Impact of Silence on Interpersonal Communication in Guy de Maupassant Short Story 'The Model'

Jean’s Ignorant Attitude that Led to Josephine’s Unpredicted Behavior

Guy de Maupassant’s interest in the psychiatry discipline was reflected in the fiction short story “The Model” from the compilation of the short stories in the book “The Necklace and Other Tales”. The plot of the short story is based on the troubled relationships between a painter Jean Sunmer and Josephine, his sit model for the portraits, and on the tragic consequences of their miscommunication.

The main subject of the story is based on the Josephine’s intention to behave according to the prevailing angriness towards Jean’s ignorance, which he manifested by his continuous silence. His ignorant attitude triggered her personal disturbed characteristics, and motives of destroying his life that influenced her unexpected and outraged behavior. The story is written form the point of view that women have greater predisposition to enlightenment and depression, and such tendency is not tenacious to either slight impression or strong emotions. The author was generalizing the feminine gender by naming their resolutions as “violent, unexpected, incomprehensible, and foolish” (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 162). The evidence of these statements is described by Josephine’s final decision to jump out of the window. Therefore, the author supported the general statement that affective state, in which the main female character was, influences the cognition, judgment process and retrieval of the processed conclusions. After the emotion-motivated communication and encoding of the verbal and non-verbal messages, Josephine emphasized the situation and made a decision, according to Jean’s situational motivations that encouraged her to jump.

The story supports general notion of the female gender’s tendency of using eye contact and touching, their adaptation of encoding and decoding nonverbal massages, and their deeper insights into the relations goals. The author describes Josephine as “gifted with that fashionable flippancy” and that she attracted the painter’s attention by her “graceful gestures” (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 163). Moreover, the author confirms the theoretical assumption that women are more likely to use language to form and maintain connections with others, while men use language for self-assertion. Maupassant described Josephine’s desire to talk and her subsequent change in attitude by fully developed concise dialogue line with distinct, intentional and meaningful form of interpersonal communication. In the context of Jean and Josephine’s interpersonal relations, silence became not only the absence of speech, but it has transformed into the absence of the message and meaning between these two communicants. Moreover, the author emphasized that in their case silence, as a form of a non-verbal communication, was seen as an ignorant attitude that led to the conflicting behavior.

Confrontation of Silence and Non-Verbal Interpersonal Communication

The theme of the story is based on the unexpectedness of silence, and the negative feelings it may bring to these, whose speech arises from it. The author added that Josephine’s “unexpected reproaches, unsuitable recriminations” were left without any response from Jean (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 164). Therefore, their miscommunication, based on his ignorance, did not bring silence in return, but transformed it into the “storm of abuse” (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 164).

The idea of the story is based on the differences between the consequences of silence and non-verbal expressions. Jean’s silence with ensuing ignorance has only outraged Josephine, but his non-verbal references and gestures have stimulated Josephine to commit a severe emotionally motivated and rash action. Josephine implicitly suggested how she wanted to be perceived, received and related to by throwing the money he left her “with truly noble gesture” (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 167).  The author supports his idea by presenting the word-pictures and actions in the scene of the conflict, where the attitude brings about the unexpected and tragic consequence. The accompanying movement of his (Jean’s) gesture that expressed the desire “to let someone else precede him” facilitated the speech and aided the receiver’s (Josephine’s) comprehension of the message, which emphasized the verbal message “then kill yourself” (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 168).

The author’s narration is not presented in the series of the chronological events, but it traces the reader back to the past events, recalled by an outside character. The author’s explosion is explained and clarified by the outcome of the conflicting attitude, when Jean, “wild with remorse”, eventually married the crippled girl (Guy de Maupassant, 2003, p. 168). The author expressed Jean’s feelings as a guilty gratitude, which has appeared as a consequence of his ignorance.

However, the important argument of the moral of the story is that Jean’s silence, after its negative effect on their communication, was contributed by the Josephine’s silence, which eventually replaced her speech.  

Are Men the Only Victims of Women’s Unexpected Actions?

The specialists, who are interested in the peculiarities of the interpersonal behavior and attitude, can be intended readers of the story. The author claims that women employ complex methods in achieving their goals and make men victims of their own ignorance (Guy de Maupassant, 2003). However, it is fair to disagree that men are the only victims of the irreversible conditions. In the story, Josephine sacrificed everything to achieve her goal of staying with him. Nevertheless, the author brings clear evidence, concluding that initial ignorance, which resulted from the silence, will cause the same ignorance and absence of the message in the non-verbal communication.

In addition, the story has left the interpersonal conflict unresolved. The details of the resulted relationship, given by the author, indicate that miscommunication yielded into the different state of disagreement. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that Josephine became a victim of the action, rather than Jean became a victim of the situation.

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