illustrated portrait of French author Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant

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Who are Morissot and Sauvage in Guy de Maupassant's "The Two Friends"?

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Monsieur Morissot is a Parisian jeweler, and he is an avid fisherman. Monsieur Sauvage is a maker of drapes on the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette (Our Lady of Lorette Street). He, too, is a passionate fisherman. These two men have become friends because of their love of fishing.

Because of the War of 1870, however, the fishing companions have not enjoyed their favorite pleasure and have become somewhat estranged. So, when they encounter one another quite by chance, the two friends greet one another with intense feeling, sorry that they must meet under such changed circumstances. 

The men talk of the halcyon days of fishing, and they go into a bar where they drink absinthe, and then they walk a ways and enter a second bar and have another absinthe. Once outside again, the effect of the alcohol on their empty stomachs leads them to decide to go fishing together on this day. After they obtain the necessary passes for the outposts, the two friends make their way to the river. Strangely, the countryside seems deserted. Nevertheless, they hesitate to show themselves in such open country, so they make their way through a vineyard, crouched under the cover of the vines.

When the friends reach the water, they conceal themselves among the dry weeds. But after ascertaining that they are safe and alone, the men begin to fish and they catch several gudgeon. In their renewed joy of fishing with one another, they ignore the world. Suddenly, though, there is a terrible rumbling sound, and the two men know that the battles have resumed. Nevertheless, the two friends still feel safe because the deserted Ile Marante hides them from the other shore. They, then, placidly discuss the bellicose nature of man while 

...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...

Unexpectedly, the fishermen hear the sound of boots stepping behind them. When they turn around, they see four bearded Prussian soldiers, who point rifles at them. The frightened men are seized, bound, and shoved into a boat. When they are taken before the commanding officer, he tells Morissot and Sauvage that he considers them spies:

Naturally, I capture you and I shoot you. You pretended to be fishing, the better to disguise your real errand. You have fallen into my hands, and must take the consequences. Such is war.

However, he tells them, if they will divulge the password that they were given in order to pass through the outpost, they can go free. "They stood motionless, and did not open their lips." Then, the officer pulls each man aside privately and whispers that if he divulges the password, he will go free and nothing will be said to the other. Still, they do not answer; they only say good-bye to each other. A firing squad fires their guns, and the two friends fall, one upon the other.

The Germans bind them and hurl their bodies into the river. The German officer makes a grim joke, saying that it is the "fishes' turn now!" As he looks down, he catches sight of the fish that the Frenchmen have caught. With the same cold-blooded tone in which he has ordered the men shot, he tells the cook named Wilhelm,

"Have these fish fried for me at once, while they are still alive; they'll make a tasty dish."

Afterwards, he calmly resumes smoking his pipe.

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Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage are the two main characters in Guy de Maupassant's short story Deux Amis ("Two Friends"), originally published in 1882. Monsieur Morissot is a watchmaker and Monsieur Sauvage is described as a draper. The story takes place during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). Paris is under siege. These two simple, humble Frenchmen are ardent fishermen and get permission to go on a fishing trip to the outskirts of the city. They are given a password they will need to use to get back into the city. Unfortunately, they run into a contingent of Prussian soldiers and end up being shot because they refuse to divulge the password to the Prussian officer, knowing he would use it to penetrate French defenses. Through Morissot and Sauvage, Frenchmen are represented as peace-loving, sensitive, and inoffensive people, while the Prussians, through the officer, are depicted as ruthless, militaristic, and evil-minded aggressors. 

France was defeated and humiliated in this war. They lost territory in the peace settlement and had to pay ruinous reparation fees. Maupassant wrote other stories intended to evoke hatred of Prussians and Germans. His best known story of this type is Boule de Suif.

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