In this lesson, we’ll examine the characters from ‘The Piece of String.’ Written by Guy de Maupassant, this short story is about a man who is falsely accused of theft, which leads to some tragic consequences.

‘The Piece of String’

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? In ‘The Piece of String’ by Guy de Maupassant, Maitre Hauchecorne is accused of stealing a wallet after he becomes embarrassed that his enemy has seen him picking up string from the dirt. Let’s find out more about some of the characters in this short story.

Maitre Hauchecorne

Maitre Hauchecorne is the protagonist in ‘The Piece of String.’ He’s a thrifty man with rheumatism who does not let a discarded piece of string on the ground go to waste. However, Maitre Hauchecorne is too proud to allow his enemy see him pick it up. Unfortunately, his embarrassed reaction causes suspicion, and when a wallet goes missing, Hauchecorne is falsely accused of stealing it.

Due to his peasant status, no one is willing to listen to Hauchecorne’s side of the story. When the wallet is returned to its owner, Hauchecorne expects vindication, but regrettably, no one believes that he’s innocent. He becomes obsessed with clearing his name to no avail. Hauchecorne ends up becoming physically ill and dying because he’s so upset at this accusation.

Maitre Malandain

Maitre Malandain is Hauchecorne’s enemy. Malandain is a harness maker, a person that makes equestrian supplies, such as saddles. Hauchecorne and Malandain ‘had once had a quarrel about a halter, and they had borne each other malice ever since.’

So, when Malandain sees his enemy acting in a suspicious manner, he assumes the worst. Malandain tells city officials that he witnessed Hauchecorne picking up the wallet. The mayor believes Malandain because he ‘is a man whose word can be relied on’ and would not mistake a string for a wallet.

Malandain testifies against Hauchecorne. When the wallet is returned, he leads the pack in making sure Hauchecorne is viewed as the town joke. Malandain represents the idea that we don’t always see our enemies clearly.

Supporting Characters

‘The Piece of String’ includes several other characters who play supporting roles in this short story. The town crier announces that Maitre Holbreque has lost his wallet and there’s a reward for its return. The Corporal of Gendarmes apprehends Hauchecorne and takes him to the mayor, who instantly believes Malandain instead of Hauchecorne because of his social status. Even after Hauchecorne requests to be searched, the mayor does not believe him and announces that ‘he would inform the public prosecutor and ask for orders.’

Marius Paumelle is a farm hand who returns to wallet the following day. Even then, the people believe that Hauchecorne and Paumelle worked collaboratively to steal the wallet and gain access to the reward.

Lesson Summary

In ‘The Piece of String,’ a short story by Guy de Maupassant, Maitre Hauchecorne is a thrifty peasant falsely accused of stealing a wallet when picking up string from the dirt. Maitre Malandain is Hauchecorne’s enemy, the result of a disagreement they once had about a business deal. Malandain sees Hauchecorne picking up the string and believes it to be Maitre Holbreque’s missing wallet. Malandain reports the incident to the mayor and testifies against Hauchecorne. The Corporal of Gendarmes arrests Hauchecorne and takes him to the mayor, who believes that Hauchecorne is guilty despite a lack of evidence. Marius Paumelle, a farm worker, returns the wallet the next day. However, no one believes Hauchecorne is innocent, and he becomes ill and dies, without ever clearing his name.