Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant

Bel-Ami follows the story of Georges Duroy, a young soldier who returns from the war to conquer Algeria and finds himself penniless upon his return to Paris. With the help of his friend Forestier, he meets a newspaper owner who employs him after commissioning him to write his first article on Algeria. This article was written by Madeleine Forestier, his friend’s wife, who helped him write it. Little by little, other women will help Georges: all of them are seduced by this elegant and gallant young man, whom they nickname their “beautiful friend”. For his part, they court them for the benefits they can bring him. Gradually rising through the ranks of the newspaper, Georges reaches the pinnacle of his social ascension by marrying Suzanne Walter, the daughter of a banker and his former mistress. The main themes of this novel are seduction and manipulation, French society under the Third Republic, social class relations, the journalistic milieu and male/female relations.

Against a backdrop of colonial politics, Maupassant describes the close links between capitalism, politics and the press, as well as the influence of women, who have been deprived of political life since the Napoleonic code and who work in the shadows to educate and advise. A satire of a moneyed society undermined by the political scandals of the late 19th century; the work is presented as a small monograph of the Parisian press insofar as Maupassant implicitly shares his experience as a reporter. Thus, the rise of Georges Duroy can be compared to Maupassant’s own rise1. Indeed, Bel-Ami is the perfect description of the opposite of Guy de Maupassant, Georges Duroy becoming a kind of opposite of the author, whom Maupassant will mock throughout the novel.


Guy de Maupassant was a French writer and literary journalist who was born on August 5, 1850, at the Château de Miromesnil in the Seine-Inférieure region and died on July 6, 1893, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

Related to Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola, Maupassant left his mark on French literature through his six novels, including Une vie in 1883, Bel-Ami in 1885, Pierre et Jean in 1887-1888, and above all through his short stories (sometimes called tales), such as Boule de Suif in 1880, Contes de la bécasse (1883) or Le Horla (1887). 


These works are noteworthy for their realistic strength, the important presence of fantasy and the pessimism that often emerges, but also for their stylistic mastery.

Maupassant’s literary career was limited to a decade – from 1880 to 1890 – before he gradually sank into madness and died shortly before the age of 43. Recognized during his lifetime, he maintained a prominent reputation, which was further enhanced by the numerous film adaptations of his works.


Louise Dufossé



Related Articles