World Civilizations 1102
9 September 2010
Book Report 1: The Return of Martin Guerre In the book, The Return of Martin Guerre, Sanxi Daguerre moves his family to Artigat because he was the heir to his father’s land. He and his family start their lives and later have a son by the name of Martin. Martin later gets married to his wife Bertrande. He and his wife live with the struggle of not being able to have children, but soon his wife bears him a son. At this time, Martin fleas the city of Artigat and disappears. His wife raises their child by herself in hopes of him returning to her. Soon, a man appears who looks similarly to her husband and claims he is Martin Guerre. Many suspect that he is an imposter but she lives in denial, hoping that he is her husband. The imposter is put on trial and the true Martin Guerre appears. In Basque customs, the eldest son inherits all of the fathers land after he passes away. Selling any part of the heir’s patrimony was also prohibited in Basque customs which may have been a result in Sanxi moving his family to Artigat. Because Sanxi and his father did not have the best relationship moving to a different city could have been his solution to this quarrel. During this time, “dispute between France and Spain, and the conflicts between Francois I and the emperor Charles V had their consequences for this frontier area” (Davis 7) Another possible reason for this move could have been that he wanted to improve his family’s way of living with the abundant resources available for trade in Artigat. The family seemed to have wanted improvement for their economic well being. With this said, the concern for a good life was evident as “[p]erhaps Martin’s mother had urged the move, for the Basque women were said to be forward, making known their wants” (Davis 7).
Soon after the move to Artigat, Sanxi provides his fourteen year old son with an arranged marriage that was to bring up their social status. During this time, arranged marriages were not uncommon. Since he married into a wealthy family, he and his wife Bertrande would inherit Bertrande’s family’s land. As a young married couple, Martin and Bertrande were faced with the harsh reality of not being able to have children. This caused many of the neighboring peasants to talk and gossip about the couple being “bewitched” which left Martin and his wife in utter embarrassment. After this struggle, “an old woman “appeared suddenly as if from heaven” and told them how to lift the spell. They had four masses said by priests and were given sacred hosts and special cakes to eat” (Davis 21). Bertrande was finally able to bear a son, who was named after Martin’s grandfather, for her family.
Shortly after, Martin decided to flee the city of Artigat and leave his family. Martin was curious about the world around him and “dreamed of life beyond the confines of fields of millet, of tileworks, properties, and marriages. He had traveled some: he had been east to Pamiers for his confirmation and undoubtedly on other trips [. . .]” (Davis 22). As the author interprets these reasons, a thought comes to mind that maybe Martin Guerre is not ready to start a family. His interest in traveling, education and the army seem to have impacted his reason for abandoning his family. Davis’ imagination shows that struggle of reality and desires certain peasants had during that time. She is able to show how Martin Guerre secretly wants to escape the peasant life and try to achieve a higher status for him and his family. During his leave, Martin decides to go to war and fight for the Spaniards in the French and Spanish war for a fellow cardinal.
During Martin Guerre’s disappearance, his wife continues to be loyal to him. Despite her abandonment, she believes that he will one day return. The idea of being remarried was not allowed in their customs until she had proof of his death. Suddenly, a man appears under the name of Martin Guerre. This imposter