In the literature book (Glencoe Literature) my high school uses for sophomores is a short story I really enjoy teaching: “The False Gems” by Guy de Maupassant. I have my students read it–in the more unruly classes I have to read it to them—and then have them write a paragraph explaining the meaning of the ending expressed in the last two paragraphs. Bless their hearts—while they do make some good points, they can’t figure out how the deceased wife had made the money to help the clerk live their fine life on his meager salary. Yet, the man didn’t know either. I guess he never took the time to do the simple math of their budget. Even when the students find out the gems are not fake as the husband supposed, they still don’t get it. There is a great deal of irony in the story, and in the classes that read, listen, and think, discussion is always lively and interesting. When I teach this story, I try to get the students to learn a little bit of French culture, geography, and language, but am not usually successful.
Maupassant is said to be one of the fathers of the modcern short story. I’ve decided to add his biography to my list of must-read-books, as well as deciding to read much more of his fiction. I believe there is much I can learn from him. Here is a fine site devoted to Maupassant, with a brief but fasdcinating biography and a collection of his stories (in English) that you can read online: http://www.online-literature.com/maupassant/