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Two Friends by Maupassant: Characters & Themes

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  • 0:02 Parts of a Story
  • 0:35 A Brief Summary
  • 1:16 Characters
  • 2:03 Themes
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Guy de Maupassant's short story 'Two Friends' is a fascinating tale. In this lesson, you will look at it more in depth by exploring the characters and themes of the story.

Parts of a Story

No matter what genre of story you're reading, there are certain characteristics that all stories include. This is true whether you read a novel, a novella, or a short story. Two such aspects are characters, or participants in the story, and themes, or topics covered by the tale. The details of characters and themes are, of course, different for every story, but they are always present in some way. One story with clear characters and themes is ''Two Friends'' by Guy de Maupassant.

A Brief Summary

''Two Friends'' is set during the siege of Paris in 1871. Before the war, the main characters, Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage, used to meet every week at a particular fishing spot. During the war, they run into one another in Paris and, after a few drinks, decide to go fishing again.

A colonel gives them permission and a password so they can get back into the city. The two men successfully make it to the fishing spot and spend the day talking and fishing. Near the end of the day, they're captured by Germans, who believe they're spies. The German officer demands they give him their password, or he will kill them. The two men refuse to speak except to say goodbye to one another, and they are killed.

Characters

The main focus of the story is on Morissot and Sauvage. Morissot was a watchmaker before the war, and Sauvage was a draper, or tailor. They both live in Paris, and no indication is given that either of them is married or has a family.

The only other named character in the story is the German cook, Wilhelm. He appears very briefly at the end when the German officer tells him to cook the fish that Morissot and Sauvage caught.

One unnamed character is the colonel who gives the friends the password to leave the city. In addition, there is the group of German and Prussian soldiers and the officer in charge of them. The soldiers carry out the officer's orders, capturing Morissot and Sauvage and then killing them. The officer is the one who speaks to the two men and tries to convince them to give up the password.

Themes

One of the central themes of ''Two Friends,'' as you might guess from the title, is friendship. Morissot and Sauvage have been friends for years through happier times. In the story, they're trying to continue the activity their friendship is based on, fishing, even though they are in the middle of a war. In fact, friendship is the driving force behind the events in the story. It's a desire to maintain a friendship and spend time with a friend that sends the men out of the city in the first place. They remain friends and stick together until the end. Their last words are a farewell to one another.

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