Henri Rene Albert Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850, to an affluent family at the Chateau de Miromesnil, in France. As a child, Guy adored his mother and loathed his absent father. His mother was very literary and passed on her love of books to her son, Guy, and his brother, Herve. Much of Guy’s childhood was spent in the countryside playing sports or simply spending time outdoors.
The Franco-Prussian War erupted shortly after Maupassant finished college. Maupassant enlisted as a volunteer and then, in 1871, left the army to work as a clerk in the navy for the next ten years. During this time he became close with Gustave Flaubert, a friend of his mother’s and the author of Madame Bovary (1857). Flaubert introduced him to several other prominent writers and spurred Maupassant to focus on his writing. As a result, Maupassant began producing a fair amount of short fiction on his own and eventually found work as a contributing editor for several prominent French newspapers in 1878. Despite this early focus on writing, however, Maupassant didn’t publish any of his work until he turned thirty.
“The Necklace,” or “La Parure” in French, first appeared in the Parisian Newspaper Le Gaulois in 1884. The story was an immediate success, and Maupassant later included it in his short-story collection Tales of Day and Night (1885). Flaubert’s influence on Maupassant is evident in “The Necklace,” and the story is in many ways similar to Madame Bovary. Both works, for example, revolve around attractive yet dissatisfied young women who seek to escape their destinies. More important, both works are also among the finest examples of realist fiction, a style of writing first appearing in the mid nineteenth century that sought to expose the grittier realities of ordinary people’s lives. Above all else, Maupassant sought to explore the deeper meanings of everyday events, and his writing style has influenced other literary greats such as Anton Chekhov and O. Henry.
Maupassant’s literary career peaked in the 1880s, around the time when he published “The Necklace.” In the years just before and after he published Tales of Day and Night, Maupassant wrote more than 300 short stories and several successful novels, including Un Vie (1883), Bel Ami (1885), and Pierre et Jean (1888). He traveled extensively during this time and often produced his best writing on the road, writing newspaper articles, essays, and travelogues in addition to fiction. A powerful literary figure in his day, Maupassant formed and maintained friendships with other literary giants such as Ivan Turgenev and Émile Zola.
Despite his wealth and popularity, Maupassant never married, partly out of fear of being abandoned by a loved one as he was abandoned by his father. As he grew older, Maupassant became more withdrawn and obsessed with death. His infection with syphilis contributed to his growing dementia, and he was institutionalized after he tried to kill himself in 1891. He died two years later, on July 6, 1893.