Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:03 Introduction to ''Two…
  • 0:46 Summary of ''Two Friends''
  • 2:35 Analysis: Politics and…
  • 4:03 Analysis: Bravery and…
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jacob Belknap

Jake has taught English in middle and high school, has a degree in Literature, and has a master's degree in teaching.

Guy de Maupassant's 'Two Friends' tells of two men who oppose violence so much, they enter a war zone to go fishing. In this lesson, you'll explore this story, the author's comments on war, French bravery, and German stereotypes.

Introduction to ''Two Friends''

Have you ever met someone and the two of you just seemed to click? Or maybe the two of you couldn't stop talking or didn't need to say a word, but either way, you had an immediate connection? The two men in Guy de Maupassant's short story ''Two Friends'' have such an understanding. This French story, published in 1883, takes place in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, which lasted for about a year between 1870 and 1871. The two men meet and form a bond while fishing. Their conversations form the basis for the author's exploration of wartime politics, French bravery, and German stereotypes.

In the following sections, let's take a look at what happened in the story before delving into the deeper meaning.

Summary of ''Two Friends''

The two friends, Monsieur Morissot, a watchmaker, and Monsieur Sauvage, a draper, would meet on Sundays while fishing. Both enjoy this pastime and, with few words being spoken between them, fall into a comfortable friendship with each other. Unfortunately, they have not been able to meet for quite a while due to the war.

One day they happen across each other and happily greet each other. They lament not being able to fish due to the war, especially on such a nice day. They go for a drink at a nearby cafe. While drinking, Monsieur Sauvage recklessly suggests the two go down to their old fishing spot, which is in occupied territory. He knows the Colonel and believes he will let them through the French outpost.

They meet again, this time with their fishing rods, receive the password, and make their way into dangerous territory. They point up ahead where the Prussian army is and decide to offer the Prussians fish if they should meet any. They carefully make their way to the water and both begin to catch many fish.

The two men hear cannons fire. This cannon fire leads them to discuss war. Though differing on some points, they ''agree on one point: that they would never be free.''

Suddenly, soldiers arrive and surround the two friends. The soldiers bind the men and bring them to an officer. The officer tells the men he will kill them for being suspected spies unless they give him the password that allowed them to come out into the area. He tries to individually persuade each man to give up the password to no avail.

The men shake hands and wish each other goodbye. Then the order is given and the soldiers execute them. The soldiers tie Morissot's and Sauvage's bodies to rocks and throw them into the water. Noticing the fish the men caught, the officer orders the fish to be cooked and goes back to smoking his pipe.

Analysis: Politics and the Futility of War

We'll begin our analysis of this story by looking at the characters' feelings about war. In the beginning, both Morissot and Sauvage are against the war superficially for having taken their hobby from them. They are no longer able to fish due to the war. Additionally, they live in Paris, which has been besieged for months, increasing food shortages for the Parisians. In this way, the inability to fish becomes doubly negative by taking away a pleasurable activity and a food source.

Sauvage has a sense of naive hopefulness when he says they can offer Prussian soldiers fish if they are found in the danger zone. His foolish good nature sours after the cannon shots. Then both men comment on the futility of war. ''What fools they are to kill one another like that!'' says a frustrated Morissot. ''They're worse than animals,'' returns Sauvage. They see death on both sides as being avoidable and pointless, ''ruthlessly causing endless woe and suffering in the hearts of wives, of daughters, of mothers, in other lands.''

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