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The Wife of Martin Guerre Essay

The wife of Martine Guerre by Janet Lewis is a 16thcentury love store set in the bleak and harsh society of medieval France. The main protagonist in the novel, Betrande De Roles is faced with an unusual and appalling situation when an imposter poses as her husband Martin, who has been absent for 8 years. Despite the belief of her husband, Bertrand is not to blame for the awful situation, but instead it is the family and those surrounding Betrande who are to blame for her acceptance of the imposter, ArnaueDeTil.

Her husband’s sisters, Martins Uncle, the priest , her son Sanxi, Martin and even the imposter, ArnauDeTil, himself are all equally, if not more to blame for the situation that confronts the Guerre family. Bertrand lives the life that many women with well-off families lead in medieval France; she is married at the age of 11 and goes to live with the family of her betrothed husband at the age of 14.

Although Bertrande and Martin initially do not care for one another (on their wedding night Martin hits Betrande, and when they are forced to share a bed, she is fearful of him), after a period of living together, Betrande and Martin find themselves attached to one another, and they share a special bond within the household “they were a camp within a camp”.

Shortly after Betrande gives birth to a son, Sanxi and the household flourishes and prospers. When Martin decides to leave, due to fear of punishment from his father after stealing grain to plant his field, the peace and happiness within the household that Betrande and the family have so become accustom to, is disrupted.

The untimely death of Martins Mother is an indication of how unstable the household becomes “she was not an old woman and it may have been possible, as her daughters believed that the illness which she suffered was greatly aggravated by the prolonged absence of her after the death of Martins father, Martins uncle Pierre takes over as head of the house, The households fragile and insecure state leaves them vulnerable, and thus when ArneauDeTil poses as Martin they are eager to accept him as the true Martin even though there are signs that suggest he is not the true Martin Guerre.

Martin leaving was the triggering factor to the entire series of events, and thus Martin is just as much to blame in the situation that unfolds, as anyone. When Arnau DeTil comes into the household pretending to be Martin, both Pierre, Martins uncle and Martins sisters are thrilled. For Pierre, this means he is no longer head of the house, leaving these responsibilities to “Martin”. When Betrande begins having suspicions that this man who has entered into the household is not the real Martin, he suspicions are dismissed by both Pierre and Martins sisters.

Pierre simply says that being in the world has “matured him”, and the sisters urge Bertrande not to say anything to anyone of her uncertainties. It is not until later in the novel, after an old friend of the real Martin arrives in Artigues and proves that Arneau is not the real Martin (he says that the real Martin has a wooden leg after losing it in battle) that Pierre begins to believe Bertrand’s suspicions. In comparison Martins sisters are trying to convince Bertrande to drop the allegation even during the Trials.

Both Martin’s sisters and his uncle Pierres are to blame for the situation, as if they had initially listened to Bertrande when she insisted that something was wrong, the situation may not have unfolded as it did. In the novel, the priest plays a key role in convincing Bertrande that Arnau is the real Martin. When she goes to confess her concerns to him, she is dismissed and simply told to “be at rest and go in peace. The priest and Arnau form a friendship, and because of this the priest is eager not to let Bertande follow up these accusations. The priest also prefers the new Martin, he is religious, polite and caring towards the priest and the priest becomes a good friend of the Guerre household, being regularly invited over for dinner. Arnau DeTil is obviously the key component of the deception, posing as Martin and deceiving Bertrande and the household.

DeTil is incredibly cunning, and seems to have an answer to all of Bertrandes problems. Whenever Betrande begins asking questions, DeTil seems to have an explanation, telling her not to worry, and acting concerned for her. He is able to do this for some time until eventually Betrande is completely convinced he is not her husband, but even then DeTil seems to have a solution, and he threatens Betrande, basically telling her that if he neeed to, he could convince the household she was mad.

Bertrandes son, Sanxi warms to DeTil quickly, he loves his newfound father and the two build a very strong bond. Bertrandes love for her son could also be to blame for the deception, as seeing how happy Sanxi is with his “father”, she convinces herself it must be him. In conclusion, Betrande is not responsible for situation, as it is the many different people in her life and particularly within the household that are responsible for un-intentionally covering for the imposter, and convincing Bertrande that he is the real Martin.


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