After reading the short story “The Wedding Gift” and the poem “Sacrifice,” determine a possible theme that both texts have in common. Write an essay explaining this theme and analyze its development over the course of the text. Be sure to support your thinking with textual evidence and your own explanation.
“The Wedding Gift” by Guy de Maupassant
Jacques Bourdillere had sworn never to marry, but one morning as he lay on the beach, he saw Berthe Lannis on the sand, and he tingled all over. Was this love? He did not know, but he decided to make her his wife.
He had been a playboy, and people were amazed that he was held by the charms of a young girl. He was presented to the family, but her parents were wary of his reputation. Everyone knew that he had left an old sweetheart; however, he settled down, refusing to see her or open her letters.
Berthe and Jacques were wed in Paris at the beginning of May. The couple spent their first night at her parent’s home, planning to leave for the beach where they had met the next morning. The two had retired into a little Japanese boudoir hung with bright silks where they were left alone.
Presently, a servant brought a letter. Jacques took it fearfully, with a wild desire to say, “I’ll leave that ‘til tomorrow, when I’m far away!” But on one corner two big words, underlined, “Very urgent,” filled him with terror. He read the letter, grew frightfully pale, and read it again. His expression showed how upset he was. He stammered, “My best friend has had an accident. I must go, but I’ll be right back.”
Trembling and dazed, she stammered, “Go, my dear.” He rushed downstairs; he stopped under a light and reread the letter:
SIR: Ravet has just given birth to your child. She is dying and begging for you. I took the liberty to ask if you can grant this last request to a woman who seems worthy of pity. Yours truly, DR. BONNARD.
When he reached the sickroom, she was very near death. The doctor and nurses were tending her. In a little crib, the child cried, and the tortured mother tried to move, shivering under her ice bandages. She was mortally wounded by this birth; despite the ice and the care, the hemorrhage continued. He knelt beside the bed, seized her hand and kissed it. She said, “I’m going to die. Promise you won’t leave me in my last moments!”
He kissed her face, weeping, “I will stay.”
It was several minutes before she could continue, “The little one is yours. I swear it before God as I am dying! I never loved another man – promise to take care of our child.”
He tried to hold her in his arms. “I promise you that I will rear him and love him.” Powerless to lift her head, she held out her lips to Jacques; he kissed her.
Soon she calmed, “Bring him here; let me see if you love him.” He placed the baby gently on the bed between them, and the little one stopped crying. Jacques stayed. The child slept, and the mother rested, but as daylight broke, she stretched her arms violently; then she lay dead. Jacques looked once more at this woman he had loved; then he ran with their child in his arms.
After he had left, his young wife waited. When he did not return, she went back to the parlor. Her mother asked, “Where is your husband?” She spoke of the letter, Jacques’s upset appearance, and her fears of an accident. At midnight the bride was put to bed, sobbing bitterly.
At five o’clock the door softly opened and a little cry was heard throughout the silent house. Berthe sprang up. Jacques stood there, holding the infant in his arms. Berthe exclaimed, “What’s happened?”
He looked about wildly and answered, “I – I have a child and the mother has just died.” His clumsy hands held out the screaming infant.
Without saying a word, Berthe seized the child and hugged it to her. Then she raised her tear-filled eyes, asking, “Did you say that the mother was dead?”
He answered, “Yes – just now. I had broken with her since summer. I knew nothing. The physician sent for me.”
Then Berthe murmured: “Well, we will bring up the little one.”