“The Two Friends” is a simple, yet powerful story from the French master in writing stories, Guy de Maupassant. The story is about two friends who meet in Paris during the Franco- Prussian war that brought them nothing but sorrow, poverty, and hunger, taking away of the everyday pleasures of life, freedom and peace.
The two friends, Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Savage met while enjoying the fishing together every Sunday at a river near the town. As the war enraged, they forgot about their passion, but one unexpected meeting refreshed their memories. Overwhelmed by excitement, they decide to go fishing again, although that became a rather dangerous thing to do in the times of war, especially with their favorite fishing spot being set near the area occupied by the Prussian enemies.
They still decide to enter this adventure, not because of the fish, as for returning the feeling of being a human living in a normal world, free and entitled to enjoy their lives. Unfortunately, their trip ends fatally. This quite simple theme is has been told as a remarkable story. Maupassant is using simple expressions, aligning with the plot, yet that simplicity carries the huge part of the message consisted of this story.
By simplifying the plot, Maupassant uses inner state of the characters as the main spot for realizing his theme and ideas. He has described only a small fragment of the lives of main characters, with only a hint of retrospective used for setting their encounter in context necessary for the story to begin. Unfortunately, that part of their lives becomes crucial, as it leads them directly to death.
The main characters of this story are the regular people who were mostly suffered by the war. Their problem is more than just the suffering and the hunger, as the subtraction of their dignity being outlined, as well as their right to remain free and all the other little things that make life worth living.
The both of the main characters are common people happy with the small pleasures, never having too much yet always having the amount enough for living satisfied. They died the same way as they lived, with their death hardly descriptive as heroic, yet truly heroic in a specific way. They died by not putting shame upon their names, not betraying anyone or acting like cowards yet entering the death with dignity.
Their heroism is best described in their intact humanity, undented fear or will to escape, although they weren’t begging at any moment or lowering themselves under their dignity. At the very start of this fatal situation, the both characters come to terms with their fate, knowing what to expect from the moment they got caught. The only thing remained for them was not to betray their own humanity and life while walking this path of death.
The most moving moment is when Monsieur Morissot becomes angry about their destiny. At the moment he saw the fishes he caught together with his friend laying at the occupied territory, he felt rage not because those fishes reminded him of the death,as they represented the life being taken away from them by war. As these soldiers killed them a long time ago, at the very moment when the war started.
That moment couldn’t last long, so two friends said goodbye with dignity in the last moments of their life spent together, filled with the fear of death. They were killed together just like they used to live together during the most pleasant times of their lives. Their bodies were thrown at the bottom of the river, also providing some kind of symbolic act, as they got the opportunity for spending the eternity at their favorite place for spending the moments of leisure.
Genre: Short story
Time: around 1880
Place: Paris and area near the river
In occupied Paris ruled by death and hunger, Monsieur Morisot was walking down the boulevard on a January morning, keeping his hands in pockets of his military pants, also with an empty stomach. He encounters his old friend Monsieur Sauvage, his old fishing buddy.
Before the war, two of them used to fish together every Sunday at a river outside the Paris, beginning at a dawn and staying until evening. They would spend the entire day by each other carrying their fishing rod while standing in the water and became friends. Sometimes they remained silent for the almost entire day , yet other days they kept on talking endlessly.
They shared the same taste in a lot of things, enjoying the nature’s wonderful scenery as rising of the sun or the sunset with all of the wonderful colors. Those scenes they were finding more beautiful than anything possible of seeing inside the town.
They shake each other’s hand firmly when they met in the street, happy for stumbling across each other. They both seemed depressed in a way, noticing the beauty of the first sunny day after a while, reminding them of their Sundays pleasantly spent at the fishing. Monsieur Sauvage even asked Monsieur M to come at the river again.
They had a shot of absinthe at a near coffee shop and then continue their stroll. Monsieur Morissot invites Monsieur Sauvage to have yet another drink, despite their empty stomachs. It was a nice day, and as they both got a bit intoxicated with drinks, wonderful weather and memories so Monsieur Sauvage asked Monsieur Morissot about the fishing again.
He explained to him that the island from where they were fishing still remained under the French, and he also knows the Lieutenant responsible for the bridge leading to the island so he will ask for a permission to go there. Monsieur Morissot immediately agreed with this proposition, as he felt extreme happiness by only thinking about the possibility of fishing again.
They settled a new meeting for one hour from now, as they had to return for their fishing gear. They went to the villa where the lieutenant was living, and he gave him a pass for crossing the bridge. After passing the first guards at the bridge they were at the place where small vineyards begin to go down the river. It was around eleven o’clock in the morning, and everything around them appeared to be abandoned, including the village nearby. The hills around them were filled with their Prussian enemies who were already occupying France for a couple of months.
They were killing, raping, burning and starving the inhabitants. Monsieur Morissot asked quietly what will they do if they get in contact with any of the Prussian soldiers, and Monsieur Sauvage answered that they will offer them some fried fish. But they got a bit shaken, not entirely sure are they still willing to proceed. Monsieur Sauvage decides to continue their walk, so they carefully walked down the vineyard, running over the open meadow to get to the river. At that spot, they decided to listen to the ground, to become completely sure no one is approaching them. Finally, they were still and began fishing.
They were watching on a deserted island in front of them, which kept them hidden from the other shore. A small bistro was there, also closed for some time. Sauvage caught his first fish, and Monsieur Morisot followed him by catching one himself. Their fishing went on miraculously, as they soon filled their net with fishes.
