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The Return of Martin Guerre

In: English and Literature

Submitted By xavqure
Words 1249
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The story, The Return of Martin Guerre was published by Natalie Zemon Davis as she was going through a rough point in her life due to the communism over take in society at this point. She was forced into house arrest because of her husband, however she eventually made the best of it by writing this novel. The Return of Martin Guerre is based on an actual historical case during 16th century France. The story of Martin Guerre was based upon a man named Martin Guerre who was fed up with family life and left his wife and two kids. After some time a man claims to be Martin Guerre, but is actually an imposter, named Arnaud. The rest of the story is about how Arnaud is taken to court by Pierre and other village people claiming he is an imposter, but at the same time how Martin’s wife, Bertrande doesn’t know that Arnaud is her husband. In conclusion the real Martin comes into the court case and then everyone knew it was the real Martin because of the peg leg he was supposed to have while he was away.

This novel has gotten great admiration for the excellent writing with the historical evidence that is presented in the novel. Though Davis’s book was widely accepted some disagreed such as one historian by the name of, Robert Finlay. Once he read the novel he writes an article opposing it, entitled, “The Refashioning of Martin Guerre” he describes it as a romantic novel, that is full of drama, he says that it is more of a film than an actual novel because of its different view and lack of evidence. Davis makes a comeback to Finlay’s article, and writes her own article titled “On the Lame.” In her article she comes back at Finlay at how he didn’t read clearly enough to see her evidence presented, “I decided to use a literary construction for The Return of Martin Guerre that would allow the book to be read, if one wished, like a detective story.”(575) In the article Davis gives many statement of defense about what she wrote and what Finlay disagreed with. She stands up for the fact the position of how “honorable” Bertrande is and if Bertrande actually knew if it was husband or not.

Davis gives great textual evidence to prove her point to Finlay on how Bertrande is considerable “honorable” in her eyes. Davis starts her point off as she explains that, “[Bertrande] wedded too young, unfruitfully married for years, and the abandoned without the possibility of remarrying,…eager to maintain the status conferred by marriage.” In this short quote Davis is basically saying that, how we see it today, when Bertrande was married she was far too young to be in a healthy relationship of that intensity. She was deprived to live the life of a little girl as other girls had the chance to do. Bertrande was also put under lots of stress and pressure to have a baby so early in her marriage and her age. On top of that Bertande was left by her husband without being told prior to his departure but she was honorable because she remained in her married status despite others telling her to do otherwise.

Davis also backs up her point that she was honorable by explaining, “although Bertrande might hope for support from her sisters-in law, her male protect was gone….Bertrande’s mother-were ‘threatening to throw her out of the house, if she did not accuse the prisoner’” (581). Finlay claims that her going against the fake Martin was not honorable for her because inside she would hope that Arnaud won the case. This was a very good observation on Finlay’s part but because Bertrande thought that Arnaud was her actual husband she acted on the case as if Arnaud was her real husband, Martin. Bertrande tried to be honorable to “Martin” until she was threated to be kicked out of house without her male protector. If she had her husband by her side she probably wouldn’t have had such a hard time being thrown out of the house, but given that she was left alone she was vulnerable so she followed according to Pierre’s rules. Basically if the circumstances hadn’t succumb to the threat she would have stayed an honorable wife.

Whether Bertande knew if that was her husband or not is something totally different. However Davis argues that Bertrande was convinced that it was the real Martin Guerre. In the beginning of her article she states that she disagrees with Finlay though there may be little knowledge that she may have known first seeing him. Davis later states, “the suggestions I make about how Bertrande- and, indeed, her relatives and her fellow villagers- could slip into a relationship with an unknown person….because a return of a missing husband was so much to be desired.” (576) She is inferring that Bertrande took him in because she longed for her husband. so therefore it was beside the fact that he may have been different physically than he was when he first left she was overwhelmed and excited to see him come back and prove the other villagers wrong that she should just get out of her marriage.

Davis also disagrees with Finlay’s alleged argument that she had only one source for Bertrande’s collision with Arnaud, reinstating that his claim was false, “Arnaud du Tilh rests not only on one argument, as Finlay alleges, but on four, all drawn for the legal sources: the fact, affirmed by all witnesses, that Arnaud greeted everyone by name and knew something in their past when he first saw them in Artigat.” Davis is stating the fact that if there was speculation if he was or not the real Martin Guerre, Arnaud knowing an abundance of information on so many towns people, pushes them over line for making them think that this must be the real Martin Guerre. Arnaud began to say back to the townspeople and his friends stuff from Martin’s childhood, that only the two people in the situation because it may have been that personable. Arnaud also convinces Bertrande that he must be the real Martin because Davis then began recalling to Finlay the small details Arnaud tells Bertrande. “Only when he had spoken to her in an affectionate voice, recalling what they had said to each otherat the first night of their marriage and reminding her of the white hosen he had left her in a coffer.” If the evidence that Arnaud gave wasn’t “personable” enough, him knowing of the things that happened on Bertrande’s and Martin’s marriage bed is far personable. There are some things that a person wouldn’t tell another person and this is one of those examples. Bertrande probably reasoned that only the real Martin would know these things so she was then convinced.
Between the two articles from Finlay and Davis’s response, it clearly shows that they have lots in disagreement about. However, coming from their sides of how the novel is read their points can be valid, though they do disagree, Davis does agree with him only some small points. In the end Davis gives a great statement on how Finlay is interpreting many of her points wrong or reading it wrong. Furthermore Davis does stick by her points of Bertrande being only convinced that it was the real Martin Guerre and how she is an honorable woman.…...

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