Maupassant’s The little cask is a story about a world of greed, tricks and lies. It’s focused on two characters: a businessman Chicot and an old lady Magloire. They belong to two distinct worlds: town and countryside. Chicot is trying to convince the old lady to sell her farmhouse but at the beginning she vigorously refused (and here the significance of land is noticeable). But afterwards, when they started calculating how long she’ll live and the amount of money she’ll earn in this period, she changed her mind. From this point, the slick game of snakes and ladders started between both of them. Chicot is willing to expand his properties, while Magloire is willing to expand her wealth. Besides, the whole game is based on mere mathematical calculations of life expectancy of Magloire which shows that both of them are two materialistic characters because money is the main motivation of all their actions.
Moving to another point which is the characterization, we’ll find that the man who is an innkeeper is described as a smart businessman and the lady is always at home cooking which implies the stereotype of female domesticity in a patriarchal society. From my point of view, I think that the figure of Chicot represents the evolution of capitalism within the society.
The relationship between these characters is based on tricky games, hypocrisy and lies.
Regarding the form, the descriptions in the story created a visual perception known as “Ekphrasis” according to Barthes definition. On the other hand, irony is used in the description of the characters: Chicot” with a red face and round stomach” , Magloire: ” very thin, shriveled and wrinkled, almost dried up infact”. Moreover, I noticed the use of poetic language in description due to the use of similes: “as happy as a king who had conquered an empire”,” Just as one goes in July to see when the harvest is likely to begin”.
As for the title, it refers to the main omnipresent protagonist in the story “alcohol” and although it’s being referred to as “small” but actually it’s role is major within the story.
What I didn’t like about the story is that is has the same rythm, there’s no climax in the actions and everything was quite predictable but somehow that’s characteristic of the nineteenth century writing. Besides, I don’t agree that she was punished at the end for being greedy and he wasn’t for lying and I wonder does this has anything to do with the gender of Magloire?
Last but not least, I thought how the story would be like if we switched roles. So, this is what popped up in my head: (N.B: I’m not intending to write a short story, but rather to narrate the events)
She is a young pretty lady in the thirties. Her name is Madeline and she wants to buy her neighbour’s farmhouse to expand the land of her husband. He is a old man in the late sixties who lives alone in this house, but he totally refused to sell it to her insisting: “Mon Dieu, c’est impossible”, “over my dead body, Madame”. She tried to figure out how to convince him to do that. She tried everything: alcohol, candy, drugs…Until one day she caught him having an affair with a young lady. She shouted excitedly: “Now I know your weak point, you dirty old man” .But she heard that he has heart disease and doctors warned him of having so much sex. Ever since that day, Madeline kept on seducing him in many ways. She even slept with him everyday, until one day, in the middle of the intercourse, he had a heart attack and then passed away. She thought after his death, she’d get what she wanted, but unfortunately she found out that a month prior to his death, he had written a will to use his farmhouse as a shelter for the poor.