They were overwhelmed with joy they haven’t felt since the last time they went fishing. Some kind of thunder strikes them from their mood and they soon become aware of Lieutenant shooting his cannons somewhere in the distance. Two of friends start talking about the current war, mentioning the kings, republics and politics that leads innocent people to die or starve. It was appearing as no one would remain to see peace and freedom again. They agreed about the ways of life and deaths and then became aware of someone’s presence behind them.
The four bearded man wearing hats and rifles tied them together and took at the island where they realized that the houses they thought were abandoned, were actually used by soldiers. A hairy giant asked them about their fishing, and one of the soldiers carried the full net with them as well.
Officer accuses the two fishermen of being spies sent undercover and explains to them he will execute them as he was the one who caught them. He asked them about a password needed for crossing the bridge, but they remained silent despite feeling scared.
The Lieutenant orders something in German, resulting in the twelve soldiers lining in front of the two friends. Officer gives them a minute for giving away the password, not allowing a second more. He approached Monsieur Morissot asking him to whisper the password without his friend knowing, and then repeats the same thing with Monsieur Sauvage, but two of the friends remained silent.
Officer commanded the soldier to raise their rifles, and Monsieur Morissot felt weakness and fury by looking at the net full of fish. His eyes filled with tears as he stuttered goodbye to his friend ho replies him the same way. They shook each other’s hand as they were both trembling. Officer ordered the soldiers to fire, and the twelve shots simultaneously hit in the direction of the two friends, who fell over each other.
The soldiers took their bodies and threw them into the river, first tying the rocks on their legs. On his way home, the officer noticed the full net so he asked the chef to fry them, and then he burned again his smoking pipe.
Characters: Monsieur Sauvage, Monsieur Morrisot, Officer, Lieutenant, the Prussian soldiers
Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage
Main characters in this story, defined only by their rare actions. They are both passionate about fishing, enjoying the peace, serenity and stillness of nature and the act of fishing itself. They love the nature and notice it’s beauties as it has been seen through their admiration of the sunset, or the beauty of nature under the afternoon light.
The both friends are equally capable of spending an entire remaining silent in the presence of each other, amusing themselves with their own thoughts. Also, they are capable of entering a startling discussion as well. Two of the friends respect themselves highly, enjoying their company as it is visible in their meeting after a long time and a lot of life changing events.
The war brought some of the new life conditions for the both of them, excluding fishing and all the other simple joys of life reserved only for times of freedom took from them by war. They are both now skinny, hungry and utterly disappointed with this new order of life. Despite everything, the idea of fishing wakes the old passion within them, overwhelming them entirely so they soon decide to act despite the many dangers.
As the way for both of them to deny the presence and regain the feeling of peace they went fishing and became careless, dying out of the monotony and despair of this new life. Their return to the old way of living came with a high price of life itself, but they remained loyal and fair, keeping their word and their friendship strong until the very end. They died together supporting each other in the times of death in a similar way they were dealing with problems during life. They died wth the feeling of respect towards each other and the life they led, resting at the bottom of the river who gave him so much joy to the end of eternity.
Guy de Maupassant Biography
Guy de Maupassant was a famous French writer from a realism era. He was born in 1850. in France, but he came from old Loren family, whose origin is from Normandy. Guy was raised mostly by his mother, considering she was separated from her’s husband. She had the biggest influence on Guy’s writing since he was a little boy. She had an exquisite taste in Literature, and she passed it on her children. Guy grew up in a small fishermen’s village, where he spent his time with fishermen and talked to them in their dialect.
As a boy, Guy went to seminary to get his education, but he did whatever he can to get expelled, so he can be sent back to his mother. This is probably the part of his life that gave him an aversion to religion. After seminary, Guy was sent to a Lyceum to become an actor and a poet. After college, he went to an army to fight in Franco-Prussian War. After the war, he left Normandy and moved to Paris. He worked there as a marine officer for ten years.
At that time, their family friend, Gustav Flober, became Guy’s teacher and personal guide in his writing evolvent. Guy started to gain his journalist’s ambitions, too. Flober introduced Guy to Emile Zola, Ivan Turgenev, and many more important writers from realism and naturalism era. At that time, Guy started to write fiction himself, mostly short plays and poems.
Very soon Guy became an editor of many important magazines and newspapers of that time. He started to write short stories and novels. In 1880. he published a collection of his short stories named “Boule de suif”. Flobert said the book wasn’t just Guy’s personal masterpiece, it’s also a masterpiece of a world’s literature. The book became very famous in very short time.
Guy’s second book of short stories wars released in 1881. It was a book named “The house of Tellies” and it gained 12 editions in two years. Next year, Guy finishes his first novel “One life”, which was sold over 25 000 copies in less than a year. His second novel “Bel Ami”, published in 1885., had seven editions in four months.
Guy was very well paid for his masterpieces. He loved his solitude, but also he traveled a lot. He traveled around Europe, and Middle-East, and write during the journeys, so he would come back home with finished books. He socialized with a lot of important persons of his time, and he was a very respectable person in his community, but with years, he isolated himself more and more from society. He developed all kinds of phobia. He was scared somebody is stalking him, and that he’ll become ill and die of syphilis that he get when he was young. With time, he lost his mind, and two years after that he died.
Guy de Maupassant died 1893., not a long before his 43d birthday. He was Buried in Paris.