Anton Chekhov “The Beauties” and Guy de Maupassant “Useless Beauty”

One of the Beauties from the book Hong Lou Meng "the Dream of Red Mansion"
One of the Beauties from the book Hong Lou Meng “the Dream of Red Mansion”

Humans are created in such a way that they prefer certain proportions called harmonious or beautiful.

In beauty we just rest… Milorad Pavic said that it is so hard to create something beautiful, so much effort is spent on it. In contact with the beautiful, we feel relieved knowing that when the overall energy in the world was distributed, we were saved a certain amount of labor: the efforts of others invested in the beauty reduce our share of fatigue. Saved from a certain expenditure of energy, we can enjoy it.

Many wrote about this magnificent subject. I would like to talk about two short stories. One of them is “The Beauties” by Anton Chekhov.

This a short story about feelings that the narrator had after seeing two beautiful women. He talks about two episodes that took place at different periods of his life. Strong emotions he experienced being next to beautiful young women (he did not even talk to them) stayed in his memory forever. “It was a sadness as vague and undefined as a dream … as though we all four had lost something important and essential to life which we should never find again.”
The second story is called “Useless Beauty” by Guy de Maupassant. The main characters are an old fashioned husband, firmly believing that women’s purpose is solely to bear and raise children and his wife, a beautiful young woman in a “constant state of pregnancy”. She lives very different ideals, she wants to combine education of children and the enjoyment of life. In order to get “freedom” and start living her own life, the heroine lies to her husband, and tells him that one of the children is not his. The torture of the uncertainty (which child is not mine?) distances him and they live separately for another six years. But what is interesting that she was not only able to recover his respect and love but even provoke a strange emotion in him, “perhaps more dangerous than age-old simple love.”

Here are his feelings at the end of the story: (translation by …)
“He looked her full in the face, and how beautiful she was, with her gray eyes, like the cold sky. In her dark hair sparkled the diamond coronet, like a radiance. He suddenly felt, felt by a kind of intuition, that this grand creature was not merely a being destined to perpetuate the race, but the strange and mysterious product of all our complicated desires which have been accumulating in us for centuries but which have been turned aside from their primitive and divine object and have wandered after a mystic, imperfectly perceived and intangible beauty. There are some women like that, who blossom only for our dreams, adorned with every poetical attribute of civilization, with that ideal luxury, coquetry and aesthetic charm which surrounds women, a living statue that brightens our life.”

As a closing note, the very stories of Chekhov and Maupassant are beauties themselves.

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