Guy de Maupassant's An Uncomfortable Bed: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Ever created the very problem you were trying to avoid? If so, you're a whole lot like the narrator of our story, ''An Uncomfortable Bed.'' In this lesson, you'll learn more about the tale and the consequences that ensue for the narrator.

Waiting on the Drop

Have you ever been in a situation where you had a feeling something bad was going to happen? Maybe it was a bad report card that you knew you'd be in trouble for when you got home. Perhaps you had a minor fender bender in your spouse's car and were just waiting for them to discover the brand new dent. Whatever it was, like the old saying goes, you were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

''Waiting for the other shoe to drop'' means you're anticipating something - usually something bad - happening. Much like the narrator of our story, ''An Uncomfortable Bed,'' you're prepared for the worst. Our narrator, however, prepares for the worst ... and nothing happens! Nothing except his own suspicions that get the best of him. Let's take a look at the story.

Summarizing ''An Uncomfortable Bed''

When the story opens on a chateau in Picardy (that's in France), we're introduced to a group of friends who have gotten together for hunting season. The narrator tells us one critical detail about these friends, but doesn't go into deep explanation about each guy: these guys are jokesters. As in, they like to play practical jokes on each other and everyone else. It's a fact that the narrator doesn't object to because he tells us, ''My friends were fond of practical joking, as all my friends are. I do not care to know any other sort of people.''

Immediately On Guard

Very early in the story - in fact, upon the narrator's arrival - we discover that he is immediately distrustful of his friends' welcome. The pack of friends engage in some shooting, but all the while, the narrator is waiting for the other shoe to drop: ''Look out, old ferret! They have something in preparation for you,'' he says.

Dinnertime has arrived and, still, the narrator is suspicious. His friends' mirth (or fun) is too great, the narrator concludes. Surely the friends are up to something. Yet, the evening continues without incident. It doesn't stop the narrator from watching every word and meaning uttered during their time together. He's even suspicious of the servants in the residence.

Bedtime Comes

At last, the hour for bedtime arrives, and each friend prepares to retire for the evening. The narrator, already in his room, hears laughter and whispering in the hall. Surely, now, the practical joke is close to happening.

The narrator looks around the room: from the curtains to the armchair. He lights every candle in the room, fearful of his single candle going out and being the subject of a great joke in the dark.

The bed, the narrator decides, looks particularly suspicious: ''I was going perhaps to receive a cold shower-bath from overhead, or perhaps, the moment I stretched myself out, to find myself sinking under the floor with my mattress,'' he offers.

To thwart any possible practical joke attempts, the narrator decides to pull the mattress off of the bed's frame and position it in the center of the room. It's here that he settles in for the night and eventually falls asleep.

What a Trip

After hours of sleep, the narrator is awoken by a heavy body falling on him and a hot liquid scorching his skin. It turns out to be a valet (or servant) bringing the narrator his morning tea. Because the mattress was in the middle of the floor, the valet tripped, causing him to fall and spill the hot beverage.

For all the precautions the narrator had taken, he had created the very situation he was trying to avoid. The encounter, of course, was viewed with great humor by his hunting friends.

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