According to The Horla by Guy De Maupassant, the author draws a middle class, unmarried and conservative character, who is in agony of feelings and thoughts indicating the nature of humans running from reality. Consequently, this character happens to be the author himself. Maupassant uses vivid description to elaborate the state of his mind and how it has influenced his life. He is seen as slowly losing sanity. The detailed analysis of the author clearly shows how one gets in touch with their feelings when faced with fear and the inevitable thought of death. Detailing his thoughts in the form of a journal, Maupassant attracts the attention of his readers as he takes them through a series of events that he faces evading the invisible being. Criticizing the futility of the human nature, the author seems to envy and elevate the nature of the Horla. He wishes we had other organs which could work miracles to favor us. That is the only way we would discover the fresh things surrounding us. The contentment is further seen as he abhors the weak human sense of smell which he views as inferior as compared to that of a dog. There is no part of the human body he holds in regard. As for the ears he figures out that they transmit the air surrounding us in sonorous notes thereby deceiving us. The dominance of the supernatural is beyond human’s comprehension. Therefore, we cannot figure out the mysterious influences which tend to sway moods. Therefore, due to the weak nature as humans all we have to do is to endure the natural mystery flowing through the air.
The author uses the journal form to characterize the anguish he faces for four days. He argues that he unconsciously invited the supernatural to haunt and torture his home after he sees a magnificent Brazilian three-master boat and salutes. After this event, he starts sensing the strange presence of an invisible being around him. Terming it as the Horla, this being takes control of his being. He argues that the Horla torments him to the extent that he cannot even sleep. The torture is physically manifested at first. The narrator talks of having a feverish attack and consequently a feeling of illness. Waking up at the best of spirits, he takes a walk and on the return he feels low spirited and wrecked. He argues that the invisible air is filled with unknown forces of bad omen which we have to endure. With sleep engulfing him like unarmed man, Maupassant experience vivid nightmares filled with torture and discomfort. Waking it up does not solve the problem whatsoever. A strange feeling of the supernatural watching him and kneeling on his chest fills the air. The main character is disappointed by the inferior organs of the human nature as opposed to the all powerful and controlling Horla. Other than the physical torture, the invisible being slowly starts gaining dominion over the author’s mind. It is at this stage that he starts questioning his own sanity as alienates his feelings. Trying to figure out what the Horla lives on, he carries out different tests and discovers that he survives on milk and water. However, he is not contented as he questions whether he did drink the water and milk at the middle of the night. “Am I going mad?” he uses such rhetoric questions to figure out his sanity. Maupassant claims to be fully conscious of his state, and that he could analyze it with complete lucidity. He feels possessed and lost and he is ready to kill himself or the Horla. Living in the same house with this invisible being becomes intolerable and the protagonist schemes ways of killing it. After a carefully carried out plan, the main character is sure that he has lured the Horla into a trap. He claims to have been possessed with mad joy on the realization that he was there. He could feel how the creature was moving restless in the room and ordering him to let go. However, he goes out and torches the same house he loved, and he and his family lived. As the frames gave way to the roof, he discovered he had burnt his servants.
How is the author’s life reflected in this work and how does it influence your opinion about the meaning of the work? The novel depicts the life of Maupassant. As the protagonist in the story, the use of first person narration is a clear indication that the author is talking about himself. The short story is edited in the form of a diary where each day’s event is accounted. Dating May 12, he argues to have “had a slight feverish attack for the last few days, and I feel ill, or rather I feel low-spirited”. The torture that the invisible being instills in him makes him be disillusioned and lose hope in life. In the final phrase of the narrative, for example, the author states, “Premature destruction? All human terror springs from that! After man the Horla. After him who can die every day, at any hour, at any moment, by any accident, He came, He who was only to die at his own proper hour and minute, because He had touched the limits of his existence! No - no - there is no doubt about it - He is not dead. Then - then - I suppose I must kill myself! ”. This shows a frustrated person and who sees no worth in living anymore. It is all attributed to the fact that he is not sure whether he was successful in killing the Horla. According to the structure and content of this story, it can be considered as a semi-autobiography. Relating this story from the authors own life, it can be seen his subjectivity in the story and how he exposes his feelings open and wide before putting them into motion. It was in 1892 when he Maupassant attempted to kill himself by committing suicide. As a reader, my opinion lies in the fact that the author is conveying a message to the society at large. The authors questioning his own sanity and dementia is a clear indication of the phases that one goes through when drifting from reality. The diary conveys the psychology of the main character and the fear that engulfs him. The Horla takes control of the individual self and, he cannot resist it. He tries and leaves for Paris but once he is back the nightmares reappear “In any case, my mental state bordered on madness, and twenty-four hours of Paris sufficed to restore me to my equilibrium”.
