Maupassant's A Family: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are reading 'A Family' by Maupassant, you may be wondering what it all means and what really happens. In this lesson, we will go over the main events and offer an analysis of the story.


If you have ever visited someone else's family and thought about how different their lives are, you will be able to relate to George in 'A Family'. Let's take a look at one man's reaction to the way his long-lost friend's life has turned out.

About the Author

Maupassant, was born as Henry-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant in France on August 5th 1850. He is considered one of the greatest French short story writers of all time. His work is famous for naturalism and is set mostly in France or around French characters. He died in 1893, shortly before his 43rd birthday after spending his last days in an asylum where he was committed for self-harm.


'A Family' begins with the main character, George, riding on a train. He is on his way to meet his long-lost best friend Simon Radevin. He and this man haven't seen each other in 15 years, basically since Simon got married to a girl George describes as a skinny, blond average nobody who had no attributes that made her unique or stand out. Before Simon's marriage, he and George would spend all their time together, traveling, reading, admiring the same things and laughing at the same things. He waits, curious about how Simon might have changed.


When the train stops, a chubby man greets George with a hug. He doesn't recognize his friend at all. One of his first impressions is that Simon has lost a lot of his intellect. Simon has brought along two out of his five children to meet George - his 14-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. They get into a carriage and head towards Simon's home located in a quaint town. They are received by the wife, who is also stout. George describes her as a basic ''human breeding machine'' who has nothing going for her but the rearing of her children. He meets the remaining three children and an old paralyzed man, her grandfather.

The Grandfather

There is a good spread of food and desserts for dinner. Simon jokes about how greedy the old man is for sweets, and the children giggle at his silly behavior. The old man refuses to eat his dinner and in protest spills his food instead of eating it. Unable to speak coherently, he grunts when he sees his favorite dish, creamed rice. The family teases him by pretending not to give him any. Once be begins to cry and throw tantrums, they give him a small helping.

George is not amused. He sees no sense in this behavior. They tease him, then deny this old man the one thing he wants and the reason they give is ''it would harm him, at his age''.


Throughout the story, George seems like an open-minded man, an intellectual who isn't too taken by traditional thought or values. Despite his intellect, he is guilty of romanticizing the past. The best examples to show this are how he looks back on his memories of Simon versus the opinion he has of Simon's wife. He reminisces fondly about the good old days with his friend Simon, when they were free to do as they liked. He says that Simon was an intellectual and that an ordinary girl with nothing special about her somehow won him over.

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