Maupassant's Moonlight: 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.

'Moonlight' by Guy de Maupassant is an interesting short story about a woman confiding in her sister about being unfaithful to her husband. In this lesson, you will read a summary of this story as well as an analysis.

About the Author

Guy de Maupassant's full name was Henry-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant. He was born in 1850 and died in 1893 at the age of 42. He was an apprentice of Gustave Flaubert, which set him out to be a writer. He is known for his short stories, which depict life in the 19th century. 'Moonlight' is one such story. He beautifully describes human emotion, landscape and relationships.


Sister Chat

The opening scene of 'Moonlight' begins with Madame Julie Roubere sitting in the parlor of her house one late evening, awaiting the arrival of her sister, Madamme Henriette Letore. Henriette has just returned from a five week visit to Switzerland and is stopping by to meet her sister. Her husband has carried on to their house in Calvados already. When she does arrive, the sisters hug each other several times and start bantering (small talk) about family and other things sisters gossip about.

White Hair

Julie suddenly notices white strips of hair on either side of her sister's face. It's unusual as she is only 24 years old and didn't have it before she went on her trip. Julie is very worried. She continuously questions Henriette, asking if something is wrong. Finally, Henriette reveals that she has a lover. She pours her heart out to her sister. She explains how she wishes her husband wasn't so bland (boring) with her. She wishes her husband would make her feel as this person did. She even calls herself mad for thinking so.

The Moon

She further explains the exact moment she had the realization that her true feelings were being subdued or oppressed. She tells Julie how she had been overwhelmed with emotion over a gorgeous scenery and asked him to kiss her in celebration. He brushed this suggestion off like it was absurd. At this moment is when she realizes that she was ''brimming over with poetry which he kept me from expressing''. So, that evening she goes for a walk by herself by the lake to enjoy the beauty of the full moon. She longs for the affection and romance that she never receives from her husband and begins to cry. Hearing her, a young man approaches. He comforts her, says all the right things, and they get caught up in the moment.

At this point, Henriette is crying out of guilt. Julie explains to her that sometimes women don't love men but love 'love,' and that night her real lover was not a man but the moonlight.


The story is about two affectionate sisters. The younger sister (Henriette) confesses to Julie about cheating on her husband. She describes her married life as being quite dry and jaded (dull). Her husband does not show her affection, is not romantic, does not show emotion, and also snubs any affection she tries to show towards him. She mentions in the book how she wishes he would embrace her, give her kisses, be foolish, or show some weakness or need for her.

She feels trapped with emotion and, like a pressure cooker, has the need to let it out. She expresses this by saying she was brimming over with poetry, which he kept her from expressing. This was after she described how her husband refused to kiss her when she asked for one in a moment of beautiful scenery.

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