The Concept of “War” in the story, “Mother Savage”

Categories: EthicsWar

War is a very prevalent theme in most literary pieces. Since it seems to be an unforgettable yet typical occurrence in the history of our world, most literary writers make use of it as a major theme in their writing. In the story “Mother Savage”, Guy de Maupassant introduces the story of war in the late nineteenth century. He focuses on the life of peasants and explores war in one of the most indulging angles- through the eyes of the common people.

Apparently, the choice of character in the story outlines the way by which the author wants to define war.

He particularly chose an old mother that lives a simple peasant life in order to emphasize how war impacts people in the most basic level. Through the choice of character, the author successfully allows the reader to realize the impact of war from a more personal point of view. He separates the readers from the concept of how war damages properties and wealth as he focuses on how the war can potentially damage an individual in the most appalling manner.

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War demands unwilling participants

In the story, the author demonstrates that soldiers are not the mere participants of the war. While soldiers willingly dedicate their lives in fighting for their country and defending the liberty of their nation, they are many people who become involved with the war regardless of their willingness to play a part in it. A faithful example of this unwilling participation is that of old Mother Savage’s character.

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Despite the fact that she did not take arms to directly participate in the war, she nevertheless did her part by allowing her son to defend their country.

She clearly played a role by enduring the pain brought by allowing her son to part her side. By doing so, Mother Savage unwillingly allowed herself to take part in a war that she cannot escape and solve. In addition to playing the role of a mother of a soldier, Mother Savage also took another role by allowing Prussians to live with her in her house. Basically, she fed and treated the four Prussians that lived with her. It was as if she took the role of a temporary “mother” for the four men who were otherwise treated as the enemies of her nation.

War instills savagery and yields such as well The plot of the story clearly demonstrated that war can make monsters out of ordinary and seemingly harmless people. This was clearly shown, again, in the character of old Mother Savage. As shown carefully in the story, Mother Savage was a well respected woman who was quite warm, loving and kind hearted. In the absence of her son, she opened her home to four soldiers whom she treated with care, despite the fact that they were considered as enemies of their nation.

In exchange for her kindness, she also yielded the same level of concern from the four Prussians. They helped her with the household chores and treated her nicely despite of the fact that they can maltreat her and use her as a slave since they can easily overpower her. However, the most troubling part of the story was the transformation of Mother Savage from a nice old woman to a devastatingly cruel murderer who had an immense need for revenge. Such horrendous character was a product of her unwilling participation in the said war.

Undeniably, the war posed circumstances that instilled savagery in her personality. The death of her son exhibited so much violence that eventually prompted her to change herself as well. War introduced so much anger and hatred in her life that she was unable to handle it. The only way that she deemed fitting to do was to exercise the same amount of savagery in order to redeem the death of her beloved son. War changes values and life perspectives

War can wound people- not only through physical injuries and visible lesions and lashes. Instead, war can wound people’s lives by drastically destroying their values and life perspectives. War can ruin the hopes and goals in life. It can inevitably take a person’s moral values and erase their conceptions of right and wrong. In the case of Mother Savage, war changed her view about the value of life. The death of her son in a dreadful manner without doubt forced her to disregard her own life and do horrendous killings.

After her son died, her goal of waiting for the return of her beloved son changed into a goal of finding a way to exert vengeance upon the so called enemy. The idea of preserving her life and helping others evolved into a concept of propagating war and hostility. Since her son’s life was taken, war forced Mother Savage to believe that the act of taking another life to avenge her son’s death was justifiable. Moreover, she might have thought that since prejudice and bloodshed prevailed at that time, doing injustice to other people is quite fitting and appropriate.

War takes lives War kills people, not only in the physical sense. Obviously, civilians and soldiers die during a war. However, apart from these physical fatalities, war can force people to stop leading normal lives. War can kill people by destroying their faith in love and unity. It can take away their hopes and their reasons to live. It can destroy a family and ultimately ruin a person’s life forever. In the story, we can see that Mother Savage was “killed” in the war the moment she received the letter that announced her son’s death.

The life of the caring and loving Victorie Simon ceased to exist when she allowed hatred to overwhelm her. In the place of the once kind-hearted old woman came the brutal and fierce Mother Savage who pondered on nothing but revenge. She wanted to let other people feel what she felt. She lost hope and she stopped having faith in good will and camaraderie. She died and another identity took over.


(n. d. ). Mother Savage. “The Literature Network. ” Accessed September 19, 2008 from

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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The Concept of “War” in the story, “Mother Savage”. (2017, Mar 08). Retrieved from

The Concept of “War” in the story, “Mother Savage” essay
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