illustrated portrait of French author Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant

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In "Two Friends" by Guy de Maupassant, why don't the captured men reveal the password?

Quick answer:

In "Two Friends," neither of the men offer up their passwords when they are captured because they are patriotic Frenchmen who refuse to assist the enemy Prussians. Though both men are disillusioned by the Franco-Prussian War, they are still staunch patriots and refuse to give up their passwords, even though they know it will mean that they'll be executed as spies.

Expert Answers

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It's interesting that the eponymous friends, Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage, end up showing such astonishing loyalty to their country despite their shared hostility towards the war in which they are fighting. Though the two men agree to disagree as to the causes of the war, they are unanimous in believing this bloody conflict to be a tragedy for both France and Prussia.

Under the circumstances, then, we might be forgiven for thinking that they would do just about anything to get out of the war, even going so far as to divulge their passwords to enemy troops once they've been captured. However, they don't do this, choosing instead to be executed as spies rather than betray their country.

There is considerable irony in the manner of the friends' deaths. As we gather from their conversation, they believe that there will always be wars so long as there are governments. And yet, by bravely refusing to give up their passwords to their Prussian captors, they are essentially doing the government's bidding.

In choosing to be executed as spies, they are perpetuating the kind of behavior incited and manipulated by governments in the prosecution of war. In this particular case, the patriotism of men like Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage has been effectively and ruthlessly exploited by a government which does not deserve their heroism and loyalty.

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