The review of this work indicates a similarity between the reviewers. All seem to share the thought that the author is the main protagonist in this short story. According to Joshi and David E. Schultz, the Horla can be seen as an extension of the plot in the story “The Theater upstairs”. The story tells of the invisible creature that lives on water and milk. The experiences of the author that consequently leads to his madness can be attributed to the invisible but evidently specific being called the Horla. Maupassant describes the being throughout the story as a superior being contrast to the inferiority of humanity (Gustave,1993). The protagonist tries to figure where the creature comes from and argues that he hails from the future or other worlds. The being invades him when he is watching a strange, magnificent and beautiful Brazilian ship. From here henceforth, Maupassant starts experiencing discomfort. Other reviewers arguably say that the author was critically insane (Lynn, 2000). How could one feel the presence of the invisible as seen in the following statement? “So I pretended to be writing in order to deceive Him, for He also was watching me, and suddenly I felt, I was certain, that He was reading over my shoulder, that He was there, almost touching my ear ” (Lynn, 2000). Concentrating on the anxiety that the author faces, the hallucinations that the protagonist experiences are contrary to his analysis of himself and claiming that he was sane. The sense to perceive in its entirety causes the author to get the infallible certainty of the presence of the invisible watching his every move. As the book pages open by themselves, the author is certain that the creature was imitating his every move (Roger, 1980). Other than his mental illness, he also uses skepticism to criticize national rulers. This depicts the French society of the time from where Maupassant was born. The fascination of Mesmer’s theory of magnetism and the visionary estimation of the power suggestion is some of the other factors that have given birth to the Horla. This book can therefore, be used as to analyze the different perspectives it analyzes such as the struggle for power, human inferiority and the desire of mortal beings to be left to free will (Gustave, 1993).
Maupassant uses the belief in the supernatural to develop his plot. The story being based in the journal form uses the first person narration to convey the feelings of the main character. They are characterized by fear of the invisible being and the inferiority of the human nature on lack of control in their own being. The result of this is disillusionment and the lack of value in life. It is clear from the story as the author lack self worth in himself after the realization that he may have failed in his mission of killing the invisible. This can be attributed to the feeling of discomfort and torture that the human race experiences after following desires which yield to not. The feeling is so strong such that it is uncontrollable. At some specific points in life one experiences doubts even towards themselves. This questioning of self sanity is an indication of lack of control of destinies. In the story, for example, the author says that the air hangs with an evil that we cannot control and all we have to do are trying and live with it. The mystery of the invisible seems profound and that we (humans) cannot fathom it with minor, miserable senses. The author uses the idea of inferiority to depict how as a human we are miserable. We always yearn and crave for more power and the desire to be free and able to control every feeling, emotions and be supernatural. However, this is not always the case, as a result the end product is making haste decisions that we live with the consequences. Despite the fact that the author loved his house as seen in the first passage where he uses vivid description to illustrate what a lovely and wonderful surrounding it had, his obsession with the Horla does not spare it as he torches it in the name of killing the invisible creature. This illustrates situations in real life. Many have lost the things that they hold dear in the pursuit of power and freedom. The obsession with these feelings results in the tragic downfall of many mighty and elevated men. Trying to control the supernatural is one of the hardest things that a human cannot fathom. However, it is evident that the uneducated and the lowly in society are the most affected by this analogy. As seen in modern society, many evade the reality of life and hide in veils of religion and belief in the invisible. Just as the author’s state went from bad to worse, so do those whose unrealistic expectations are not met rise to insanity.
In conclusion, the author draws a middle class, unmarried and conservative character, who is in agony of feelings and thoughts to indicate the nature of humans running from reality. The events that unfold in this short narrative are vividly described as the author uses description to outline the flow of the story. From this story, various issues are addressed that gives the reader an avenue for exploration. Faced with an invisible creature that controls and takes hold of your self will and freedom of privacy, what would one do?