Two Little Soldiers by Guy de Maupassant
In Two Little Soldiers by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of friendship, connection, love, change, discontent, conflict, betrayal and jealousy. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Maupassant may be exploring the theme of connection. Jean and Luc enjoy each other’s company. So much so that at times nothing needs to be said when they are together. It is as though they are comfortable sitting and walking in silence. Yet at the same time they know what the other is thinking. It appears to be a case that both friends have a connection with one another that in whereby they can read one another’s mind. If anything there is a bond between both men that is non-comparable to any other bond that either man has with another person. That is till Luc falls in love with the dairymaid and the dynamic of Jean’s relationship with Luc changes dramatically. This may be important as Maupassant may be highlighting how an individual’s friendship can change when a third party becomes involved. What once might have been considered to be sacred is no longer viewed in the same manner.
How in love Luc may be with the dairymaid is noticeable by the fact that he takes leave from the barracks on two separate occasions and Jean is left to wonder where Luc might have gone. It is also at this stage that the reader realises that the friendship between Jean and Luc is in jeopardy. For the first time in the story Jean is unable to read his friends mind. It doesn’t help Jean that Luc and the dairymaid are so open about their love for one another. If anything Jean may feel as though he has been cast aside by Luc. Where once the reader felt as though there was an unshakeable bond between Jean and Luc this is no longer the case. The simple fact of Luc falling in love has sown the seeds of discontent within Jean and it is something that leads to a conflict between Jean and Luc. Jean has no understanding as to how Luc could betray him or at least that is how Jean feels about Luc’s relationship with the dairymaid. Though both men had been brought together by their love of the countryside and the memories it gave them. It is somewhat ironic that it is the countryside (and the dairymaid) that breaks apart the friendship.
It might also be ironic that Maupassant decided upon two soldiers as being the protagonists in the story. Soldiers are usually associated with war and conflict but not when a soldier is on the same side as another soldier. The setting of the story might also be important as Maupassant uses the countryside to not only connect Jean and Luc but to also leave the reader with an impression of peace and harmony. Yet this is not really the case. So torn is Jean by Luc’s betrayal that he throws himself off the bridge. It is as though he cannot imagine living his life with Luc not being his friend. However it might also be important to remember that there is a possibility that Jean himself was in love with the dairymaid. Something which may leave many readers to suggest that Jean feels jealous about Luc’s relationship with the dairymaid. If Jean is indeed jealous of Luc’s relationship with the dairymaid he does go to extreme lengths by ending his life. Though it may be case that Jean was so overcome with emotion at losing out twice. Losing his friendship with Luc and his opportunity to be with the dairymaid. That Jean could see no other course of action to take but to end his life.
Jean in reality may be conflicted not only in his mind but in his heart too. Rather than accepting his circumstances and moving on. Which would be difficult for any person to do. Jean takes the only course of action that he thinks is appropriate. It is as though Jean has been beaten by his thoughts about his relationship with Luc and his feelings for the dairymaid. It might also be important to remember that Luc too feels conflicted at the end of the story. His best friend has killed himself. Something which will be life changing for Luc. No longer will he have the pleasure of Jean’s company but he has also lost one of the strongest connections that he has with another human being. As to whether Luc is aware as to why Jean killed himself it is difficult to say. Some critics might suggest that Luc’s secrecy when it came to meeting the dairymaid might have been attributed to the fact that Luc was conscious of the fact that Jean might have also liked the dairymaid. Though it is also possible that Luc was simply too much in love with the dairymaid to tell anybody. She may have simply consumed his every thought and as such the dairymaid took precedence over Luc’s relationship with Jean.