Idyll

idyllThis little known story from Guy de Maupassant is about a man and woman who meet and become friends during a long train journey. The woman is a and has not had a baby to her breast in the last two days. Because of this she is in great pain. The man offers to help her, and in doing this solves a problem of his own.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , wet-nurse, , and .

There is also a word that is in our Pre-Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. Towards the end of the story the woman cries out: I can’t stand it any more!. The woman is talking about her pain, and the word stand here has nothing to do with being on your feet. If you can’t , it means that you strongly dislike it or can’t put up with it any more.

General Comments on the Story

I imagine that this story would have been considered quite shocking at the time it was written, which is probably why it is not included in any of the Maupassant short story collections available in the public domain.

An Idyll is a piece of writing that describes peaceful country life. The extensive descriptions of the setting throughout the story are therefore important. They provide a contrast to the far from peaceful journey being experienced by the two travelers. The woman is in great pain because her breasts are too full of milk; the young man has no money and has not eaten for two days.

The story raises the question of why in some cultures women’s breasts are regarded as so erotic that they must always be covered, whereas in others they are left bare and not given a second thought. At the beginning of the story there is a suggestion that the young man is shocked and perhaps even aroused as the woman unbuttons her dress and he sees a flash of white undergarment and a little of her skin. As the story progresses her breasts are reduced to their purely functional forms and are described as human fountains and living gourds.

One must wonder whether Maupassant’s surprise ending was intended to leave questions in reader’s minds. In most cultures, a man drinking a woman’s milk would be considered socially acceptable. Is there a suggestion here that the young man might have let the woman suffer if he had not been so hungry? Could Maupassant be going even further and asking readers to think about whether they would do the same thing help a woman in similar circumstances?


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wet-nurse(n: wet-nurse pl wet-nurses) A woman who cares for and breast-feeds other people's babies as a job. (เป็นแม่นมเลี้ยงเด็กทารก)

boil(v: boil, boils, boiled, boiling) 1. To heat a liquid (or a container with liquid in it) so that bubbles are formed and rise to the top. I'm boiling water to make coffee. 2. To cook by boiling. I've boiled some eggs.
(adj: boiled) Used to refer to things that have been cooked by boiling. boiled eggs 2000

breast(n: breast pl breasts) Either one of the two soft parts on a woman's chest that produce milk when she has a baby. 3000

breathe(v: breathe, breathes, breathed, breathing) To move air into and out of your lungs; to inhale and exhale. He was breathing hard from running.
(phrasal verb: breathe deeply) To take a lot of air into your lungs. 3000

carriage(n: carriage pl carriages) 1. A horse-drawn vehicle with four wheels that is used to carry people. 2. [British] A separate section of a train. A railway carriage. 4000

comfortable(adj: comfortable) 1. In comfort; pleasantly relaxed. He looked very comfortable in his chair. 2. Producing a good physical feeling. A comfortable chair. 3. Financially secure without being rich. They have a comfortable standard of living. 2000

embarrass(v: embarrass, embarrasses, embarrassed, embarrassing) To make (a person, group, government, etc.) feel foolish, self-conscious or ashamed about something. 2000

faint(v: faint, faints, fainted, fainting) To feel weak or tired and suddenly fall down and become unconscious.
(adj: faint, fainter, faintest) 1. Feeling weak or tired, as if you are going to fall down. 2. Not clearly seen, heard, tasted, felt, etc. 3000

nipple(n: nipple pl nipples) 1. Either one of the two small, round parts on a person's chest that are darker in color than the area around them. 2. A rubber or plastic device that is attached to a bottle and that has a small opening from which a baby can suck milk; a teat. 6000

pair(n: pair pl pairs) 1. Two things that are the same and usually seen together, or two things that are meant to be used together. A pair of gloves/lovers/shoes/socks/twins, etc. 2. A single thing made up of two parts which are joined. A pair of glasses/pants/scissors, etc. 1000

pour(v: pour, pours, poured, pouring) 1. To [cause to] flow in a steady stream. She poured the milk into a bowl. Water poured down the wall. People were pouring out of the factory. 2. [only with 'it' as subject] To rain heavily. It was pouring this morning. 2000

suck(v: suck, sucks, sucked, sucking) 1. To have something in your mouth and use your tongue, lips, etc to pull on it or to get liquid, air, etc out of it. Young animals learn to suck milk from their mothers. 2. To pull something somewhere using the force of moving air, water, etc. The vacuum cleaner sucked up all the dirt from the carpet. (ดูด) 3000

sweat(n: sweat, noncount) The clear liquid given out through the skin when hot, scared or nervous. (เหงื่อ)
(v: sweats, sweated, sweating) To give out sweat through the skin. (ทำให้เหงื่อออก) 3000

animal tracksbush track(n: track pl tracks) 1. A mark left on the ground by a moving animal, person, or vehicle. (ร่องรอย) 2. A path or narrow, rough road that is made by animals, people or vehicles traveling through a field, forest, etc. (ถนน) 3. A pair of metal bars that a train, tram, or subway car rides along. (รางรถไฟ) 4. An often circular path or road that is used for racing. A race/running track. (ลู่)
(v: track, tracks, tracked, tracking) 1. To follow and try to find (someone or something) by looking for its tracks and other signs that show where it has gone. He tracked the deer for a mile. 2. To follow or watch the path of (something). The ship can track incoming missiles with radar. (ตามรอย) 2000

police whistlinggirl whistling(n: whistle pl whistles) A device through which air or steam is forced to produce a very high and loud sound. The policeman blew his whistle. (นกหวีด)
(v: whistle, whistles, whistled, whistling) 1. To produce a very high, often musical, sound by forcing air through your lips or teeth. He whistled a happy tune. (ผิวปาก) 2. To make such a sound with a whistle or by passing quickly through the air. The bullet whistled past his head. (ทำให้เกิดเสียงหวีดหวิว) 3. (of the wind) To blow with such a sound. (พัดให้เกิดเสียงหวีดหวิว) 3000

wipe(v: wipe, wipes, wiped, wiping) To clean or dry something by using a cloth, your hand, etc. (เช็ด) 2000

cannot stand(v: stand something or someone) To be willing or able to accept (something or someone unpleasant) without complaint. (อดทน)
If you say you cannot stand something or someone, it means that you strongly dislike it or can't put up with it any more. They can't stand being apart. He couldn't stand the pain.

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