This story, the last of the series of eight written by Simenon for Paris-Soir-Dimanche (appeared Jan. 3, 1937) shows us Maigret in an unusual light.
Indeed, while we know the great humanity, empathy and compassion the Chief Inspector shows toward his "fellow human beings", we discover him here disgusted, exasperated, irritated by someone to the point of feeling the need to strike him, an attitude far from common for him.
In fact we can count the rare cases when Maigret feels this repulsion toward someone he encounters... There is Dandurand (Maigret and the Spinster [CEC]):
"He who, despite his gruff airs, had so much indulgence for most human weaknesses, bristled before certain types of being, feeling physically sickened at their approach. Now, M. Dandurand was one of these..."
Similarly, it's even rarer that Maigret strikes someone... He slaps Philippe de Moricourt (My Friend Maigret [AMI]), and Alban Groult-Cotelle (Inspector Cadaver [CAD]), "petty racketeers" that he despises. He uses his fists even less frequently, only when he feels a true loathing for the person before him. In these cases, the person he strikes has made an innocent victim suffer... like Labri in the present story, or Ramuel in The Hotel Majestic [MAJ]):
"Then he looked at his hands. It was a Maigret that few people knew, and those who did rarely boasted about it afterwards. ... In an instant, Maigret's fist shot out, striking the nose of the accountant, who'd raised his arms too late."
There, it was the "dirty trick" played on Prosper Donge that Maigret sought to avenge by hitting Ramuel, while here it's the shattered innocence of young Emilienne that Maigret responds to by punching Labri in the face. In both cases, Maigret puts himself in the victim's shoes, or at least he feels very close to them. And it's with "almost a father's rage, as if he were avenging his own daughter" that he hounds Labri...
And perhaps if Maigret is so harsh, it's because he has a special interest in innocent young girls and victims of bad luck... Thinking of Louise Laboine (Maigret and the Young Girl [JEU]), Emma (The Yellow Dog [JAU]), Arlette (Maigret in Montmartre [PIC]), and others, it's as if he feels a special mission to defend these helpless beings...
Finally, we note this "gut reaction", violent and physical, of Maigret, a part of the character as he was in the first part of the corpus... It is interesting to see that in this story, where Maigret appears so hard, comments on his massive physical aspect abound... "Maigret was too big, too wide for this basement"; "the facts that Maigret, his mouth in a snarl, mulled over in his massive head", "he could hardly restrain his large fists". We find here the Maigret of the Fayard cycle, with the elephantine traits as described, for example, in Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets [PHO], this massive silhouette ends up, however, by "slimming down" with time, if not literally, at least figuratively... The terms describing the "rustic" characteristics of Maigret are much more numerous in the Fayard period, and if his silhouette remains as corpulent in the Presses de la Cité cycle, the author no longer attaches any importance to it, as if the heavines had become, above all, "interior". And with the "erasure" of the rough-hewn features, there was also a certain indulgence which replaced the repulsions. Certainly, Maigret continues to to be angered by the nastiness of which a human being is capable, but more and more, it becomes possible for him to understand all the deprivations, or rather, all the human weaknesses...