At The Church Door by Guy de Maupassant
Guy de Maupassant is a prolific writer, a master of the short storey, and a representative of the naturalist literary school. Maupassant is heavily influenced by the French author Flaubert. He was probably the most versatile and brilliant among the galaxy of novelists who enriched French literature between the years 1800 and 1900. Poetry, drama, prose of short and sustained effort, and volumes of travel and description, each sparkling with the same minuteness of detail and brilliancy of style, flowed from his pen during the twelve years of his literary life. Maupassant’s stories are a reflection of real life and real people, their follies, pleasures, and sorrows. His stories centre on the everyday guy and his battles with fate and circumstance.
“At the Church Door” is a story about a couple’s love for their son. After a lengthy wait, he was born to them. Their anguish at his disappearance was limitless. They gathered their possessions and set out in search of him. They were prepared to confront life in the congested streets of Paris in search of their missing son. They meet him at the church door, where the father is sprinkling holy water on everyone leaving the church, after many years of waiting and searching. It was a tear-jerking and joyous reunion. They discovered their young son had been well-adjusted and was engaged to a lovely young lady. The term specifically refers to the location of the reunion. Additionally, a church is significant since it is the location where one’s faith and prayers are answered.
The storey honours a parent’s love for their child. The couple works diligently to amass fortune and are eventually rewarded with a son. When he was just five years old, their only child is taken away from them. In desperation, the parents sell their home and embark on a search for their son. They go great distances in search of their child, approaching strangers in fields, on doorsteps, and passing motorists, inquiring about their child’s location. They continue their hunt after arriving in Paris.
Due to their parents’ love for their child, they forego a prosperous lifestyle in favour of poverty in the big metropolis. Their forbearance is such that they visit each church on Sunday in search of a familiar face. Their faith is so strong that even in old age, their yearning and longing to meet him remains undiminished. In the end, it is this love, patience, and faith that are rewarded. Their son, who recalls nothing but their names, is returned to them in perfect health and happiness.
This storey exemplifies their extraordinary fortitude and faith. Their love for their kid and their conviction that he will be reunited motivates them to do harsh penance in their search for him. However, despite personal loss, advanced age, and privations, the many years of failure do not destroy their spirit as they continue to hunt for him. Throughout the storey, the pair is given no names, implying their symbolic status. They speak for all parents who have lost a child and are still searching for them in the face of adversity.
Jean is kidnapped by circus performers who had paid a visit to their community. He spends three years with them until being purchased and adopted by an elderly woman, in true Dickensian fashion. He is raised by her and inherits her fortune as well. He runs into his parents outside the church that he and his fiancée are visiting. All he recalls is his parents’ names, and he is happy to meet them. The son stands in the way of the parents’ faith being put to the test. His disappearance results in a slew of changes and complications for the couple who persist in their quest for and reunion with him. Additionally, he symbolises man’s ultimate goal, which is reconciliation with God. If the couple represents Everyman, who has lost confidence in God in the material world, the boy represents God, who is awaiting reunification with man.
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