Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant
In Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of friendship, connection, conflict, loyalty and patriotism. Taken from his Selected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that de Maupassant may be exploring the theme of friendship. Despite the ongoing war (Franco-Prussian War of 1870) two friends meet accidentally in the street and after a few drinks decide to go fishing. What is interesting is the fact that both men know the difficulties they will incur, the need for a password, but nonetheless feel as though they will be better off fishing than spending their time on the streets. This may be important as it signifies the necessity for connection during conflict. Both Morissot and Sauvage know that the conflict and hunger, a famine, is getting the better of them and that they really do need to spend time outside of the city.
What is also interesting about the story is that neither Morissot nor Sauvage show any real fear when they are travelling to the banks of the river. If anything they view the war as a hindrance to their activities and blame both sides for the disturbances they encounter. It is also possible that both men, fuelled by alcohol, are somewhat foolish. Not taking the situation as serious as they should. Ultimately they will lose their lives for their actions. Something which does not dawn on either man. They are happy to fish as the battle goes on around them. This too might be important as de Maupassant might be suggesting that both men are not only drunk but naïve as well. Again not taking the conflict as serious as they should.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The absinthe could symbolize the friends desire to return to some type of normal. While the soldiers, both French and Prussian, clearly symbolize the ongoing conflict. The fish could represent freedom and the return to normal for both men. Despite the war being fought around them. The wooden bamboo rods that fall into the river, as the two men are arrested, could symbolize the futility of war and at the same time how the rods are not sufficient to beat the metal muskets of the Prussian army. The Prussian officer may symbolize the brutality of conflict. With a snap of his fingers two men will die senselessly.
The end of the story is interesting as de Maupassant appears to be exploring the theme of loyalty and the senseless killing of the two friends. The Prussian office wants to know the password so he can penetrate French lines. However both Morissot and Sauvage remain loyal to France. This may be important as it suggests the importance of loyalty during conflict. If the men give the office the password the Prussians will penetrate the city and all will be lost. Though some critics might suggest that Morissot and Sauvage are foolish de Maupassant may be highlighting how deeply patriotic both men are. Even though they know the war is wrong they may be thinking of others. An unselfish act has led to Morissot and Sauvage losing their lives for a cause they might not necessarily have believed in.