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Bel-Ami

Book Review   by:Arle Quinn     Original Author: Guy de Maupassant
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Bel-Ami deals with the rise of ex-soldier Georges Duroy to prosperous journalist and social climber. Set in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century, the novel features a detailed background with a wide range of characters. His old friend and successful newspaperman Edward Forestier hires Georges to the paper, where he starts at the bottom. It soon becomes apparent that Forestier owes his success to his wife Madeleine, a canny woman with a knack for journalism. She helps Georges with his first article, starting him in his new job as reporter. After Forestier dies, Georges marries her, and they began to climb the ranks of Paris society and Georges' career together. Throughout the book Georges treats the women in his life as imminently disposable, but they fall for him anyway, attracted to his blue eyes and 'fine moustache'. He has no charm and is certainly a less complex character than his wife Madeleine. He is neither villain nor hero. There is a certain fascination in watching an ordinary person make his way steadily to the top. He enjoys himself with his mistress and then seduces his boss's wife, but finally realizes that to attain true social elevation he must marry into the higher ranks.
Catching his wife in adultery, he divorces her and elopes with the beautiful Suzanne, his boss's daughter, forcing her father to consent to their marriage. By the end of the book, Georges has attained all his desires: a promising career as a journalist and a wife with money and good position, and still manages to retain his former mistress. It isn't only Georges who treats the women characters as discardable: Maupassant tosses Madeleine aside as soon as his hero is done with her, telling us no more about this intriguing character. Georges' various mistresses are never given any dignity by their author. It is the emotions and scheming of Georges Duroy that make the final impression on the reader, including such scenes as a duel and when he brings his new wife Madeleine home to meet his peasant parents. The whole book gives a vivid impression of life at that time and place, and whether or not Georges wins your sympathy it's almost impossible not to root for him to succeed.
Published: February 18, 2006   
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