The Marquis de Fumerol

Maupassant, Guy de

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: Oct-17-1996
  • Last revised: Aug-31-2006


Sitting around the dinner table one evening, the Toumeville family receives news that the Marquis de Fumerol, Mrs. Toumeville’s brother, is dying. The Marquis squandered his money and reputation on a series of loose women; as a consequence, he has not seen his sister in years. Nevertheless, the Toumevilles leave immediately for his bedside in fear that the Marquis will die without having reunited with God. The Toumevilles are not so much concerned with the Marquis’ eternal life as with the possibility that the "freethinkers" and socialists will make the Marquis a hero for turning his back on the morality of the aristocracy.

The Marquis receives his nephew kindly, but when the priest enters he flies into a rage. The priest is forced to retreat. While the family is considering another plan of attack, they hear screams from the sick man’s room. A Protestant clergyman had entered and the Marquis grew so angry that he collapsed. His nephew thinks he is dead. His mother and the priest, however, act as though he is still alive. The priest administers extreme unction and Mrs. Toumeville cries out that her brother has squeezed her hand, recognizing her and accepting religion.


At issue in this story is the manipulation of the dead or dying. It is unclear whether the Marquis is actually alive or dead when he receives extreme unction. Either way, he has been manipulated by his family who are concerned about protecting their aristocratic privilege. A Marquis simply cannot die thinking a life of woman, song, and drink is life enough. Noblemen must defend the series of social rules that distinguish the upper and lower classes.

Primary Source

Short Stories of the Tragedy and Comedy of Life, Vol. 2


M. Walter Dunne

Place Published

New York