The Return of Martin Guerre written by Natalie Davis gives the audience a rare glimpse into the world of peasant life in sixteenth century France. It also allows a modern day audience a chance to examine and to compare their own identities and questions of self. What makes the story so interesting to modern day viewers and readers is how relevant the story and the people in it are to our own times. This story is about a history of everyday people rather than royalty and generals, history's usual subjects.
The main focus of the story is on Bertrande de Rols and her place in sixteenth century society, especially as a wife. At the age of nine, Bertrande was married to Martin Guerre who was a young peasant of Basque heritage. For several years, the two have trouble consummating their marriage. In 1548, Martin runs away from his village of Artigat, France to join the Spanish army, leaving his twenty-two year old wife Bertrande and a young son. After eight years of living in quiet desperation, an imposter Arnaud du Tilh nicknamed "Pansette," shows up in the village in 1548, in the guise of Martin Guerre. It is no wonder that Bertrande would finally find fulfillment of her hopes and dreams of a better life with the new Martin. The couple's marital bliss unravels the day Arnaud argues with his uncle, Pierre Guerre, over his desire to sell off some of his ancestral land. Under Basque tradition and custom, a man is never to sell his ancestral land this causes Pierre to be suspicious of the identity of his nephew and he decides to sue Arnaud as an imposter.
From a modern day point of view, one would deem it not viable to confuse the identity of Martin Guerre and Arnaud du Tilh for any great...
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...t to the accusations brought under the new Martin Guerre. Jean de Coras was proven to have had Protestant ties, and was eventually killed for them. (100) However, he was also a very learned, educated, and passionate man with an upstanding career in law and, after the case of Martin Guerre, the literary world. The idea that someone of so high a rank embraced the new religion shows that its influence at the time cannot be ignored.
Overall the book is very interesting and what makes Davis' book special is her concise presentation of everyday life in the early renaissance. The journey through village life, village institutions, a feeling for what businesses the people ran, learn of legal procedures, of "dangerous new ideas" on marriage from the as well as inconvenient old ones. Through this journey we learn that life back then is not as different as our lives are today.
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