What is the assonance in "Two Friends" by Guy De Maupassant? What is the author's purpose?
Like many other Frenchmen, Maupassant felt very bitter about France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, which lasted from July of 1870 to May of 1871. The French were forced to accept costly and humiliating peace terms, including the loss of the province of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine and an agreement to pay the Prussians an indemnity of five billion francs before the Prussian army would withdraw from the large area of France it occupied. Maupassant's story "Two Friends" reflects the hatred of Germans generally felt by Frenchmen as well as a detestation of the military mentality which had caused the war and their defeat. This attitude towards war is expressed by the two friends, Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage. Maupassant himself hated war and soldiers. He writes in this story:
And Mont-Valerien thundered ceaselessly, demolishing the houses of the French with its cannon balls, grinding lives of men to powder, destroying many a dream, many a cherished hope, many a prospective happiness; ruthlessly causing endless woe and suffering in the hearts of wives, of daughters, of mothers, in other lands.
Maupassant's story is intended to show that the French are more peaceful and civilized than the hated Germans. It is also intended to show that Germans are cruel, ruthless, despicable men. It is thinly veiled propaganda. The two innocent friends are only trying to enjoy a day of peaceful fishing. The arrogant Prussian officer knows they are not spies but ends up having them shot by a twelve-man firing squad because the courageous little Frenchmen refuse to divulge the password they had been given to get through the French outposts. They sacrifice their lives because they know the diabolical Prussian would use the password to get his men through the French lines and kill French soldiers and civilians.
Maupassant wrote a number of stories which were mainly intended to help prolong and intensify the French hatred of the Germans. The most famous of these is "Boule de Suif," about a patriotic French prostitute who is forced to submit to a hateful Prussian officer who holds up the coach in which she is riding with a group of French civilians until she relents. "Two Friends" can be best appreciated if read in conjunction with "Boule de Suif." Characteristically, Maupassant portrays the Prussian officer as a superficially polite but sadistic and ruthless man.
French "revanchism" (spirit of revenge) influenced the Treaty of Versailles after Germany's defeat in World War I. France reclaimed Alsace-Lorraine and also imposed ruinous reparation payments which were one of the causes of Hitler's rise to power and the catastrophe of World War II. Hitler defeated France in 1940 and imposed draconian peace terms on the French. He intended to re-annex Alsace-Lorraine if Germany was victorious in World War II.