The woman at the center of Maupassant's Boule de Suif would not have been popular in modern America. Nonetheless, it is clear that even though the author does not sugar-coat her appearance, he is fond of his heroine and is on her side throughout the story.
I love this photo of the Russian actress Galina Sergeyeva as Boule de Suif in the old silent movie made in 1934.
The woman, who belonged to the courtesan class, was celebrated for an embonpoint unusual for her age, which had earned her the sobriquet of "Boule de Suif" (Tallow Ball). She was short and round, fat as a pig, with puffy fingers constricted at the joints, looking like rows of short sausages. With her shiny, tightly-stretched skin and an enormous bust filling out the bodice of her dress, she was yet attractive and much sought after, owing to her fresh and pleasing appearance. Her face was like a crimson apple, a peony-bud just bursting into bloom; she had magnificent dark eyes, fringed with thick, heavy lashes, which cast a shadow into their depths; her mouth was small, ripe, kissable, and was furnished with the tiniest white teeth.
As soon as she was recognized, the respectable matrons of the party began to whisper among themselves, and the words "hussy" and "public scandal" were uttered so loudly that Boule de Suif raised her head. She forthwith cast such a challenging, bold look at her neighbors that a sudden silence fell on the company, and all lowered their eyes, with the exception of Loiseau, who watched her with evident interest.