"Two Friends" Summary

Two Friends” is an 1882 short story about two old friends who take one last fishing trip together during the Prussian siege of Paris.

  • Monsieur Morissot and Monsieur Sauvage meet on a Parisian street and decide to risk going fishing together in the countryside like they did before the war.
  • Caught up in fishing and discussing politics, the friends are captured and brought before a Prussian officer, who demands that they tell him the French password.
  • Morissot and Sauvage refuse, bid each other farewell, and are executed by the Prussians, who toss their bodies in the river.

Summary

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When Guy de Maupassant's short story “Two Friends” opens, Paris is under siege and in the midst of a severe famine. Two men meet as they walk down the street on a January morning. Monsieur Morissot is a watchmaker who is currently out of work. Monsieur Sauvage is a draper. Both are avid fishermen who, before the war, often fished together on Sundays. Their friendship grew as they sat quietly enjoying spring mornings or chatted amiably about autumn sunsets.

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Sauvage and Morissot now remark on the “sad times” in which they live and on the fine weather. As they walk together, Morissot recalls the fun they once had fishing, and Sauvage wonders when they will be able to go back to their favorite pastime. The friends share two glasses of absinthe each, and Sauvage, under the influence of alcohol, suggests that they go fishing at their old spot. Colonel Dumoulin will allow them to pass, he is certain. Morissot quickly agrees, the Colonel gives them the password, and the two friends set out on their fishing expedition.

There is, however, one damper on their adventure: the thought of meeting the Prussians. The countryside appears deserted due to the war, but Morissot wonders what they will do if they encounter the enemy. Sauvage lightly replies that they would “offer them some fish” and suggests they start out carefully. The two creep cautiously all the way to the river, and Morissot listens intently to make sure there is no one else in the area. Soon they are caught up in their fishing, catching numerous gudgeon and losing themselves in the joy of their outing.

Suddenly, however, the two fishermen are startled by the rumbling of cannon on Mont-Valerien, which reminds them that they are in the midst of a war. Morissot angrily comments that people are fools “to kill one another like that.” Sauvage agrees, and Morissot blames the government for the hostilities. Sauvage remarks that “The Republic would not have declared war.” Morissot is not convinced; republics lead to civil wars, he asserts. They discuss politics for a while, despairing that they will “never be free,” and the cannon continue their thunder, destroying lives, hopes, dreams, and happiness.

Sauvage and Morissot are so caught up in their fishing and conversation that they fail to hear the footsteps behind them until it is too late. Four uniformed Prussians are pointing their rifles straight at the two terrified fishermen. Sauvage and Morissot drop their rods into the river in surprise, and the soldiers quickly tie them up and carry them off to their commander on the Ile Marante.

The Prussian officer, a “shaggy-looking giant” smoking a pipe, declares that he must consider the...

(The entire section contains 764 words.)

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