After the Bel Ami Book Club embarked on reading Chapters 1-4, we met up Chatzy style, to discuss our findings. Meeting Attendees: Kiva, Krystle, Carola, Griselle, Lili
First take on George Duroy
He’s a very insecure man – embarrassed of his lack of fortune, and will do pretty much anything to get ahead in life. Duroy somewhat knows he has a way with the ladies but hasn’t quite figured out how to use this to benefit himself.
“'There’s a good-looking fellow; if he would like to have me for ten louis I wouldn’t say No.'
Forestier turned and tapped Duroy on the knee, with a smile. 'That’s meant for you; you’re a success, my dear fellow. I congratulate you.'"
Duroy has definitely been around (he robbed and killed during his military time). However, it seems Duroy is just winging it, just learning as he goes. He doesn’t plan ahead very much – clearly living just one day at a time. When we first meet his character, he doesn’t have any major career plans. He’s barely getting by on a clerk’s salary. Then he runs into an old pal, Forestier, and a career in journalism becomes a possibility.
Duroy has no problem finding comfort with prostitutes but is taken aback to find out Clotilde is married and Mrs. Forestier proposes he call on her sometime. Duroy is even more shocked when he finds out Mrs. Forestier was the former mistress of Count de Vaudrec and that he visits her seemingly often. Duroy must have had a fantastical ideal of how high society lives. He’s quickly learning how these people really live.
Keeping Up Appearances
High society living in this era was so much about keeping up an image and playing out formalities. In actuality, it’s all just a big show. Couples are married but are often sleeping with someone else. And the majority of the town knows it; it’s just not openly discussed – only whispered about.
So many marriages during this time were set up almost as business deals – done out of the necessity to secure your position in society. Did true love even exist? True love was most likely looked at like a fantasy – something read about but never actually witnessed.
Does Duroy Get Ahead of Himself?
After Mrs. Forestier pretty much writes his first article for him and it appears in print, Duroy embarks on a celebratory binge. He purchases numerous copies of the Vie Francaise, sends himself truffles, marches into the Northern Railway office and quits his job quite theatrically.
"'I said that I don’t give a damn about it. I have only called today to tender my resignation. I am engaged on the staff of the Vie Francaise at five hundred francs a month, and extra pay for all I write. Indeed, I made my debut this morning.'”
A bit over the top Mr. Duroy! And he exaggerated his salary by more than double!
Duroy gets put back in his place quickly by Forestier when he fails to turn the follow-up article in on time and tries to call upon Mrs. Forestier for help once again. Chapter 4 finishes with Duroy almost the same as we found him at the beginning of the book, scraping by financially. However, Duroy has gotten a taste of high society life and it only makes him thirst for it more. It’s a puzzle he wants to solve and he has no plans on giving up anytime soon.
So far, all sex scenes have been "fade to black." What's the deal Maupassant? I think he and Stephenie Meyer are in bed together. However, Bel Ami was written more than a century before the Twilight saga so I may let this slide. I'm still holding out for some sassy scenes in chapters to come in Bel Ami!! *crosses fingers*
Facial Hair Factor
Several times George Duroy's mustache is brought up in the book. It's supposed to curl up and add to his sex appeal. Yes, it's understood the story takes place in the late 19th century in Paris. However, does Rob really have to sport this look?? My hope: The film starts out with Rob/George/Rorge with a mustache and beard and then BAM! a makeover montage scene where he shaves and sexes himself up. Well, that's what happens in my fanfiction version of Bel Ami.