A Comparison of 'At Sea' and 'Capture of Walter Schnaffs' by Guy De Maupassant
I have studied several stories written by Guy De Maupassant. In my
essay I shall examine, in detail, two stories initially, and then
later I shall expand, to other stories. The first story I have chosen
is ‘At Sea’. In this story there are two loyal brothers, who work as
fisherman. In this harsh life, you must choose the most beneficial
outcome; otherwise you are foolish, detrimental and may starve. In
this story, one of the Javel brothers gets his arm caught in the nets.
The other refusing to release the nets, forces the brother to have his
arm amputated and also become gangrenous. ‘Cutting the cable meant
losing the net, and the net was worth money, a great deal of money’,
This is the ‘having is keeping’ attitude, in which these brothers live
by, which is understandable in their hazardous, living conditions.
‘At Sea’ represents a different manner of poverty from the worldwide
view. Not simply that the brothers need nourishment, but that
everything is valuable. The ‘Having is keeping’ attitude is a strong
theme throughout. After the older brother Javel ignores the pain his
brother is going through. He chooses to allow his brother to have his
arm torn off, and yet the younger brother refuses to let his arm rot.
He uses it as a trophy, to parade it, showing to people how brave he
is. Claiming he let his arm get torn off, for the sake of the nets,
and some fish. ‘No, I wont! It’s mine, I’d have you know; its my own
arm after all.’ This was as if, he, too was proud of the ‘having is
keeping’ creed. Words such as ‘roughness’ and ‘ransacking’ imply that
‘At sea’ is a very physical and hard life.
The story has black comic moments, as the brother buries his own arm
in a coffin. ‘The whole crew of the trawler followed the funeral of
the severed limb.’ Although this may be found funny, in a sick way,
others may have found it anti-clerical. The positioning of the
incident, and the characters can be seen as a metaphorical hospital,
the younger brother is in need of a donor, it is well known that
family are the best donors. However the older brother refuses to
donate and instead keeps his ‘organ’, therefore leaving the younger
brother worse off, for the time being, but, fate takes a hand as he
survives and continues on, proud of what has happened.
The second story I have chosen is ‘Capture of Walter Schnaffs’. This
story was based at the time of the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71). At
the time France had suffered a humiliating defeat to the hands of the
Prussians, which is now part of Northern Germany. The stereotype of a
Prussian soldier is a fearless, vicious soldier, as seen in many
movies as the ruthless Germans. An incident that occurs in the story,
when Walter is searching for refuge, is that he appears at...