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Literature / The Diary of a Madman

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The Diary of A Madman is an 1885 short story by Guy de Maupassant. It has been adapted into a radio play as an episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

A notary discovers the diary of an upright magistrate who recently passed away. It turns out that the man was a serial killer.

No relation to Diary of a Madman by Nikolai Gogol.


  • Above Good and Evil: For the judge, killing is not a crime but the law of the nature and thus condemning murder is an aberration of society.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The Judge's first victim is his servant's goldfinch before he moves on to murdering humans.
  • Beneath Suspicion:
    Who would ever know? Who would ever suspect me, me, me, especially if I should choose a being I had no interest in doing away with?
  • Blood Bath: Invoked. After seeing the nephew guillotined, the judge wishes he could have bathed in his blood.
  • Evil Feels Good: The judge finds joy in killing people. He outright claims "there is nothing more beautiful and honorable than killing!".
  • Evil Laugh: The magistrate actually writes "Ah! Ah!" ten times in the manuscript.
  • Evil Nephew: Invoked. As the fisherman's nephew was his heir, he's the prime suspect for his uncle's murder.
  • For the Evulz: The judge has no motivation other than acting upon his murderous urges.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: After killing the boy, the judge writes "In the evening I was very gay, light, rejuvenated".
  • Karma Houdini: The titular madman murdered at least three people but as he was never caught he lived until the age of eighty-two and was sincerely mourned by a whole of people.
  • Lack of Empathy: The judge secretly mocks his servant being clueless about the death of his bird, the sadness of the parents of the boy and the nephew's poorly defending himself.
  • Nameless Narrative: No characters have name except Blondel, a man who commited infanticide, and Jean, the judge's servant.
  • Off with His Head!: The fisherman's nephew charged with the murder of his father is executed by the guillotine.
  • Offing the Offspring: The diary starts with the judge writing about the case of Blondel, a man who murdered his five children.
  • Posthumous Narration: The author of the journal is dead by the start of the story.
  • Secret Diary: The judge keeps a journal about his philosophy and his crimes entitled Why?.
  • Shovel Strike: The judge kills a sleeping fisherman with a shovel.
  • Slashed Throat: The judge takes a pair of scissors and cuts the throat of his servant’s goldfinch with three slits.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: The narrator concludes that the world has many undiscovered adroit madmen like the lunatic judge.
  • Villain Protagonist: The titular madman is the protagonist who murders a goldfinch, a boy, a fisherman and sentences the fisherman’s nephew to the guillotine.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The judge had the reputation of an honorable and irreproachable defender of justice until the notary discovered his journal.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The judge strangles a little boy and throws his body into a ditch.