her life at that game.

The man felt pity for the children and compared their mother to the "mother of monsters" he had met years before.