The Secret Life
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 length of time. Simple contrasts such height, body shape, personalities, and even their first languages all differed and should have all been triggers. The only thing that Arnaud and Martin really had in common was that neither was happy or had become very bored...
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